Cheney vs. The Troops

Dick Cheney, on why the 4,000 Americans who died fighting in Iraq don’t give him pause:

Noting the burden placed on military families, the vice president said the biggest burden is carried by President George W. Bush, who made the decision to commit US troops to war, and reminded the public that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan volunteered for duty….

“A lot of men and women sign up because sometimes they will see developments. For example, 9/11 stimulated a lot of folks to volunteer for the military because they wanted to be involved in defending the country.”

You don’t say. I’ll let one veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan provide something of a rebuttal from that.  I just finished reading Brandon Friedman’s The War I Always Wanted. I wouldn’t say that this is a political book, but much more a detailed, honest, no-frills telling of one soldier’s experience going to war twice since 9/11/01. It’s a tale of combat reminiscent of Colby Buzzell’s My War or Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead — stories that show the grind our troops go through in war, as well as how the failings our political and military leadership trivialize the lives of the members of our military. I may do a longer write up on this fantastic book another time, but for now will share this passage, which Friedman writes in response to having two men in his unit killed in an RPG attack in Tal Afar.

    Lying on my cot that night, I hated. It was a new thing for me. It had been building each day that no weapons of mass destruction were found–and now it was coming to a head. I had never hated before–not like this. I had never hated the enemy, nor had I ever feared the enemy. I was always emotionally neutral when it came to that. I had feared dying, but never the enemy. Now still, I did not hate whoever had been behind the RPG. You go to a war–these things happen. I knew that. But you go to an unnecessary war and it happens–well that’s completely different.

I had always wanted to fight. But I never wanted any part of something like this. I was a professional soldier. I wanted to believe in my work. Instead, I was watching as politicians with no military experience hijacked the Army. I was a public servant, not a lackey. Lying on my cot, I came to the point that many people reach in a situation where they stop what they’re doing and say, “Wait a second. This is bullshit. This isn’t right.” Two guys in our battalion were dead, two families ruined. And try as I might, I couldn’t figure out what the purpose of that was.

Things that had been welling up inside me all summer suddenly exploded in my head like a dozen Roman candles. I hated the president for his ignorance. I hated Donald Rumsfeld for his appalling arrogance and his lack of judgment. I hated their agenda. I hate Colin Powell for abandoning the Army–for not taking care of his soldiers–when he could have done something to stop these people. I hated them because they didn’t listen to the people who told them this was a bad plan. I hated them because now, it meant that my guys could be next. It meant that I could be next. And I didn’t want to die like this–not in a confusing mishmash of ideologies, purposes, and bullets.

I felt like we had been taken advantage of. We were professionals sent on a wild goose chase using a half-baked plan for politician reasons. Lying there restlessly, I was reminded of a Schwarzenegger line in one of his movies-when, after being used and lied to, his muscle-bound character had expressed perfectly what was no on my mind: My men are not expendable. And I don’t do this kind of work.

I longed for the clarity of purpose we’d had in Afghanistan. [pg. 186-188]

I don’t know about you, but I’m more inclined to take the word of one of the men who bravely served our country through two wars over the word of one of the architects of the second war, the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history. Of course, Cheney has never worn the uniform. So not only is he unimaginably offensive, even for him, he has no standing to diminish the burdens born by men and women in the armed forces.

You can read Friedman’s response to Cheney’s remarks today at VetVoice, where he is a front page writer.

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