Who is standing up for the troops? Instead of cheering or condemning the assasination of General Qasem Soleimani, we should be shouldering a responsibility to our soldiers.
My chest is aching. I can’t breath. I keep thinking of the soldiers who are deploying, of their families and their futures.
As a combat soldier, I invaded Iraq in the preemptive strike in 2003. My war hasn’t ended yet. All the troops in Iraq haven’t come home. Iraq veterans haven’t been fully put back together for their families, their own lives, or the generations to which they will transmit war scars. There are more than 45,000 nonprofits in the U.S. serving veterans because they are still fighting to get the benefits and health care the government promised.
I’m watching another generation of soldiers deploying to the Middle East. No official declaration of war. Like the Iraq War. No declaration, only deploying troops ready to invade. World War II started not by a declaration of war, either, but when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. World War I began with the assination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by a foriegn power. America assassinated another country's leaders in killing General Soleimani of Iran and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of Iraq.
The Vietnam War began with the sending of 3,500 U.S. Marines to South Vietnam, marking the start of an American ground war in 1965. It wasn’t a declaration of war that began Vietnam; it was ground troops. In the past couple days, 3,500 US troops have been deployed to the Middle East.
This is sobering. This should be a solemn time. If history holds any ability to tell us the truth about the moment we are in, she would say we are at the beginning. Of a war of undetermined length that will require, consume, and maime thousands of American soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and Iranian lives.
This is a responsibility every American shoulders. Not Democrats, not Republicans, not our government, but us. This is what it means to be an American. A country by the people and for the people means we accept what is done on our behalf and what is done to others under our flag.
This is how we support the troops. We accept responsibility for the actions of our country and the politicians we elected. We the people hold ourselves responsible to our fellow Americans. This is how we become the land of the free and the home of the brave. We don’t pass the buck; we shoulder it.
Is war inevitable? Can we live without war? I don’t know. But I do know it should be used as a last resort, with a somber sense of responsibility to the troops who enlisted and their families.
Working for peace is patriotic. It’s valuing soldiers’ lives and respecting the lives of civilians across the world. It's what life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness looks like.
If you want to support the troops, fight for peace like their lives depend on it. Step in front of them and hold our government accountable. Call, write, march, and demand that our government has a plan and a purpose before committing troops to endless deployments. Honor their commitment to serve by asking hard questions on the front end, not on the back end, of a conflict.
Soldiers stand up for you. Are you willing to stand up for them?
Diana K. Oestreich of Duluth is an Iraq War veteran, member of Veterans for Peace, activist, sexual-assault nurse, and the key relationship officer for Preemptive Love, a global relief organization working to end war. Her book, “Waging Peace: One Soldier's Story of Putting Love First,” is scheduled to be published in September. She wrote this for the News Tribune.