Dr. Danielsen, I read your editorial “Thank You for Your Service.” We are all entitled to our opinions, especially an editorial opinion. What I object to in your piece is its overall tone. It is not just a “salute” to our armed forces during the month we “celebrate” Memorial Day. It feels like you’re cheerleading our overall military establishment.
It is disheartening to be told over and over that our military personnel are always fighting for our freedom. Furthermore, it is untrue. I’m 60 years old. The first war that I have clear memories of is Vietnam. That war was started by a proven lie—The Gulf of Tonkin incident—and was devastating for Vietnam and for America. It was clearly a war of aggression. We lost, and our world is neither better nor worse for it.
What is horrible is all the people—men and women, military and civilian—who died fighting an unnecessary and unjust war, and their families who suffered along with them. This is always the case with war.
The United States has been at war with various countries ever since. War is reprehensible and is not to be glorified in any way. It should be the last course of action that any country takes against another.
There was a draft for Vietnam. Today we have a “voluntary” army. There is no draft because politicians know that the American people wouldn’t stand for it.
I feel terribly sad for anyone who has gone to war and seen and/or experienced its effects. These days, most young folks either join the service because they cannot find a decent civilian job or they think they are serving their country in fair conflicts. Money spent on the Pentagon (the greatest portion of the gross domestic product) could be better spent on health care, education, housing, jobs programs, etc. We know that more jobs would be created by civilian endeavors than by the wars of aggression we have been fighting all my life. There would still be plenty of cash left to keep our country safe.
The military is not to be venerated. It is a necessary evil. Honoring veterans is implicitly approving of the government’s misuse of the military. We had a chance following September 11, 2001, to re-establish ourselves as a free and fair country, and we muffed it. Instead of indicting the people who committed this heinous crime, we attacked a country that had nothing to do with it: Iraq. To add insult to injury, we then attacked Afghanistan, even though we knew that most of the criminals in al Qaeda had fled to Pakistan. This war has lasted more than 10 years and is going nowhere. Supposedly, we will be out of there by 2014, again leaving behind a trail of dead and wounded vets and their families, and huge debts for the US.
So the fact that you used your platform to espouse your views regarding veterans and the military does not sit well with me. But you are the editor.
Deborah Sohr, NP, San Francisco, CA
Deborah, first let me thank you for taking the time to respond to “Thank You for Your Service.” It does take a lot to respond to an editorial, especially if you disagree with the author, and for that I thank you. Plus, one of the best things about our country is freedom of speech—the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas. This right was bought and paid for by the lives of many fine Americans.
My intent in the editorial was certainly not, as you suggest, to be a cheerleader for our “overall military establishment.” Rather, it was simply a thank you for the service of those men and women who have served … period.
No one hates war more than the solider. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” I must remind you that no soldier, sailor, or airman has ever declared war on another country. That is solely the prerogative of the Congress of the United States, then managed by the Commander-in-Chief—all civilian elected leaders.
A lot of what you said about war, and in particular the wars you mentioned, is true, and indeed war is reprehensible and should not be glorified. On the other hand, we have a moral obligation (in my mind) to appreciate those men and women who fought (and many of whom died) for our country. Regardless of how you feel about the politics, these heroes have been asked to risk their lives for us.