Tuesday, September 25, 2007

dear ms. gross

this was a letter to the editor in yesterday's college times at uvsc. they asked me to be a guest columnist in the paper and write a column responding to it.

this is a draft of my response.

this is a draft of my response.


In a September 24th letter to the editor, Haley Gross throws a barrage of unsubstantiated accusations and insults against those she encompasses under the general umbrella of ‘liberal democrats.’ As one of those ‘liberal hippies. . . protesting the war,’ Ms. Gross accuses me of being lacking rational judgment while being ‘too ignorant to face the facts,’ as well as lacking a moral conscience as a part of the ‘morally bankrupt left.’ As I read her letter I wondered if Ms. Gross realized that the war in Iraq was not the partisan issue she makes it out to be, but that a growing number of high-ranking Republicans in and out of Congress have also begun to speak out against the danger that the Bush administration has unnecessarily placed our troops in. I wonder how much more educated on this matter Ms. Gross is over those she accuses of lacking rational judgment and being too ignorant to face the facts. Has Ms. Gross read the Iraq Study Group Report that was headed by James Baker, a republican who served as the Secretary of State for Bush Sr.? How much does she know about the religiously drawn civil war between the Sunni and Shia that Baker and other republicans suggest cannot be resolved militarily, but must be dealt with diplomatically? Has she read the intelligence reports that suggest that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is increasing the threat of terrorism against our nation? Is she one of the many unfortunate Americans who still believe that Iraq had any involvement with the events of 9/11? How much more educated on this matter is Ms. Gross over us ignorant liberal democrats?

Even more insulting is Ms. Gross’s accusation that I, a liberal democrat, am ‘morally bankrupt’ and lacking a moral conscience. She does so largely under her confused sense of ‘supporting the troops.’ To make sense of the moral implications of this popular catch-phrase we must break this notion into at least three different interpretations: supporting the military, supporting the military action, and supporting the individual persons serving in the military.

The first of these, supporting the military, seems to be morally vacuous in itself. One could appeal to loyalty, nationalism, and patriotism as Ms. Gross attempts to do, but in light of Nazi Germany and other oppressive and empirical states, such support is easily seen as not always being a good thing – unless one believes that a military that is acting immorally ought to be supported in its actions.

On the other hand, supporting the military action has obvious moral implications. Certain military actions, such as those committed by the Nazis, are obviously reprehensible, while many of the Allies’ actions against the Nazis were arguably upright. What about our military’s actions in Iraq? Conservative estimates show that over 73,000 innocent civilians have died in Iraq as a result of American occupation. That is approximately twenty-five times the number of innocent persons that died on September 11th. If the Iraqi military and insurgents were included, the number of deaths would triple or quadruple. Millions more have been wounded or left homeless and destitute. On the other end, over 3,800 of our own troops have died in Iraq. What is all this death for? We overthrew a Saddam Hussein that had been relatively powerless over the previous dozen years and posed no threat to our nation, and in his place we established a democratic government decaying in corruption. Now Iraq is emblazed in a civil war over a religious and political rift that has existed over the last 1,500 years. And while important authorities have argued that this cannot be resolved militarily, the Bush administration has continued to be hard-nosed about winning a campaign that simply cannot be won. What is going on in Iraq is not our war. We cannot win or lose the war. We can only stay or leave.

This leads to the question of supporting those serving in the military. These men and women are not simply ‘troops.’ They are individual human lives. They are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends. It should seem clear that we can support a person without supporting the actions they are participating in. In fact, we often show our support for a person by not supporting the actions they participate in. Most of us have seen friends and family in a bad relationship or business deal that is dangerous for them, or even worse, participating in a lifestyle that can be detrimental to their well-being. We are frequently morally obligated to not support those actions, even to the point of actively fighting those actions, because we support and love those involved. Should our friends and family participating in the military be treated any differently?

It is for these latter two senses of ‘supporting the troops’ that I am actively against the war effort in Iraq. While Ms. Gross wants to accuse me of being morally bankrupt, I assure her that such is not the case. While I frequently fail in achieving my own moral ideal, it is my moral conscience that guides my stance concerning Iraq. It is my moral conscience that pushes me to get a better understanding of the religious, political, cultural, and economic difficulties facing Middle Eastern states, so as to best avoid ignorant claims and accusations. It is my moral conscience that condemns the unnecessary loss of American and Iraqi lives. It is my moral conscience that seeks to take the route peaceful route of diplomacy over military. And it is my moral conscience that says we should show our support for the troops, for those human lives, for those family members and friends, by condemning the actions the military puts them in and removing them from harm’s way.


  1. I think the original letter-writer was just following the usual Republican talking points. A Congresswoman from Tennessee was on MSNBC last night, equally "outraged" by the MoveOn.org ad. She went into immense detail about the ad & the NY Times and how MoveOn supposedly got a discount for the ad, but when she was asked "Do you know the name of the last person from your district to die in Iraq?" she couldn't answer.

  2. i thought i was just writing up another letter to the editor, but apparently i'm going to be a guest columnist for the paper. so the size isn't as much of an issue anymore. i fixed it up a little and submitted it. i'll provide a link for it on monday when it is printed.

  3. I disagree with you. I think it's well written and presented in a very sysinct and non-confrontational way, for which I applaud you. I've always liked open debate, not open mud-slinging. Kudos on being a guest columnist!


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