Monday, July 25, 2005

Point/Counterpoint with Gary Trudeau and David M. Lucas

A Doonesbury cartoon and an op-ed by David M. Lucas - a soldier with the 10th Mountain Division just returned from Iraq, were printed in the Knoxville News Sentinel today. I thought that Lucas answered the cartoonist, Gary Trudeau's, accusations as if they were addressed to him directly (Doonesbury quotes in Bold, Lucas quotes in Italics):

Have I made any mistakes? Yes, I started a terrible and completely unnecessary war.

I do know that Saddam needed to go, and the world — especially the United States — is a better and safer place without him in power.

When we couldn't find any weapons of mass destruction, I then pretended the main mission was to spread democracy.

"Bush lied to America" is not only false, but it is laughable. Every single major intelligence agency in the world agreed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Virtually every politician, regardless of party affiliation, agreed that he had them and went on record as saying such.

I have not made us any safer. On the contrary, my actions have earned America the scorn of the world and created a vast new generation of terrorists.

After one particular suicide car bomb went off, killing nearly two dozen people and destroying several civilian homes, my platoon helped a family out by bringing wood to board the windows that had been blown out and brandishing brooms to clean up the rubble caused by the blast. I can assure you that those people were glad we were there, and we were more than happy to help, even though our efforts were not known to anyone outside that family and my platoon.


What was reported was another suicide bomber who blew about 150 meters from a site that my battery was tasked with protecting. This particular bombing was aimed at the Jordanian Embassy, which was located a couple hundred meters down the road. The bomber was successful in killing himself, one embassy guard and a family of seven who lived across the street from the embassy.

So I spent Christmas morning helping to recover the bodies of the mother and her six small children. In fact, this story was so spectacular that my picture was taken by an Associated Press photographer at the site, and it was on the cover of newspapers all over the world. Why this story and not a story of one of the hundreds of good deeds that took place all over Iraq at the same time? Because "Nine Dead in Bombing" will sell more papers than "Platoon Helps Innocent Bombing Victims."

I regret putting over a million servicepeople in harm's way, with 1700 dead and many thousands wounded so far.

On June 16, 2004, I willingly said goodbye to my wife and parents in a parking lot at Fort Drum, N.Y., not knowing if I would ever see them again. I don't expect any kinds of praise for this or special thanks because that is my job, and I knowingly volunteered for it. I never would have done that if I did not believe that I was defending this great country of ours and all those in it.

Many people will think this is just defending the president, but I will tell you that I would never risk my life for somebody else's ideas if I did not hold them myself. That being said, I am a soldier, and I will do my duty to my country every time, no matter what the personal cost.

And as a Christian, I greatly mourn the continuing loss of innocent Iraqi lives, the total of which is several times greater than the number lost at the World Trade Center.

...[T]he paper plastered my face across the front page of the paper several months ago when my men rescued two kidnappers and freed two Egyptian nationals who had been abducted the day prior and were on their way to being beheaded. While this was a great day for us, it was certainly not the first time we had helped Iraqis or other innocent people.

On another occasion, we were able to put two generators into a town that had never had steady power before, and we gave a reliable source of energy to over 300 homes. That story was never reported in the United States.

In short, I am so very, very sorry.

[D]on't pretend to know what you are talking about just because you have watched 30 minutes of CNN the night before. Go and talk to the people who have been there — not the people who make assumptions from a TV studio — and then form your opinion based on facts.

Of course, you see that all we get today is competing editorials, whether they be cartoons that espouse one opinion, which an op-ed rebuts, which a radio call-in show comments on, which a blogger writes an opinions about, and a TV personality makes a statement on, which a news outlet reports, and a hard-line website covers, which invites scores of angry commenters...

But all in all, there's no real debate, no exchange of ideas. Each side listens to the talking heads (or screens) of their side and continually spout party lines to each other.

What I'd love to see is Mr. Trudeau, and Mr. Lucas together - in a single room, with a moderator, and just let them talk to each other. Lay it on the line - "Hhere's what I think, soldier. You prove to me I'm wrong," to which the soldier could reply with the truth, and Trudeau could reply with the truth, and real progress in debate could actually be made.

Otherwise, we're all pointlessly spinning our wheels.

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