Archive for November, 2009

Are Iraq veterans really war heroes?

November 17, 2009

By David Farside

Nov. 16th, 2009

During the last presidential campaign, it seemed President Barack Obama couldn’t do anything wrong. Now that he is president, he’s being accused of not doing anything right. Although he was a political lightning rod during the campaign, he always approached the issues diplomatically and with common sense. Now he is even more of a lightning rod and accused by some of having a lack of common sense as evidenced in his Veterans Day speech last week.

Obama honored those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as war heroes and compared their bravery, patriotism and heroics with the fighting men and women in previous wars, such as World War I, World War II and the Korean and Vietnam engagements. That immediately raised the heckles of many old surviving veterans I know who fought in wars much different than the one we’re in now. Even Andy Rooney, an old World War II veteran himself, took issue with Obama on “60 Minutes.” But maybe there’s confusion between the terms “heroic veterans” and “patriotic policemen.”

This current military action in the Middle East is not a declared war against the sovereign nations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, it is a police action of ethnic cleansing. It is a war of revenge against relatively small cells of Muslim gangs scattered throughout the mideast that organized the 9/11 attack on American soil. It is a war between a highly sophisticated, powerful and mighty American mercenary police force on one side and patriotic civilian Muslim men, women and children on the other side who hate America and carry guns to defend themselves against American occupation. The question raised by the veterans I know is, “Are these enlisted American mercenaries really war heroes to be compared with their valor in previous wars?” So, let’s see how this modern-day police action compares with military fighting conditions of the past.

On April 6, 1917, former President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany. Because it was a declared war, 24 million Americans were drafted for military service. Approximately four million were actually mobilized, of which 350,000 were casualties. About 126,000 American men were killed on the battlefields of Europe.

During that war, fighting men dug their own foxholes and sometimes lived in them for days. They physically fought hand-to-hand battles with the enemy using bayonets, knives and flame throwers. The flamethrower was used in wars dating back to 500 B.C. Many infantrymen were victims of mustard gas, first used by the Germans. There were truly heroes and patriots on both sides.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, destroying most of our Navy fleet and killing more than 2,400 Americans, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially declared war on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941.

In that conflict, both sides used modern weapons such as warships, aircraft, submarines and the conventional foot soldier. The hand-to-hand fighting was close and personal. Machine guns, fixed bayonets and machetes were the hand weapons of the day. Explosive mines lined the beaches, harbors and jungles of the Pacific, killing and wounding our ground forces.

The new modern weapon of mass destruction was first used by the Americans on Aug. 6, 1945. We dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan killing 140,000 people. If that wasn’t enough, three days later before Japan had time to bury its dead, we dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing another 80,000 mostly defenseless Japanese civilians.

The Japanese started the war by attacking an armed naval base that could defend itself. We ended the war by massacring the innocents. Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945. Both sides committed atrocities. Both sides had their share of war heroes and patriotic civilians.

Roosevelt declared war against Nazi Germany on Dec. 11, 1941.

Hitler was on his way to rule most of Europe and started exterminating European Jews. The conditions were worse than those in the Pacific. Weapons used were similar to the ones in the Pacific Theatre except for the use of the atomic bomb. After the death of Hitler, Germany surrendered in May 1945. The Germans were tried for their inhumane massacre of the Jews. Our pilots were given medals for their massacre and proclaimed as war heroes. Proving heroism is in the eye of the beholder.

Both sides paid the price. More than 300,000 American soldiers died. Six million Russians, mostly infantrymen, gave up their lives for their country. More than 3 million German soldiers were killed trying to achieve Hitler’s goal of white supremacy. That’s genuine patriotism, heroics and loyalty on both sides of a real war.

Our wars in Korea and Vietnam gave guerilla warfare a new meaning. We all know about the mass graves and atrocities committed by the invading Americans and Asians. Both wars ended in what we call a stand-off. But the rest of the world called it one of our worst defeats.

In 1973, after our defeat in Vietnam, we ended the military draft and relied on a totally “mercenary” army.

So, was Obama correct? Compared with the resistance, weapons, circumstances and fighting conditions of previous wars, are these policemen stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are already responsible for almost 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, really war heroes? I’ll let you be the judge.