Joel Stein / Los Angeles Times & Dan Whitcomb / Reuters – 2006-01-29 09:38:27
Warriors and Wusses
Joel Stein / Los Angeles Times
(January 24, 2006) — I don’t support our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.
I’m sure I’d like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you’re wandering into a recruiter’s office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.
And I’ve got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.
But I’m not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they’re wussy by definition. It’s as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn’t to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.
Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn’t going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He’s going to be looking for funnel cake.
Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren’t really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of “Laguna Beach.”
The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.
I understand the guilt. We know we’re sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.
After we’ve decided that we made a mistake, we don’t want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff’s pet name for the House of Representatives.
I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I’m tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.
But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you’re not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you’re willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it’s Vietnam.
And sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, you get to just hang out in Germany.
I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn’t so much as served on jury duty for his country. But it’s really not that easy to say because anyone remotely affiliated with the military could easily beat me up, and I’m listed in the phone book.
I’m not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn’t be celebrating people for doing something we don’t think was a good idea. All I’m asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.
Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.
LA Times Writer Defends Incendiary Iraq Column
Dan Whitcomb / Reuters
LOS ANGELES (January 25, 2006) — A Los Angeles Times columnist who infuriated conservatives by writing that he does not support American troops fighting in Iraq — and calling those who do “wusses” — stood by the article on Tuesday.
Joel Stein said he has been “bombarded” by hate mail over the incendiary article — which was headlined “Warriors and Wusses” and held that U.S. soldiers in Iraq were “ignoring their morality” — but does not regret writing it and stands by the premise.
“I don’t support what they are doing, and I don’t the see point of putting a big yellow magnet on your car if you don’t,” Stein told Reuters in an interview. “I don’t think (soldiers) are necessarily bad people. I do plenty of things that are wrong too. But I don’t agree with what they are doing so I don’t see the logic of supporting it.”
The article, which ran on the Times opinion page on Tuesday, was quickly linked on conservative sites across the Internet, where readers poured scorn on Stein, on the newspaper and on liberals in general.
“If I ever run into the a**hole, I’m going to knock his frickin’ block off,” one man wrote on the Little Green Footballs (www.littlegreenfootballs.com) Web site, one of nearly 500 people who had commented on the article by mid-afternoon.
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin quickly nominated Stein as “one of the most loathsome people in America.” The Irish Pennants (www.irishpennants.com) site slammed him as “slime” but gave credit for honesty, adding:
“At least he is straightforward slime.”
A Times spokesman said he could not immediately determine how many complaints the newspaper had received or if any readers had canceled subscriptions.
Stein said that, despite the fact that his e-mail address was not made public by the paper, he had received some 100 “hate e-mails” by noon.
“They’re telling me to leave the country, which sounded good at first because I thought they meant a vacation. But they didn’t mean a vacation,” he said. The columnist said he suspected the reaction was largely fueled by the Web sites, adding: “My guess is that it will die down pretty quickly.”
Stein said he had long considered the issue and that whenever a politician opposes the war but supports the troops “I just always think they are covering their ass.”
Asked if he had regrets, he said: “No, because I’m against the war. (I have no regrets) if this helps us get out of that war and bring our troops home safely.”
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