What we have here is a failure to communicate

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 08:01 AM

This is the chronological sequence of my e-mail communications with a retired Army colonel on whether it is traitorous to publicly call for removing American troops from Iraq, as Representative Murtha did. The e-mails between us are verbatim; nothing added, deleted, or altered, with the exception of removing any reference to his name and the URL for his blog.

In response to someone who said:
"I remember when the Bush folks blackened the name of John McCain here in South Carolina. They called his
patriotism into question because he had been a prisoner of war. They used the Republican oriented Swift Boats Veterans to dam right lie about John Kerry and now they attack John Murtha. I'm not putting up with it. If I hear one person in my presence call Murtha a coward he will have to deal with me. I'm sick and tired of these low-life, brief case carrying, bow tied, yellow-bellied, country club assholes defining the Democrats as weak on defense and calling people cowards because they disagree. Kiss my ass."

I Said:
My sentiments exactly. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, et. al. aren't patriots, but they each play one on t.v.

Which drew this response from the colonel:
"Dennis Hastert is no leader...and only speaks when he is absolutely forced...Murtha made a grave mistake in my opinion and I suspect it mostly comes from his advanced age and reason ability.....
Traitor, in my opinion, fits for the act Murtha committed "now"...his prior military experience, while
admirable then, makes his "betrayal of trust" now more grievous in that his action contributes to "defeat of our
troops", thus aid and comfort to the enemy, thus approaching treason.
Bottom line.....I am calling it the way I see it........we all have our opinions........

To which I replied:
"And you're entitled to your opinion. I was in Viet Nam, and my opinion on the need to get the troops out of
Iraq is based on THEIR best interests, not some political axe I have to grind. I did check out your site, and read
the "POLITICIANS ARE BETRAYING AMERICA" piece. I find it interesting that you have so little respect for most politicians, yet seem to implicitly trust the current president and his administration. Do you see no political
motives behind their actions? Surely you noticed that Mr. Bush has hardly been kind to vets, whether disabled or retired?
My honest question to you is, what is the best way to serve the interests of this country and its troops IF the
government concocted this war for reasons of its own, misusing intelligence to build its case, and IF there really
is no way for us to "win" in Iraq? If that's how one feels--and I do--what do you think I should do?
"Stay the course" only works if the course is not set for disaster. And there seems to be no way to bring an end to our troops presence in Iraq without going public with criticism; the current administration responds only to public pressure, and even then at a glacial rate.
So, again, if that's how I feel, what do I do? Leave them in a futile cause where they will be killed and maimed indefinitely, then come back to an America that can't wait to cut their benefits and increase their medical co-pays?

To which the colonel replied:
"The time to object to the war was years ago.....not now...we are in it and we can accomplish the framework of a government in Iraq to defend itself.........and let the people decide for themselves with head chopping, etc........
I don't know you or your background....don't know if you served in Viet Nam or not.......but the reflection I see is Viet Nam all over again......people lose site of democracy, liberty, and the cost to keep it..........9-11
was a wake up call but within a few months everybody goes back to sleep...
If you read my blog you will note I have been critical and disgusted with the way the war is being conducted........again like Viet Nam......we allow the supporters (Syria, Iran and others) to keep the men, money
and materiel flowing without consequence......we need to hit these countries and let them know we are serious......now they are getting a free pass.
The answer is getting tougher with the enemy.....when we do that, they understand.....when we show weakness, they are strengthened...........
I respect your opinion but we are in disagreement.

To which I again replied:
"Your response tells me that you believe we can win, and should stay until we do. But my question was what should I do, when I DON'T believe that? According to what I think you're saying, I should keep quiet and let the troops be killed and maimed for a futile cause. If the only time to object to a war is before it begins, you seem to believe that all wars should be fought to a military, physical conclusion, no matter how mistaken they may have been. I don't accept that.
And its a minor point, but why in the world do you question whether I really served in Viet Nam?

To which the colonel replied:
"I did not say stay in it until a conclusive military victory......here's what I said below "we are in it and we
can accomplish the framework of a government in Iraq to defend itself.........and let the people decide for
themselves without head chopping, etc........
If the complete picture of what is happening in Iraq was evident to all of us, it would paint a completely different picture than the daily barrage of negative stuff.....of course there will be loss of lives...military accept that but freedom, liberty, is not free.........if anyone thinks that by pulling out of Iraq this will diminish the threat to America...again remember 9-11....they are out to destroy America and ideals we support.......
I don't question whether you served in Viet Nam just to know it.......I would hope you would realize the impact the demonstrators, and media had on defeating us and overshadowing the fact of over 54,000 lives lost in Viet Nam......
We both know where each stands.......I will pursue my belief..............
[End of e-mails]

I really wanted to know what he thought people should do when they believe staying in Iraq is bad for our troops. He, and many others, genuinely believe that public protest and calls for withdrawal hurt the troops and approach treason. It seems to me that staying mute while believing that our presence in Iraq is harming the troops for no reason is not an act of courage or patriotism. Yet he simply ignored my question twice. It seems to me that his mind simply cannot fathom how anyone can see the facts so differently from him, hence he has no opinion on what I should do given my feelings, because he cannot imagine having my feelings. Another opportunity for communication flushed down the toilet by inability to imagine?