In response to Tucker Carlson’s questioning of her patriotism (and indirectly Donald Trump as well), Tammy Duckworth fired back saying “these titanium legs don’t buckle.” I want to go on to record as a historian that these words will go on to echo in American history if the nation survives the reign of the worst president since James Buchanan. For those of you who don’t remember, that was the worthless oligarchic hack who sat back and watched the country rip apart as the Southern states seceded into the Confederacy.
Another Illinois politician named Abraham Lincoln urged the nation in his first inaugural address to try to avoid civil war and to use civil discourse instead to manage the contagion of racial strife. I guess things really don’t change and we seem to repeat history over and over as George Santayana implied in a great and frequently misquoted citation. The results of Lincoln’s time are well known, though differently perceived by conservatives (paleo, neo, or otherwise), liberals and progressives.
At present, the junior senator from Illinois is being considered with much deliberation by Joe Biden to spice up his lackluster campaign as a running mate. Really, she is now the leader in the race for the number two position on the Democratic ticket, if not by design, now by default.
Now Tammy, as a friend, I would like to address you at this momentous occasion in your life. I wish you nothing but success and urge you to run for the vice presidency. Your country needs you desperately at this time to clean up the stinking mess created by Trump and his quest to become president again by any and all means. Obviously, this psychopath needs to be removed right away despite my misgivings about Biden.
That being said, I must speak to you Tammy in civil discourse as an American citizen who has lived and worked overseas for over 14 of my 57 years. As you readily know, the country looks very different from overseas. When you come back, it never looks the same and you have insights into America that never occurred to before you left.
It may come as a surprise to you that I actually have one thing in common with Tucker Carlson-I have avoided military service in my life, but not out of cowardice. Indeed, had I been 18 at the time, I would have voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. I registered on my 18th birthday for Selective Service and enlisted in the US Army for 4 years in 1982 and spent 2 years in West Germany. I completed ROTC with you while in graduate school at Northern Illinois University (you might remember Tom Rogers).
However, I did not go to Iraq like you did. While I some of my motivations for evasion were for personal reasons, I also did it out of conviction. There is an anti-war slogan that says “Suppose they gave a War and Nobody Came.” This was the title of a 1966 essay by Charlotte Keys, the mother of an anti-war activist son who was imprisoned for refusing to serve after being drafted. The essay was published in McCall’s magazine. This became my patriotism.
I read this essay in college and it flashed into my mind when I read about you coming back from Iraq with no legs in 2004. The picture of your broken body brought tears to my eyes. At about the same time, the first reports of Abu Graib hit the news. At that moment, memories of the lies told to justify the war in Vietnam floated back into my mind from my young childhood as I sat in front of the TV watching the nightly news. Frankly, I do not know whether to thank you Tammy for your service or to apologize to you for your suffering.
I had already evaded numerous orders to report for duty from the US Army’s Inactive Ready Reserve Command in St. Louis since shortly after 9/11. My wife had given birth to our first child, a girl, in 2002. My concerns as a parent may have propelled my evasion at first. However, in 2004, I turned against the war on terror out of principle as well as out of necessity.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq droned on into 2005 as the troop surges occurred only 2 years after George W. Bush declared “mission accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. I read on Military.com that the US Congress authorized the Defense Department to use tax records to track evaders. Canada was sending soldiers back, so the thought of Israel came to me and we applied for aliyah.
The IRR found my last US address in 2006, shortly after our aliyah. While I was honorably discharged, I remain in the Retired Ready Reserve. It is almost impossible to resign a commission, so this military commitment is still hanging over my head as the war on terror continues at the end of its second decade, 9 years after the killing of its bogey man Osama bin Laden whose terror started everything to begin with.
One issue in the historical discussions regarding the war on terror that has come up is Joe Biden’s outstanding support for the Iraq War in the Senate. This was critical to pass the resolution authorizing the disastrous conflict. To understand this, I would suggest the short documentary Worth The Price? Joe Biden and the Launch of the Iraq War, narrated by Danny Glover. It is short (about 15 minutes) and will bring one quickly up to speed on the role prominent Biden had in rubber stamping the war on terror and stamping out opposition voices. I am sure Tammy that you are familiar with this. This is more for my readers.
As Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson notes in the documentary, the former chief of staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that the entire oil industry and the arms industries called the shots. They are the only party that matters. Republicans and Democrats are all subservient to the military industrial complex. They now run America.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s left a warning to all future generations about the military industrial complex. He truly was a prophet. No one knows how to condemn war better than a former general. I hold with his counsel.
Watch out for those neocons and neoliberals who showered you with praise at the Reagan Defense Forum on December 6, 2019. They want to use you. They are more interested in empire and are destroying the republic we love. Don’t let America become an empire like Rome. Only if you keep the empire in check will you have the resources to keep the republic alive.