Horner: Proud of the U.S. Military

Timothy Horner

In this column I have consistently railed, ranted and reviled our president for his actions leading up to the war against Iraq and in the months since he declared that “the world is now safe” on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln last May 2003. It would be reasonable, therefore, to think that since I am opposed to our commander in chief, I am also against our armed forces. Even if I have not made this connection, it has been made for me many times by sensitive, if not zealous, readers. But this is a false connection. In fact, as time goes on I find myself marveling at how level-headed and sensible the military is in all of this.

Haven’t you wondered why weapons of mass destruction have not been found? We all know now that they were not there. But if you think that there have not been discussions at every level about what it would take to “find” WMD in a “hidden” bunker somewhere, then you are nave.

The stakes are too high to dismiss the possibility that high ranking officials have suggested that these WMD need to “appear” so that the people who made these claims will keep their jobs, their reputations and their credibility. This administration has staked their political lives on the presence of WMD and the fact that they have not been found says a lot about the people carrying out the searches in Iraq.

It would be so easy to find some sarin nerve gas or even a kilo of anthrax to vindicate this administration and perhaps guarantee another four years for George W. Bush. That would put every skeptic in their place. “See, we knew it, and there is the smoking gun! Now you can all get down on your knees and thank us for having the guts to act on our conviction when the world went limp. We’re right, you’re wrong. HA!” Oh, how sweet that would be to so many people. Who would ever know? And yet nothing has been found.

This says a very important thing about our military: It contains people of integrity, honesty and conviction. Do you think Bush wanted Hussein captured alive so Hussein could tell the world about all the help he received from our government to carry out countless atrocities against his own people (who we have ironically “liberated”)? It would have been so easy to put a bullet in his head, a gun in his hand and call it a day. But our soldiers did their job by the book. No funny business, no politics. Mission accomplished. I like that.

An average of 1.6 American soldiers have died every day since this military operation began (538 as of Feb. 12, 2004). You would think that Bush might go to at least one of the funerals; none so far. And have you ever seen a picture of a dead American solider on the news? 29,000 American troops have been killed, wounded, injured, or become so ill that they had to be evacuated.

And yet they continue to search, patrol and rebuild the mess made by those who ordered them to destroy. Whether we disagree with the solider mentality to obey orders virtually without question, or even if we point to particular cases of excessive violence or abuse against Iraqi citizens, it must be said that right now, our military is not the cause of this chaos; they are the victims of it.

Villanova has a very strong ROTC presence on campus. They can seem like an easy target for our frustration with the government, but actually they are the future of our military. Personally, my experience with ROTC students has been nothing but productive. If anyone thinks about the cost of war, it is these students. Just because I may border on loathing for our president’s actions in Iraq, I do not expect every soldier to go AWOL or drop out of the military.

Actually, we need them to stay in the game as thoughtful, humane insiders that can change the face of the military at highest levels. In America we elect our presidents – present company excluded – but our military is made up of American citizens who choose to serve.

I believe it is possible to oppose the commander in chief and still feel proud of the work that is being done in Iraq by our troops. I am not happy with the circumstances or the orders that have come from Washington, but I believe that the majority of soldiers truly want peace in Iraq: Their lives depend on it. Now there’s a happy thought!