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Page 19
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<< 18. War Really Is Hell20. Mysterious Ways >>

Someone Else's Sons and Daughters

By Douglas Nelson

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Why are we Americans not outraged at the situation in which our government has placed our servicemen and women? Is it because they are someone else's sons and daughters? Did we learn nothing from the Vietnam experience?

We have put our young people and our military professionals in harm's way based on flawed intelligence, and, perhaps, outright lies. The time-tested principle that war should be undertaken only as a last resort was ignored. Against the advice of our friends in the world, we and Britain went in alone, foregoing the credibility we would have had with the United Nations taking this action. We apparently have no real plan for restoring clean water, electrical power and basic law and order in Iraq. Our soldiers and Marines must hold on until we figure it out.

To add to the insult to our servicemen and women, we find that they are subject to disciplinary action for expressing their frustration to the press. To tell these young people they are "fighting for freedom" while denying them the right of free speech is ludicrous. Soldiers expressed their feelings freely in the Civil War, both world wars, and in Vietnam. My own questioning of our policies in Vietnam probably cost me a promotion, a price I was willing to pay. Never, however, was I disciplined or harassed for my views. It is the soldier's right to gripe and express frustration. He or she is not less of a soldier for doing so. To be a soldier is not to give up one's rights as a citizen.

Like us in Vietnam, these people did everything our government asked them to do and did it well. America owes them respect, honor, and full affirmation of their rights as American citizens. To give them less is disgraceful.

Heed well, America. Your son or daughter will be next.

Douglas Nelson was with the 371st Radio Research Company in Vietnam in 1968. He is retired from a civil service career in the Veterans Administration and the Department of the Army.

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