Pacifist stance is a complicated cause

    What a difference a year makes. Last April, I was shooting the breeze in fifth-period physics with Chris, who sat next to me, both of us second-semester high school seniors impatient to graduate. This April, I’m in the relative safety of college while he fights with the Army in Iraq. I heard of this news during spring break, and Chris isn’t the only one — at least three other young men from my high school are stationed in Iraq as part of their military service.

    What the hell happened? Last April, Chris and I were both in the same place, both emotionally and spatially; this April, he could be food for Iraqi worms, for all I know.

    In a year, our lives have become so different, and so have the lives of most people in both America and Iraq. Very little thought has been given to what exactly America will do once we “”liberate”” Iraq. We liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, but then quickly lost interest in reconstructing their demolished country — the same could very well happen in Iraq, although any look at world trade statistics will show that we just might have a reason to rebuild Iraq in our image.

    We’ve put our service people in the line of fire, and for what? The purposes and outcome of this war are unclear; we seem to have adopted a “”shoot now, figure things out later”” mantra, thus spreading the worldwide resentment of America that we’re trying (at least ostensibly) to eliminate.

    Recently, controversy has arisen when people failed to make the distinction between supporting the war and supporting the troops, with the assumption that in this free country of ours, dissent in time of war is a punishable offense and has an unconscionable negative impact upon the troops.

    However, to say that a person who opposes the war is automatically failing to support our troops, and thus condoning unnecessary death, is greatly oversimplifying this situation and insulting the intelligence and reason of every American. Our troops are continually praised as “”superbly trained.”” So let’s have some faith in this superb training and not assume that so much hinges on their morale and the opinion of Americans back home who, according to the Constitution, are free to hold whatever opinions we want. War is hell, even if it’s an unfairly matched fight — it’s no walk in the park, and soldiers should have reservations and mental struggles — they’re out there killing people, for God’s sake.

    And even if dissent is harming morale — so what? The American military is still by far the most sophisticated in the world and incomparable to Iraq’s ragtag army. Militarily, there’s no chance we can lose this conflict; even if Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction, we can counter with our own larger cache of weapons. And if our American forces want to have reservations about the war they’re fighting for, then more power to them — they’re exercising their rights as free Americans. Reconciling one’s own personal beliefs and one’s job is a task that everyone has to do at some point in their lives, and it’s time for our troops to do the same. It’s sad that their job, in this instance, requires them to terrorize and kill helpless Iraqi civilians (more than 900 are dead so far, according to www.iraqbodycount.net, and organizations such as the Red Cross have no figures so far), but that’s war. This conflict is complex, nuanced and somewhat mysterious, not the simple melodramatic “”us versus them”” fight down to which the American media distill it.

    Our Iraq-stationed troops are more than gun-toting automatons; they are living, breathing and thinking, and they must see the irony of “”liberating”” people through killing them even more clearly than we do because they’re the ones doing the killing.

    As Oscar Wilde said, “”The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple,”” and our troops must see this everyday. It is not our duty or our right, as American civilians, to dictate what they should be thinking while on the front lines, or that their morale should automatically be high because the purpose for this war is fuzzy at best, but no fuzzier than in the minds of the soldiers on the front lines.

    With the true motives of this war more than a little hazy — everyone in America has a different opinion of why, exactly, we’re doing this, and every single media source has different reports as to what’s transpiring — speculation is rampant. The media spews forth differing accounts of what’s happening with blatant contradictions and widespread retractions.

    Take the case of Jessica Lynch, the U.S. Army supply clerk who was taken prisoner March 23 and rescued April 1. Conflicting reports came from the Associated Press regarding the number and nature of the injuries she sustained while imprisoned — was she shot? Stabbed? Starved? Forced to watch the executions of other members of her unit?

    American newspapers are understandably eager to play up the alleged mistreatment of U.S. prisoners of war when it remains to be seen whether any mistreatment is occurring at all. According to the Associated Press, her father denied, for example, that she was released with gunshot and stab wounds after American newspapers reported that she had sustained such wounds.

    Sadly, as illustrated by this case, the real truth about what is going on in Iraq will only come when our troops come back because they are the true eyes and ears of this conflict — not our chummy embedded reporters, not our smug TV news talking heads and certainly no government cheerleaders like Donald Rumsfeld, all of which are simply in the business of making the war seem, at once, dramatic and successful.

    Our mission is clear: our troops must be brought home expeditiously for only when they are safely home, can we discern the true nature of this war; our troops are the only ones who are in any position at all to extract any truth from this conflict and to provide insight into why, really, we are pouring human lives and billions of dollars into the physical destruction of Iraq. Thus, in the name of truth, justice and peace, bring our boys — and girls — home.

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