Social and Political Commentary

All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinions of others or the organization as a whole.

The Iraq War - a personal perspective

 ... where and when will the suffering end?

by Irving Smolens

During the past several months many of us who were opposed to the war against Iraq have been vilified by many who supported that war. We have been labeled by some as un-American and unpatriotic and often worse. Because I am a D-day veteran it was difficult for war supporters to call me un-American so they resorted to calling me a pacifist which I decidedly am not.

Now that the organized resistance on the part of the Saddam Hussein government has ended I feel that it is time to draw a perspective on what has happened. I am a member of the Fourth Infantry Division Association. That highly honored division is currently engaged in peacekeeping operations in Iraq.
A close friend, Lieutenant Colonel Don Jackson, is now the Civil Affairs Officer in Tikrit, Iraq and is doing an outstanding job in that capacity. I had been approached to join in antiwar demonstrations but refused to do so, because of my support for the troops who might soon be engaged in the fighting. During conversations with other members of the association, I did not hesitate to make it known that I was opposed to the war and that there were many reasons for my opposition. My close friends in the association who did not agree with me nevertheless respected me for my honesty and integrity and my previous service to our country. Our friendship has not been harmed in any way by our differences on the war issue.

In the past I have refrained from addressing controversial issues in the Melrose Mirror but an excerpt from a recently received e-mail prompted me to write this article. The excerpt follows:

"I had an interesting discussion Sunday with one of the hospital mucky-mucks on his "hello-everyone-thanks-for-working-on-Mothers-Day" visit to L&D (Labor & Delivery). I brought up the 15 or so wounded soldiers on my flight back to the USA, and how they really weren't able to handle their trip or baggage by themselves. People were very helpful, or course, but I felt it was presumptuous of the military to expect these young men to manage six bags with one arm in a cast, or in a wheelchair with both feet bandaged. They were truly depending on the kindness of strangers. We went on to discuss how they all had their baggage searched (which took a while) due to the stolen Iraqi antiquities: "Welcome home", huh? It was a strange feeling to see dusty helmets poking out of backpacks in the baggage claim -- sort of a disconnect between two worlds. Anyway, I'm sure this Colonel inwardly groans when he sees me on duty, as I never fail to express outrage at some problem or another, ha."

Ann Shields, who sent me the e-mail is a highly skilled civilian maternity nurse with midwife training. She works on contract for the military at Landstuhl Hospital in Germany, where most casualties of Middle East wars are sent before being returned to the USA. With war impending she had been asked to transfer to the Intensive Care Unit and, of course, she agreed.

Mo, her husband, is retired from a career in coaching and counseling. He had volunteered to act as a counselor at the hospital, since our troops had been committed to battle in Afghanistan after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Abby, their daughter, is completing her second year at West Point. All of them are also opposed to the war. Because the number of casualties arriving at the hospital has greatly diminished, Ann was able to utilize a week off from several months of grueling 12 to 16 hour days to fly home to visit her mother in Indiana before returning to her former duties helping to deliver newborns. It was when her plane landed that she witnessed the events described above.

As I have previously said I had many reasons for my opposition to the Iraq War, one of which was that I had felt that the administration had rushed into it without considering the consequences of its aftermath. The failure to make adequate provisions for the plight of the returning wounded was one disgraceful manifestation of what I had feared.

In another excerpt from the e-mail Ann said that she had brought home two 5 dinar notes that one of the soldiers had given her husband as souvenirs. Ann had brought them home to the US to show to friends and relatives, being always careful to point out that those dinars had a tragic undercurrent. They represent the disintegration of an infrastructure on which millions of normal people depended and that now they have no money and very little infrastructure.

All of us, regardless of how we felt about the war, can justifiably take pride in the performance of our fighting men and the victory over a despotic regime. However, unless that victory is followed by an alleviation of the tragedies that have befallen the Iraqi civilians, that victory will be hollow indeed.

Links to
A twenty-century odyssey - 9/5/03
Inside view: one soldier's journey - - 11/7/03

June 6, 2003

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