From the Sewer Yet Again
The Republican Noise Machine is cranking up against Representative John Murtha (D-PA). You may remember him as the Marine veteran and strong supporter of all things military who challenged BushCheney’s war in Iraq in November 2005 by offering a resolution to withdraw and redeploy American forces. The reaction was swift and immediate. The Republican majority in the House cobbled together a parody of Murtha’s resolution to embarrass the Democrats and attempted to smear Murtha as a “cut and run coward”. It was about as ugly a piece of political theater as I’ve witnessed, complete with derogatory attacks from another Marine who happened to be a long time Republican activist.
Apparently, those attacks weren’t sufficient. Representative Murtha did not wilt and fade. He continues to question BushCheney’s policy in Iraq. As a career Marine, he is particularly damaging and must be silenced. The latest salvo in that campaign is Murtha’s Purple Heart Medals. A conservative web site now claims that those medals are not real–awarded for minor wounds after he pushed the issue. Hell, Murtha wasn’t even evacuated for his wounds; it’s not like he lost a leg or an eye or his balls. Remember, John Kerry? His wounds didn’t count either. In fact, he was just showboating and trying to get out of combat
Coming from a bunch of chickenhawks who never risked their lives for their country, these slime attacks are despicable. It’s not so much that military decorations are questioned. I know from experience that there’s a certain amount of hype and embellishment when it comes to these awards, especially among the career military. But more important than the degree of injury for which a Purple Heart is awarded is the fact that the individual was in harm’s way. Let me repeat that so that you can hear it above the static from the Noise Machine: THEY WERE IN FUCKING HARM’S WAY! They risked their lives for their country even though some, like John Kerry, questioned the policy they were fighting for.
These men served. THAT is the source of their credibility, not how many medals they won or how badly wounded. There’s nothing like combat to clarify one’s understanding of policy. In combat you see that for all the highfalutin speeches, war is simply the brutal dominance of one person over another. Whether a veteran has a chest full of medals or none at all, the point is that he (and more recently, she) experienced the inhuman crucible of combat, that he knows what it is like to kill and destroy and to risk everything. A thoughtful veteran knows that at times there’s no avoiding this horror but is able to weigh these costs against the threats to his nation.
That’s what makes Murtha, so dangerous. Not only does he have the experience that BushCheney so noticeably lacks, he has long supported the US military and is well regarded by them. Now that he no longer supports BushCheney’s war he must be destroyed. And so we have the latest smear campaign. What distresses me most is that the attacks succeed. Look what happened to John Kerry in 2004 and in 2002 to Max Cleland, the triple amputee who was smeared as an ally of Osama bin Laden. Maybe Murtha will be the exception, that Americans finally realize that BushCheney and his minions have neither honor or integrity.
I take a lot of this personally because I am a combat veteran. I have a bunch of medals and will state publicly that they are pretty marginal. My Bronze Star is for service, not valor. My Air Medal is for riding in a helicopter 25 times on combat assaults, not one of which was ever “hot”. (A “safe driving award for being a passenger in a taxi,” according to one skeptical first sergeant.) My RVN Service Medal and my Vietnamese Cross of Galantry are “been there” awards; you get them for setting foot in-country. The only medal I take seriously is my Combat Infantryman’s Badge. That, too, is a “been there” award but “THERE” was actual combat; I walked into the belly of the beast, something most Americans, even most veterans, have never done. I live every day with those memories. I am at once proud and disturbed by that experience, even though it was relatively uneventful as combat goes.
One reason I went was so that I could be a veteran witness against war. Now I see that it means nothing in the present debate. Not when real heroes like John Murtha, John Kerry and Max Cleland are denigrated and disparaged by a bunch of armchair warriors who never risked anything for their country and now claim the warrior’s mantle.
How silly of me. I should have asked my daddy’s friends to get me into the National Guard.