The voices of dissent have lost their bravado. “I’m against the war but I support the soldiers,” has become their terms of surrender. Depending on the size of the fish saying it, such muted dissent keeps one off the myriad collection of neocon “enemy lists.”

Soldiers are employees of the government. They accepted employment for education or extra money or because they like the regimented way of life. Very few go in so that they can reach out and kill someone. There are thousands of jobs in the military that do not involve pulling a trigger or giving the order to do so. Even among themselves, they question the sanity of the dude that is gungho about becoming a Ranger or some other special forces group that lives by the order of 11 Bravo.

I know this because I know them. At the University of Florida, I worked with the journalists, I chatted with the intelligentsia but my friends, the ones I could count on when push came to shove, were the men of the Army ROTC Gator Guard. While you don’t know this group, you know the kind of men they are: Honorable, loyal and courageous. Many of them are now serving in Iraq.

In sobriety, drunkenness or in trouble, these are the men you want watching your back. I could go on forever about my experiences partying and studying with my friends in the Gator Guard, but that’s not what this article is about. The point here is two-fold:

  • 1. They signed up to defend the United States and its people.
  • 2. Caring about the soldiers does not equate to supporting a bad
  • Point one is important because if some hell hole needs liberating, they are more than happy to do it for Americans—it’s their job. And Americans—no matter what Karl Rove’s polls say—don’t support this war. They support the hope that their buddies, brothers, sisters, parents and neighbors come home alive, happy and in one piece.

    I don’t discuss politics with these guys. It’s always women, sports and video games. They’ve known since September 12, 2001 that I don’t think anybody is innocent here and that invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were already on the drawing board.

    They don’t understand my concerns. I don’t expect them to for a while.

    Bush has gone from stating his objectives as mere disarmament to the slightly more serious “regime change” to a full democratic, consumerist Iraqi society. Disarmament is standard fare for government nonsense. Regime change is, at least, honest about how little the government cares about the welfare of Iraq. Democracy, however, is a dangerous, expensive and deeply involved project.

    Western civilization took 400 years to develop democratic institutions. Bush has thought about democracy for the last two weeks.

    Bush is a man that campaigned for a “more humble” approach to international relations and has turned out to be the most uncooperative, unreasonable and incapable negotiator since Stalin. Bush is a man that campaigned against Clinton’s “nation building” proclivities and has now decided that America should embark on the most ambitious nation building program since the Marshall Plan after World War II.

    The men that planned and carried out democracy in Germany and Japan after World War II were a lot like my buddies serving their country in Kuwait: Honorable, loyal and courageous. The men of the Marshall Plan believed in the nobility of bringing democracy and freedom to Germany and Japan. They didn’t think about it two weeks before nuking Hiroshima or turning Dresden into a lunar landscape.

    Iraq, despite what the critics are saying, may be capable of supporting a democratic society and the development of democratic institutions. Given how the Bush Administration is going about it, they will never find out. They want to create a capitalist utopia in Iraq where peace is kept through the ownership of property, and the occasional Big Mac. Unfortunately, when they sober up from their idealist binge, the political reality of changing a nation and the potential expenses involved will force the Administration to dial down their ambitions and look at Iraq for the single-resource country that it is:

    All Iraq has is oil. That’s the bottom line in this debacle.

    To entertain the concept of a thriving, democratic Arab state is noble. To entertain the concept that the Administration actually wants to do this is absurd.

    The deployment of my buddies to Iraq warrants our automatic support. Their deployment, however, does not warrant support for Bush and company. Nobody should relinquish their opposition to the Bush Administration’s war because they care about the soldiers. Indeed, nobody should relinquish their opposition to the Bush Administration’s war precisely because they care about the soldiers.

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