Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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So who really supported our troops?
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   11/07/2003)

So just who truly supported the troops?

Those who sent them to Iraq with no clear plan for bringing them home again, or those who warned, don't go there, it's a quagmire?

Donald Rumsfeld once said with a wink and a grin that you can't have a quagmire in the desert--it's too dry--but if this is not a quagmire, then give me another word for it.

We can't move forward, we can't back out. We pour money and human lives into it and it only gets worse.

Six months after George W. Bush leapt from a jet plane onto an aircraft carrier and declared victory, the number of dead American soldiers accelerates towards the 400 mark. The wounded are numbered in the thousands, many with life-threatening lacerations and burns, others with mutilations they will carry to their graves. Estimates of dead Iraqis range from a few thousand to more than 30,000--the Pentagon pretends to have no hard numbers on the Iraqi dead--and the killing grows again with each passing week. It's hard to imagine how this war can ever end.

We can't even identify the enemy. Bush suggests that Saddam Hussein is still running the show, but he also said Saddam had aerial drones and stockpiles of anthrax and other weapons of mass of destruction, just as he continues to imply that Saddam was responsible for bringing down the World Trade Center, none of which appears to be true. Others say Syrians, Iranians, Pakistanis and Saudi extremists are flowing into Iraq to attack Americans. No one knows for sure except the bloodthirsty killers attacking our troops as Bush's so-called victory and international support melt away like desert mirages.

For all intents and purposes, the UN, Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, many contractors and businessmen and lots of ambassadors are fleeing the scene. The Turks have decided not to send soldiers after all. Little of the money and troops pledged by other so-called allies are forthcoming, and major opponents of the invasion--France, Russia and Germany--are sitting back in smug silence.

Yesterday I watched talking heads on TV discuss a plan to put hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in charge of their own security, so that we may draw our troop levels below 100,000 next year--an election year. We're betting $87 billion on top of billions already spent that it will work or that it will at least allow cover for our eventual departure.

Nixon had a similar plan in Southeast Asia. About 35 years ago he began turning South Vietnam's security over to the Vietnamese, and we know what happened next. The North Vietnamese moved in, while Americans flew away, betraying millions.

Iraq is not Vietnam, but the tribal differences there are more pronounced if anything. You can almost hear the sizzle as the fuse burns toward civil war between Shiites and Sunnis while the Kurds seek more autonomy in the north.

Scores of Iraqi policemen, aides, government leaders, businessmen and workers have paid with their lives for supporting America, and this trend will accelerate as we recruit more Iraqis into the new army.

Meanwhile, increasing numbers of American soldiers come home with lost limbs and chronic night terrors, only to find waiting lists at Veterans Administration hospitals and bureaucratic red tape impeding their treatment. Few trumpets herald the return of the wounded and dead. They are secreted into the country like bad news. No press may show the unloading of our soldiers' flag-draped coffins.

So who really betrayed our soldiers a year ago, and who really had their best interests at heart? Those who lied and manipulated press coverage in their drive to war? Those who cut veterans benefits on the sly? Those who attended rallies and waved flags as if war were just a big football game? He who said, "Bring 'em on," from a distance of 10,000 miles? Those who wrote letters and phoned radio stations to denounce anyone who raised questions about the war? Those who made secret deals with Halliburton while scuttling last minute political deals that might have prevented war?

In my humble opinion, supporting our troops is about giving diplomacy MANY chances to work. It's about not getting our young men and women killed or turning them into killers or otherwise scarring them for life. It's about not letting gray-haired men who never fought send them into war for obscure reasons. It's about telling them the truth about just who our real enemies are. And if that truth is so horrible it means they must go to war, it's about having a plan to bring them safely home again.