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William Rivers Pitt: Get Some

Get Some

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 23 November 2005

Get some.

That's what Marines say before the shooting starts, before the metal meets the meat, before the difference between Now and Later becomes a matter of survival and strength.

Get some, they say. Get some.

The time has come for the soldiers, those who have completed their service and those who stand the watch today, to get some. Not in a firefight, not in a desert or a jungle or on a frozen plain, not on any battlefield soaked with blood and redolent with screams, but on a field of honor where the good name and sacrifice and suffering of our soldiers has become all too easily slapped aside in a quest to salvage polling numbers and approval ratings.

That's the deal, you know. That's what the political pushers mean when they speak of "staying the course" in Iraq.

They know this invasion and occupation has been a catastrophe. They know the people in Iraq don't want us there. They know the intelligence was cooked. They know about the Office of Special Plans and the White House Iraq Group. They know about Curveball, about Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, about fake documents out of Niger falsely prophesying mushroom clouds, about outed CIA agents and blown networks and the end of Brewster Jennings; they know about British intelligence dossiers that were little more than plagiarized magazine articles, about weapons of mass destruction that had been destroyed years before. They know now, and they knew then.

They know our armed services are bleeding to death. They know recruitment is at an all-time low. They know experienced Reservists and officers are walking away because the burden is too great for any man or woman to bear. They know what Spc. Jose Navarette from Odessa, Texas, knows as he stands the watch in Tikrit. "This whole war is like a modern-day Vietnam," said Navarette. "You see more people dying every day. That makes you wonder if it's worthwhile."

They know all this, but push "stay the course" anyway. They don't say this because they believe it, because they want to honor the fallen in Iraq by "completing the mission." The soldiers have already completed the mission, two thousand and ninety seven have died for the mission, tens of thousands more have been ripped up for the mission, they all did what they were ordered to do, but it's "stay the course" we hear.

They know that "completing the mission" has nothing to do with democracy in Iraq or timetables for withdrawal or anything else. They know that "stay the course" means one thing: making sure Bush and his Congressional allies don't suffer another political setback before the '06 midterm elections. That's it and that's all, and they know.

Here's what they don't know.

They don't know what blood smells like when it is mixed with mud and sand. They don't know what it sounds like when a bullet strikes flesh, what a blade sounds like when it grinds against bone, what it feels like to be in the dark and far from home with only a rifle and a teammate between them and a hole in the ground and a folded flag.

They don't know what the kick of adrenaline before the shooting starts feels like, what the sound of one hundred men bellowing "Get some!" sounds like, what you do with your hands when they start to shake after the noise and thunder and dying is done with, until the next time.

Millions of Americans don't know about that, and never will, but there is one crucial difference. Those millions of Americans don't pretend to know, don't act like they've been there, don't throw soldiers into early graves under the false pretense of hard wisdom they will never earn. The political pushers of this Iraq occupation, those who preach "staying the course" and "completing the mission" pretend to know, and would dare to lecture and scold anyone who would disagree. But they don't know.

John Murtha knows. He joined the Marine Corps in 1952, served in uniform for thirty seven years, and rose to the rank of colonel. During his service, he volunteered for Vietnam. Before he was done, he was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat 'V,' two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Upon his retirement from the Marines in 1990, he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal by the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

John Murtha knows, and when he stood before the House of Representatives last week as one of that body's longest-serving members to tell the truth about Iraq, he spoke from the well of that knowledge. "It is time for a change in direction," he said, choking back tears. "Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."

How was this decorated hero greeted after his remarks? He was called reprehensible and irresponsible by Dick Cheney, a man who took five deferments to stay away from the war Murtha volunteered to fight. He was called a coward. Only after these slanders were greeted with universal condemnation were they grudgingly retracted. That bell, however, cannot be un-rung. They called John Murtha a coward, these people who do not know what he knows. They called him a coward.

The pushers of this Iraq war could not even bring themselves to be truthful about what John Murtha was saying. He wants us out of Iraq as soon as possible, and offered a six-month time frame as a blueprint for that necessity. Those who preach "staying the course" to protect their sagging approval ratings perverted these sane and sensible statements into "immediate withdrawal" and "cut and run," not even bothering to grant this Marine the simple honor of taking him at his word.

If these political pushers can throw a man like John Murtha under the bus, they can do it to anyone. The sacred honor earned by those who have served this country in the uniform of our military, those who have stood the watch and heard the screams and felt that place inside go empty and cold and strange when they know they have taken the life of another person, the sacred honor of those who know, means nothing to the pushers. Nothing at all. They will throw men like John Murtha under the bus, they will consign hundreds or thousands of soldiers to death and maiming, they will allow the Armed Services of the United States to become a hollowed-out shell.

They will do all this to protect their poll numbers. That is what "staying the course" means. That's all it has ever meant.

The time has come for the soldiers, those who have completed their service and those who stand the watch today, to get some. Not in a firefight, not in a desert or a jungle or on a frozen plain, not on any battlefield soaked with blood and redolent with screams, but on a field of honor where the good name and sacrifice and suffering of our soldiers has become all too easily slapped aside in a quest to salvage polling numbers and approval ratings.

Get some.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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