This column is in response to Future of Freedom Foundation senior fellow Sheldon Richman’s column, “It is time to bring the troops home,” which was published in July.
I am appalled that an American citizen — assuming that Richman is one — finds it appropriate to spread illogical propaganda that so strongly defies the meaning of patriotism.
Once I began to realize Richman’s anti-military stance in his column, I found it difficult to continue reading. I was furious by the end of it. I disagree with most of what he wrote, but I also found inaccuracies that need to be addressed. It’s not fair for readers’ minds to be polluted with such misleading information.
Richman wrote that President Barack Obama “could prevent future suicides by bringing all the troops home.” The problem with this statement is that ending two wars prematurely doesn’t guarantee a decrease in suicides. In fact, it could be just the opposite. I fear that if our troops pull out too soon in a rushed, shoddy manner, the repercussions could damage our military worse than if it follows current timelines for pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And unfortunately, suicides in the military occur during peacetime as well. Bringing all of the troops home immediately is not a quick fix to decrease suicides.
Richman quoted a fact from The Indianapolis Star: “By 2008, the Army suicide rate surpassed the national average, reaching a rate of 20.2 per 100,000, compared to the national average of 19.2 out of 100,000.” That’s only a difference of one person per 100,000 sample. That’s not enough to make a solid argument. The Army is comprised of a cross-section of America, so it would make sense for its suicide rate to be similar to that of nonmilitary citizens.
Everyone who joined the U.S. military before and after 9/11 knew the risks involved: Deployments are a very real possibility for everyone who wears the uniform.
The draft ended in 1973. Because we now have an all-volunteer military, no one was forced to join the military and deploy to the Middle East. They all volunteered for it. So, Mr. Richman, no one forced these wars upon them.
The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are not “senseless wars.” None of the American servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan have died in vain. Shame on you, Mr. Richman, for suggesting otherwise. Based on the information the United States possessed leading up to its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, our country had every right to act as it did. Yes, we have lost thousands of American men and women since those initial invasions. But we’ve also defeated the Taliban government, destroyed al-Qaeda camps and leadership, established the Afghan Government and Security Force and killed the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. We’ve also overthrown the Baath party, executed mass murderer Saddam Hussein, depleted Iraqi insurgency, improved public security, facilitated Iraqi elections and provided an advise-and-assist role to the Iraqi people.
Yes, it’s very unfortunate that American troops and foreign citizens have had to die to support those causes, but look at how much we’ve accomplished in the Global War on Terror. Richman and his anti-military propaganda wouldn’t mean much if the United States were destroyed in future acts of terrorism, would they? I’ve always believed that military support should be our first priority, because everything else is worthless if we can’t successfully defend our country.
Richman suggested the amount of money spent in Afghanistan is “ridiculous.” He blamed the United States’ deficit on military spending. According to Defense Industry Daily, the U.S. Department of Defense budget was between 5-6 percent of the gross domestic product in fiscal year 2009, and when you eliminate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, DoD spending is only 4 percent of the GDP. Looking at those numbers, combined with the fact that the DoD’s expenditures average less than 20 percent of the entire federal budget, simply ending two wars is not going to drastically improve the deficit situation any time in the near future.
What frustrates me the most about Richman’s misleading column are his casual references to “the personal cost to U.S. troops.” He wrote about “our troops” who have made “the ultimate sacrifice” — using quotation marks to suggest that those who pay tribute are not genuine in their remarks and that soldiers do not deserve those tributes.
Richman wrote about the “nonsense about valor on the battlefield and sacrifice for one’s country.” Nonsense? Reading his sentence nearly brings me to tears. It’s infuriating to see an American citizen question the efforts of our Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. Every man and woman who wears a U.S. military uniform and serves our country is courageous for doing so. They know they could be sent to fight at a moment’s notice. But they serve anyway — to defend the United States of America. They deserve all of the thanks and appreciation in the world. Every American who has died in battle has done so for the good of the United States. They sacrifice their lives — their existence — so that we may keep ours. There’s nothing nonsensical about that.
Maybe this isn’t what Richman intended to imply when he wrote his column, but this is how I perceived it. As the old saying goes, “In the Army, perception is reality.”
Mr. Richman, whether you wanted to or not, you insulted the American military, its families and supporters. Shame on you for bashing the goals of the military — the very same troops who sacrifice everything to defend our country and provide us with security.
You say you don’t want to “support” the troops overseas. You only want to support them if we bring them home now? That’s the most unpatriotic, un-American thing I’ve ever heard.
You don’t have to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you certainly should support the American troops who are fighting them.