Tuesday, November 29


I am a scion of a two-centuries-tradition American military family. I am not, and have never been, anti-military. I take no pleasure in Col. Westhusing's tragedy, and I have not noted any such attitudes among any liberal/progressive blogs, and I have been tracking this story since its inception. Indeed, patriots such as Robert Lindsay responded to my earliest posts suggesting that Col. Westhusing's death might have been a suicide with caution and sensitivity.

I do not know why and in what manner Col. Ted Westhusing died. The U.S. Army has said he was a suicide. I understand, and accept, that this is a possibility. But I am one of those few Americans who didn't trust what we were told by the Bush adminstration about Saddam Hussein and the administration's case for the invasion of Iraq, and considering what we know now, I don't trust anything that is claimed by this administration or their representatives.

I remember asking my husband, friends (most of whom said to me something like, "What if he has only a single drop of a chemical weapon that could wipe us all out?") and others, "If Saddam has WMD, why can't the UN inspectors find a trace of them? And if Cheney and Rumsfeld are so certain they know where they are, why don't they tell the UN inspectors? And why are we so anxious to follow a president who was seemingly paralyzed during the most dramatic and tragic incident of terrorism in our history, who spent the first day flying all over the country in an attempt to escape personal danger while our Vice President exercised power that was not his prerogative?" When coworkers asked me (knowing I am the token liberal in a Fortune 250 company -- and perhaps its political conscience?) shortly after 9/11, "Aren't you glad now that Al Gore lost and we're led by Bush?" I was bewildered. What, exactly, did Dubya do except make a tough-guy speech on the rubble of the Two Towers (several days after the fact), promising retribution for the perpetrators that he has yet to deliver?

But I digress. My point is, I have spent several decades trying to make my military family understand that I never meant to disparage their service in Vietnam, I was simply exercising my intellect and independent judgment to aver that that conflict was a net loss for our nation's interests and, most especially, American lives, to serve some pseudo-macho ideal that "America doesn't lose wars." Once again, I have found myself protesting a military incursion that our military leadership opposed, to find that when one does such we are characterized as "anti-military" and "treasonous."

Back to Col. Ted Westhusing. I suspect that he might have shared some of my sentiments. But I also am convinced that this war is like no other military adventure this country has advanced. Yes, the political interests of two presidential administrations (one Democrat, one Republican) overruled military judgment in Vietnam. But never before has civilian (read: chickenhawk) Pentagon leadership so completely ignored, and penalized, the considered and experienced advice of our most senior military leaders.

I am persuaded that Col. Westhusing, military ethics expert and champion that he was, was completely unprepared, as many of us would have been in the same circumstances, to face the corruption, expedience, and incompetence with which this war has been waged. Perhaps that is why, just the day after his death was announced in the media, I focused so immediately upon his story. I, too, am an idealist. I was as a teenager a DAR citizenship winner. I was a cast member of the ultra-patriotic "Up With People." I hoped to be (my dad was a career senior Air Force officer) one of the first women admitted to one of the military academies. Vietnam (an experience I shared with my dad) changed my perspective. Daddy used to say to me, "Remember what Ike (one of his personal heroes) said: beware the military-industrial complex. Never surrender your personal judgment, although if you're in the military you must subordinate your own beliefs to military discipline. Don't join up if you can't do that."

That is an incredibly difficult assignment for those who are faced with marked choices between honor and obedience. I was lucky that I was only a teenager when the Vietnam conflict ended -- I didn't have to make that choice. I was free to protest the war while still supporting our troops. And I still insist that there is no conflict there. I can honor service to our country while decrying those who would use that dedication ill.



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