U.S. soldiers witness another side of peace

By Angie Vogt, political commentary

  • Saturday, April 26, 2008 8:03am
  • Opinion

By Angie Vogt, political commentary

It is the weekend before the New Year and already the holiday sentiments are fading fast.

Wishing “Peace on Earth” seems about as out of place as Snoop Dogg at a Barbra Streisand concert. Perhaps I’m feeling especially somber knowing that some friends, as we speak, are kissing their son goodbye as he returns to his post in Afghanistan after having two weeks at home with family. The former police officer turned Army Lieutenant answered a “fire in the belly” calling after 9/11. He took a break from serving his city to serve his country.

“Do you feel gratified by your mission, or do you —”

“Absolutely!” he proclaimed before I could finish my sentence. I was going to ask if he had any regrets about going into the Army. Enough said.

I inquired about any possible regrets because he had just described a bit of the daily danger and madness that he faces as an officer in charge of keeping his unit safe from daily rocket fire and sniper attacks. Getting the supplies and materials he needs requires constant haggling with the bureaucracy and a vigilance that is psychologically draining.

Add to that a primitive culture that is divided into tribal rivalries and consumed by marijuana and heroin production, and you can just imagine. No, I take that back, it is all quite unimaginable.

Still, he has no doubts about the cause he is fighting for. The American soldier is not a mythical John Wayne character, but is a living, breathing reality that walks in our midst. It has become rather cliché to proclaim “support our troops” because we make the statement while living our ordinary, unaffected lives. The soldier, we must remember, isn’t even asking for support, yet still offers the ultimate gift of his or her life.

I was an active duty military officer at the end of the Reagan era when our military was strong, but I witnessed sinking morale of the military through the Clinton years as that administration reduced our force by one third. I’ve read accounts by retired Secret Service personnel who endured contempt and lack of respect by the Commander-in-Chief during the 1990s who had the audacity at one point in his tenure to make command decisions on the phone regarding our troops while being serviced by his mistress.

Draft dodgers do not win peace on Earth. Peace protestors do not win peace on Earth. Recycling or reducing your carbon footprint in response to global warming does not earn peace. We cannot earn peace by marching in safe American town squares waving “No blood for oil” banners.

What we know for certain is that there will always be bullies. There will always be another Xerxes, Ghengis Khan and Hitler in the world. This is a certainty — evil exists and pretending it doesn’t and refusing to fight it only ensures generations of slavery. Not fighting evil is a guarantee that we will eventually serve the cause of evil ourselves.

In the 13th century a Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, referred to a principle we now know as “just war.” Interestingly, he discussed “just war” in a treatise on “Charity.” Aquinas said that when one nation commits its troops and resources toward a people or nation who cannot fight their own oppressor, it is an act of selfless love (charity). Giving up one’s own comforts and wealth so that others may be restored to their freedoms and dignity, even though many will die and be injured in the process, is a necessary, costly endeavor in the fight against tyranny. The lives lost are the fault of the oppressor, not the ones fighting the oppressor.

What can we do this New Year toward the cause of peace? We can pray for peace (we are a religious nation after all). We can keep our forces strong and not let them dwindle to the pre 9/11 levels again (our government’s first constitutional duty, after all, is national defense). We can take the time to write a soldier and tell them how much we appreciate their sacrifice and their families’ sacrifice. But whatever you do, don’t pretend to care about peace, unless you’re up to the task. Peace, as an end game, is not for sissies.

Federal Way resident Angie Vogt can be reached at vogt.e@comcast.net.


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