On a sweltering August night, my boys and I watched “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, as proclaimed by Thomas Jefferson.nn
The band, along with the “Commandant’s Own” Drum and Bugle Corps, played Sousa marches for us and other ordinary tourists, as well as for special guests like Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and one of my personal heroes, Sen. John Glenn. The “Silent Thunder” Drill Team demonstrated they could flip M-1 carbines, 10-pound weapons that haven’t been fired in anger for decades, with all the panache of a high school baton squad. It all looked like a silly and ridiculous waste of time and money. But it wasn’t.nn
Every one of those Marines, even the piccolo soloist, was a fully trained, combat-ready fighting machine who could probably kill me in ways that I can’t even imagine. And every one of those Marines'and their compatriots in the Army, Air Force and the other armed services'were also willing to die to protect our freedoms. That fact helped me appreciate the traditions involved in the marching, twirling and music playing.
The Marines have been following the orders of their political masters for more than 200 years, often dying for tactical or strategic objectives that don’t make any sense. Dying, while we just go on with our daily lives. Dying, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in numbers now exceeding 2,000. Dying, or being maimed, physically or psychologically, at least in part because while they are at war, we aren’t.nn
As I watched the Marines, other servicemen and women were risking their lives in combat because Republican chicken-hawk hypocrites like Sen. Orrin Hatch haven’t spent enough money to properly armor vehicles. Those same hypocrites days earlier passed a transportation bill with billions of dollars earmarked for stupid pet projects of representatives and senators who also, earlier in the year, approved an energy bill stuffed with even more pork-barrel projects and special-interest tax breaks.nn
What our war-crazy government seems to forget is that we must have priorities. If we value our fighting forces'and I do'we shouldn’t send them to war without the means and equipment to win and live. I don’t know about Hatch, Cannon, Bishop or Bush, but I’d trade a new Interstate 15 freeway bridge for a few more heavily armored personnel carriers. I’d trade a few tax breaks for the pharmaceutical industry for more body armor. I value their lives. The Republicans see them as cannon fodder.nn
In Iraq we face the same choice we had in Vietnam in the late ’60s. We can’t find a way to win the war because the issues in Iraq can’t be resolved militarily no matter how good our troops are. And our politicians are too deluded or too gutless to admit that they have again blundered and lied us into a quagmire. Every time a soldier, sailor or Marine dies, Bush, Hatch and others should publicly apologize to the deceased’s parents and the country for screwing up our national priorities.nn
If anyone can figure out how to win the war in Iraq on a military basis'and that doesn’t include nuking Islamic holy sites, as suggested by one reprehensible Republican congressman'then let’s give our fighting forces the means to win it.nn
If not, bring the troops home now, before more fine Americans die in vain.nn
Attorney Bruce Baird is a freelance writer who lives in Salt Lake City.