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By Bill Shunas

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It is so easy to criticize the Bush administration's policy on Iraq. Anti-war folks and objective newspeople alike have plenty to talk and write about. The reasons for starting the war were all bogus. They misused or made up intelligence. They lied and deceived and claimed the other guy said it. Weapons of mass destruction seem not to exist. Al-Qaeda and 9/11 were not connected to Iraq. They were stupid enough to tell easily-traceable lies about these things. Now it is obvious to most that they had no postwar plans.

Because criticism of the Bush policy is so easy, there is not much analysis of why this all happened in the first place. What I think happened is that you had oil interests moving into the White House, headed by Bush and Cheney. Then you had believers in the preemptive war doctrine, represented by people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. There was a marriage of the two groups in an atmosphere of unabashed religious fervor that is a mirror image of that of the Muslims who would fly a plane into a building because sixteen virgins wait on the other side. Going to war in Iraq was perfect for these two groups. Here was a country that's very important for the oil industry and run by someone who was evil and used to have weapons that are the reason for preemptive wars. Don't sweat the details. God is on our side. It was the Perfect Storm.

I recently did jury time. The case involved was small-claims: $8,000 for a fender bender. In his opening statement, the lawyer for the plaintiff saw fit to explain to us common citizens how the judicial system works and how wonderful it is. (Later in the jury room, one juror said, "My Cousin Vinny," and everyone who had seen the movie said, "Yes!") Shakespeare he wasn't, even though he may have thought so. The speech was over the top, but what got me was the part where he said that our troops over in Iraq were fighting there so that we over here could have this wonderful jury system.

Leaving aside the question of how wonderful or fair our legal system is, he was saying something said by a lot of airheads and accepted by many without thinking. Our troops are over there (or wherever) fighting for the jury system and all of our other rights. Usually it is all lumped together: "Our boys are fighting over there so we can have freedom here."

Sorry to say this, but all the brothers and sisters who fought and died in Iraq as well as in Vietnam, the Gulf, Grenada, Korea and so on, had no effect on our freedom. We lost in Vietnam and didn't lose our freedom. We could have lost all the rest, and we still would have what rights are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

You might make a case that World War II meant something since we were attacked by Japan, which had a major-league army and navy. It turned out that Japan had no military plans east of Hawaii except for some balloon bombs dropped in an Oregon forest. However, the government let it be known that Japanese-Americans were receiving sound and light signals from the Japanese navy off the California coast. This had about as much validity as the Tonkin Gulf incident, but the government claimed it was true in order to justify interring all Japanese-Americans. For the rest of the Americans, it made the Japanese danger appear more real. But in reality, Japan wasn't going to take away anybody's freedom or rights here at home.

So, the next time you hear someone talking about our boys defending freedom or fighting over there so we can be free and have all our rights here, consider that maybe that hasn't happened for the last 140 years. The only threat to what freedoms are available are each generation's Ashcrofts.

Have we won in Iraq yet?

"Freedom" is one of those words and concepts that gets misused for political purposes. Another one is "support our troops." The common usage of that phrase has something to do with supporting the right to conduct this war. Anti-war people usually counter with the idea that the best support would be to bring them home. That may be true, but in this era of short wars and intransigent leaders, it's like talking apples and oranges.

When someone asks me if I support the troops, I usually ask for a definition of what that means. You might get an answer sort of like sending over good vibrations or the more common idea of wishing that they get home safe and sound, or don't spit on them when they get back. There is no concreteness to the concept. It's another of the flags waved by the patriots.

It is unfortunate that the troop supporters who sent the troops over are the same people who use their power to cut the budget of the VA, which is what these troops have to rely upon for the medical and mental care they will need — also known as support. Real support.

Let's declare victory and come home.

"Terrorists." The common usage of this word refers to the obvious: people who fly planes into buildings; people who commit deadly sneak attacks on non-combatants; people who unleash chemical and biological weapons. If the Bush administration and some of these right-wingers with easy media access have their way, soon it will be that anyone who opposes the president on a war or security issue will be a "terrorist." If you not only oppose the war, but actually go to a demonstration, under Patriot Act II, this might be interpreted as being support of terrorism and therefore an act of terrorism.

I went to two or three demonstrations opposing the war back when it started. I, along with thousands, even illegally shut down Lake Shore Drive. I guess that makes me a terrorist. I feel so bad. I thought I was good. So I'm preparing for when they knock down my door and come after me. Like the priest in "The Exorcist" holding his cross out before the devil, I'm going to shove a yellow ribbon out in front of me and yell, "I support the troops! I support the troops!"

Have we won in Afghanistan yet?

Bill Shunas is a Vietnam veteran and author. He's a member of VVAW's Chicago chapter.

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