Name: Justin LeBlanc
Hometown: Seoul, Korea
That's it, I've had it. I'm tired of going on line and reading about all these people who attack Bush and his administration's policies for going to war with Iraq. I'm a soldier and I think that we did the right thing and still think we are. I challenge you (Dr. Alterman) and any other liberal who cares more about Europe's opinion than our own country's safety to reply to this email. Yes, we are in a war and people die. I'll certainly be heading over to fight in the sandbox soon enough when I complete my tour here in Korea. We took out one of the most hostile individuals of my generation. We took out a ruthless dictator who got his kicks off raping his neighbors and killing his own citizens. People want to characterize Gitmo as the "gulag" of our times; well, Hussein was the "Stalin" of our times. I really don't care whether we found weapons of mass destruction. Whether he had them or not is no concern of mine. What's of more concern to me is my family's safety years from now. What's of more concern to me is the shape of the Middle East decades from now. Iraq is a democracy and lets begin to celebrate that. I'm certain we'll be seeing sweeping changes, all for the better, in that region over the next 20 years that we previously thought we wouldn't see in our lifetime. I hope, when it is all said and done, you congratulate the President on taking measures he thought were necessary to keep our country and our planet safe. One day, a few decades from now, you and your "progressives" (if you can honestly call yourselves that) are going to have to own up to the fact that what the President did, however difficult, was good for Iraq, good for the Middle East, good for us, and good for the planet. Oh, answer me this Dr. Alterman, how many people did Saddam kill? Oh, that's right, you can't answer that - THEY'RE STILL COUNTING!
Now, that sounds real good rah-rah and all that, and some of y'all may be shaking your head in agreement. Hell, he's wearing the green and guns right now, and I am (to date) not, so keep in mind where he's coming from. Lord knows, the left sure hasn't come up with much coherent thought to counter those arguments, have we?
Lucky for us, this cat from the Air Force is all over it...
Name: Mike Wright
Hometown: Nellis AFB, NV
In response to the e-mail you published from Mr. LeBlanc, I would like to offer the following response: Mr. LeBlanc, you may be a soldier in the U.S. military; I am glad that you are not a disgrace to my own branch of the service. My experiences since I have worn the uniform have led me to believe that we are the best and most professional military force in the world, however your apparent doctrine of the ends justifying the means is doing as much to challenge my beliefs as the idiots at Abu Ghraib. We are supposed to hold ourselves to the highest standards. We receive annual training in military standards, the Law of Armed Conflict amongst others, and at all times are supposed to live up to the core values of our profession. We are not supposed to use the moral character of our opponents as an excuse for behavior that falls outside of those standards. Your statement trivializing the comments on Guantanamo Bay simply because "Hussein was the 'Stalin' of our times" shows that you have paid little attention to the training and the core values of the U.S. Army. There is no honor in mistreating prisoners. There is no integrity in breaking the law, simply because you want information or rationalize it as applying the enemies' rules against them. There is no courage or selfless service displayed, no duty or loyalty to anything other than the egos of those doing wrong. Any respect that we might have had in the areas surrounding the prison has been severely, if not irreparably, damaged. The same flaw runs through the rest of your argument. If you truly believe that the ends justify the means, then you yourself are no better than Stalin or any other despot that figures he can do no wrong. I have served in Iraq. I know the good that we can and have done in the lives of the Iraqi population. I also know that any good that we do is enhanced or ruined by HOW we accomplish that good.
Big fat hat tip to Eric Alterman for publishing that one. Oh, and if you wanted to read some more (and maybe take a few notes, my fellows in the Patriotic Opposition) there's the link.
Big fat Update as of June 21
LeBlanc Responds! Quite eloquently, I might add. Apparently, when one takes away the standard party line quotes of those on the right, they come through with their actual reasons for believing things the way that they do. This is extremetly important for all of us to be aware of, that there are real people with opinions to either side of the issue, and to look deeply and respectfully at why they have those opinions.
Name: Justin LeBlanc
Hometown: Seoul, Korea
To all who provided their feedback: Thank You. I respect those dissenting opinions and I would submit to you that there are many of those out there, soldiers and civilians alike, that share my point of view and I hope Dr. Alterman affords me one last opportunity to respond in kind. However, I do take issue with those who would imply I am a disgrace or question my morals and values. I love my country and I love my Army. I have a firm commitment to my God and I respect all others who have different beliefs from my own. I am a Christian who grew up in Lackawanna, NY. I had many Muslim friends; three of which, Nabeal, Ahmed and Rasheed, I consider my best. We found ourselves discussing our religious differences openly and honestly and by doing so we grew in our understanding and respect for each other. In college, I took Judaism at a small Jesuit Institution, Canisius, in order to better understand others of this faith as well.
So, do I condone the actions of soldiers mistreating Arab prisoners? Of course not. However, I do know that there is a huge difference between Abu Ghraib and the gulag. I do know that we investigate and prosecute these actions. I do know that we use Abu Ghraib to protect Americans and not use it as a killing machine for political dissidents. This, however misconstrued, was the point I was trying to get at. In addition, what I do know is that not enough is said about the positive actions of our soldiers and not enough is said about the Iraqis who want us over there. Too much is said about those that are killed and not enough about those that are saved. Unfortunately, because of this, will our soldiers be perceived as heroes? Or, as I fear, will they be spit on by our fellow citizens or discriminated against at our jobs or in our colleges like what took place after Vietnam? Or, will they all be grouped together as "idiots", in Mr. Wright's words, because of so much bad publicity and none of the good?
It is my moral beliefs and values, not bestowed upon me by the Army, but bestowed upon me by my God, family, and friends that led me to be thankful that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. What if Japan didn't bomb Pearl Harbor? What if we didn't consider Germany a threat? What if Germany didn't go to war with other countries and instead only decided to kill all the Jews in its own borders? Mr. Wright, would you have allowed the genocide to continue if you knew it was happening and could do something about it? Where are the articles on what Saddam has done to his people? This was the other point I was trying to make. It seems like more and more people every day are using casual words like "Nazis" to describe our soldiers. What impression does that leave on the minds of our citizens and families (especially the families who have soldiers stationed at these locations)?
My reference to Saddam being the Stalin of our times was an attempt to highlight the atrocities he committed even days out from the war. I've heard first hand accounts from people about Saddam and his sons' grotesque acts and the thought of what they did makes my stomach turn even now as I write this. I do not have to read about it in letters or books. As far as sounding callous about our casualties, I'm sorry if it came off that way. I was only trying to be realistic about the nature of war and the expectations that coincide with it. As a Christian, I pray everyday for the families of those that have lost loved ones. I cannot help but be proud of our actions and think removing Saddam was a good thing and still is. I don't think their deaths were in vain. I don't think they died for no cause. I refuse to believe that.
As far as my education goes, I understand military manuals and the doctrine for war. I also understand that our President, the Commander-in-Chief, decides that these requirements have been met and makes that decision to go to war. Nevertheless, as a soldier and a Christian, I believe it is our job to protect those who can't protect themselves. We do not have the ability to be the world's police officer, but if our policies and our soldiers save the future lives of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people, can I not be proud of that? If my defending the Iraq war, President Bush, or my fellow soldiers is wrong or unpopular then I'll accept that.
Finally, as a side note, I know Mr. Stebley asked why I wasn't over in Afghanistan or Iraq. Unfortunately, I'm not going to discuss my personal reasons for this or air them publicly to the world. He can imply about me anything he likes. I fully expected a response like that when I mentioned I was in Korea and did not hide this fact, intentionally. Thank you Mr. Alterman for airing my previous feelings. I hope you do me the same service by airing this response. Thanks to all, once again, for sharing your thoughts.
Eric replies: I think the discussion with Mr. LeBlanc speaks for itself, but I should like to clarify two points. I don’t think anyone who wrote to this site expressed anything but gratitude or admiration for his sacrifices. No one, as far as I could tell, implied that he was a disgrace to anything. I would not have printed any of them if I thought they had. Second, according to The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, a careful study by Jerry Lembcke, here, offers a compelling argument that the “spitting image” myth is a creation of a revisionist right-wing seeking to discredit the anti-war movement, including those veterans who made up a key part of it.
Altercation has been flooded with correspondence in the past days concerning mostly this topic, and it has a lot to do with the battle for the soul of the Armed Forces. What is interesting is how many of our men and women in arms have actually contributed to this debate on the national stage. It really undercuts the pundits when really real folks have the ability to stand and be counted.