Opinion

SOUNDOFF: Proud to be a 'Coupeville coward'

I wonder if all the people who were for the war in Iraq at the time of invasion now think it was such a good idea since it’s turned into a virtual urban Vietnam. Our soldiers are gunned down or blown up, a few here, a few there, some seriously injured, that the numbers are higher than the KIA’s of the “formal” part of the war.

Bush said of our enemy,“bring ‘em on,” leaving our men and women in harm’s way with no end in sight. Now the plan is to have each service member stay one year, receive two weeks of R&R, only to be replaced by others. Does this sound familiar (30 years ago)?

I wish the great Commander in Chief would become a soldier himself and “go smoke’em out of their holes” instead of acting like a 12-year-old cowboy, throwing a temper tantrum about the attempts to kill his daddy. At least his father was a real soldier who certainly risked his life (and a lot smarter too).

Still, the one thing the Bushes have in common is they’re all part of the “good old boys club.” Big oil and big bucks — that’s what’s important to them and those of similar vested interests. Remember Lady Bird Johnson who owned Brown & Root while they built many bases in Vietnam or Dick Cheney and his involvement with Halliburton while Iraq is rebuilt? There are many other contractors who advance the technology of death to their own benefit. In the Vietnam era, LBJ, Nixon and McNamara knew all along it was a war that could not be won. This is now an historic fact.

The members of my squad in Vietnam were either killed or seriously injured on Jan. 9, 1970, including the squad leader, Danny Petersen. He left a wife and young child behind, never to return to them. Now all I can do is go to the Wall in D.C. and trace his name in graphite.

Even after they decided to pull out of Vietnam, the U.S. invaded Cambodia in May, 1970. As an infantry medic at the time, my buddies and I could not save the new guy who’d been in country only two weeks. I remember how young he was, how bright he was, how funny he was, making us laugh all afternoon. I remember he took my place on ambush patrol one night because I had amoebic dysentery. I remember how we pulled him off the track and tried to treat him but a large part of his rear skull was missing. He lost his life. I didn’t even get to know his name. That’s why I call him my unknown soldier. Imagine the horror of learning your son was killed after being in a combat zone for only two weeks?

Why did more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers die in Vietnam as well as countless civilians whose only sin was to be born in that country? What did we accomplish there other than to make millions of dollars for the good old boys? What are we accomplishing in Iraq?

Aspects of our government in the mid to late 60’s shook the big red boogeyman of communism in the Americans’ faces with threats of the “domino theory.” Our government tried to keep down dissent by calling all people who opposed the war “commie pinko-bedwetters” and un-American traitors. Things are virtually the same now —the military industrial complex in cahoots with the government getting rich from the war. All of us saps are going to pay dearly for the $200 to $300 billion to rebuild Iraq so another dictator can take over. Bush is treating Congress like an ATM, incurring even more debt. I truly hope we don’t all end up on the bread lines.

During recent demonstrations in Coupeville people were screaming at me for being a coward and a traitor when I was holding a sign just because I didn’t want any more squads blown away. As far as the young missy who yelled at me, “The war’s over, get a life!,” I say to her, “Tell that to my unknown soldier!” For the guy with the big flag, big gut and big mouth screaming that I must have been in the French Army and a coward because he saw my sign, “Veteran Against War,” I say to him, “I became a conscientious objector and helped the medics because I was willing to die for my country but was not willing to kill for it anymore. I extended my tour of duty in Vietnam. Was that the act of a coward?”

As for the man who wrote in this paper that all the war protesters are freaks and geeks, I say, “At least I am not so cheap as to wrap myself in the flag, succumbing to group coercion and flinging trite names at others. I guess it’s a lot easier and safer to be on the politically correct side, isn’t it?”

Then there was the great defender of the American flag, the mad realtor, who wrestled a flag out of a woman’s hands, shoved her hard, got back into his car and drove away quickly with her on the hood of his car, endangering her life. But, the woman’s good nature and his slick lawyer got him out of that one. His actions were not about “protecting his flag,” as he claimed. It was about his hatred and fear of people who challenge his closed mind. Would he have been that “protective” if it had been a big guy who was holding the flag?

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about the war and I’m not saying that everybody who supports the war is a warmonger. Certainly I’m not saying the troops themselves are in the wrong. They’re just trying to serve their country as best they can. I just don’t think this war is worth it, now or in the future. Also, if the protesters keep one of our troops alive, they are heroes, not cowards. So when I say I am proud to have been a Coupeville coward, I mean it! Contrary to biased opinions, it’s my flag too! Please support our troops by bringing them home.

Coupeville resident Tim Deiotte is a Vietnam War veteran.

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