An officer and a Democrat
The U.S. military remains a Republican redoubt, and most service members are still likely to support a second term for George W. Bush next year. But the grave doubts about this administration that have long troubled top officers, both active and retired, are now heard among the enlisted and the noncommissioned as well. The troops are not thrilled about the war. They're restive about the cutbacks in their pay and benefits. And they feel insulted by the seeming callousness with which their sacrifices are treated by this government. If the Democrats are smart, they will be reaching out to the disaffected military communities -- from which I receive increasing numbers of letters like the following:
"I am currently an active-duty Army noncommissioned officer with 27 years' service, and a lifelong Democrat. Those two alone are enough of a conflict to start an argument in any VFW [post] or military club I might go into on any particular day.
"I fought in the first Gulf War and was [in the region] for seven months. I was responsible for the lives of 31 soldiers who, I am proud to say, all came back alive and in one piece. I am completely against this current goatscrew we as a nation are involved in now. [Last summer] I lost one of my best friends in Iraq who was riding in his [Humvee] and was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and died instantly. His death just intensified my dislike for the current conflict and how it's being run.
"It's very tough to be a Democrat in the military. There are a lot of closet Democrats in the Army, but they don't show their colors for fear of being crapped on in some sense or another that no one could do anything about. And believe me when I tell you that there are not a lot of soldiers who do support this current conflict. Oh, they will say they do if they're on MSNBC or CNN. They have no choice. But even the youngest troops, and much more the seasoned troopers like myself, know this is a quagmire. This is another Vietnam in the making, and we are stuck."
This hectic life, on the road again
Tonight I will be signing books at Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, Mich., at 8 p.m. Tomorrow evening I will be in Madison, Wis., at the University Bookstore on State Street, at 7 p.m. And on Thursday evening I will be in St. Paul, Minn., at Bound to Be Read on Grand Avenue, also at 7 p.m.
[1 p.m. PST, November 10, 2003]