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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/19/20

This Is No Time for Moral Cowardice

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Funeral at Arlington Cemetary
Funeral at Arlington Cemetary
(Image by Melissa Wentarmini from flickr)
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Just recently, The Atlantic published a story that accused President Trump of calling our veterans "losers" and "suckers." Those alleged accusations even applied to our veterans killed on the battlefield. The story was backed up by The Associated Press, The Washington Post and even Fox News. It was a damning indictment of President Trump. It shook the antennas of anti-Trump and pro-Trump Americans alike. Blood boiled on both sides and political tensions escalated as each side expressed their outrage. For those on the left, Trump is guilty of saying it. On the right, it is just another political hitjob on the president from the "fake news."

I personally believe that President Trump did denigrate our veterans in such an unforgivable manner. The only problem is that I cannot prove it, as the people who made the accusations are hiding in peaceful anonymity while the rest of us are fighting over whether the story is true. These anonymous sources also give the right-wing Trumpists complete plausible deniability and every opportunity to defend their position that President Trump is innocent. That leaves veterans like me with no ground to stand on as the president's accusers are nowhere to be found.

We as Americans are about six weeks away from the most important election in modern history. The time to take a moral stand against the Trump Administration has long since passed. Social unrest in some cities is at unprecedented levels. Pro-Trump militias have formed in the south, in the flyover states, and elsewhere. They are being cheered on by our current president and other elected officials to prepare for further hostilities should the election not go their way. Climate change is in hyperdrive and continues to be the biggest global threat we face (even if it is not yet right on our doorstep.) The Black Lives Matter movement is fighting for racial equality for minorities and it has garnered the support of a sizable portion of America's white population. However, the fight for black lives has just begun. Our work is cut out for us. We have lost over 200,000 Americans to Covid-19 and could lose that many more before the end of this year.

Our economy is hanging on by a thread. Unemployment has reached all-time highs. Jobs have not returned to the U.S., and America's labor movement appears to be in its last throes (at least in the private sector). America just lost Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - an irreplaceable advocate and champion for equality and justice on the Supreme Court. Republican hypocrites have already announced plans to fill this Supreme Court vacancy swiftly, despite their arguments to the contrary after the death of Justice Scalia. Republicans have become comfortable in their hypocrisy, it seems.

President Trump proudly tells his supporters that he is deserving of a third term as president. Never before has an American president cozied up to communist dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. Trumpists will say that the president is a "deal maker" and a "genius." If that is the case, why is Russia still interfering in our elections? Why is there evidence suggesting Russia has placed bounties on American military personnel in Afghanistan, and no denouncement of even the *idea* of such actions? Why is North Korea still moving forward with their nuclear weapons program? Talking heads on television have frequently spoken of the possibility of a "constitutional crisis." News flash: that crisis has been here for a while! Therefore, we need moral courage from people in the know. We do NOT need leakers who cower in the safety of anonymity while the houses of the unfortunate are burning down around them.

During the Iraq war I spoke out publicly against the war and was successful in delivering a message to the American people: The war was a disaster. Right-wing war supporters called me a traitor. Some told me to move to France. The hate leveled at me was usually from people who had never been to Iraq. They just hid behind the flag and claimed they were fighting a culture war at home for our armed forces -- as if we who opposed the Iraq war were unpatriotic and did not support our military. It was quite the opposite. Many of us publicly spoke out because we love America and Iraq was a detriment to our armed forces. The irony is that most of the people who supported the Iraq war now say it was a total mistake. The sad part is that the only reason that they are saying it now is because President Trump campaigned on being an anti-Iraq-war Republican. Now he accuses our military leadership of being against him because he does not support endless wars. President Trump even accused our military leadership of wanting to start more wars to bolster business for arms dealers and the military industrial complex. It all sounds like what many "anti-war leftists" were saying over a decade ago. Imagine that! How ironic it is that the neoconservative war mongers from a decade ago have now turned against our courageous military personnel because that now-mainstream school of Republican thinking fits the current Trumpist right-wing narrative.

The United States is in a real jam. A total pickle. We as Americans are at a crossroads. We can either step up, make our voices heard, or we can sit in silence and get steamrolled by the neo-confederacy. Then later in life we can explain to our children's children that when we were needed the most, we capitulated to and cooperated with the forces of an enemy from within. Right now is no time to be an anonymous source! Right now is no time for anyone to leak a story to reporters under conditions of anonymity. A story worth telling needs to be told in ways that present facts in an unassailable fashion, preventing unscrupulous actors from hiding behind the we-can't-trust-anonymous-sources defense. The real power of White House insiders lies in their ability to reveal themselves publicly and point their fingers right at President Trump. They are obviously a silent part of the anti-Trump movement. Unfortunately, silence is a luxury American democracy can no longer afford. The secret sources who create controversial stories that serve as a catalyst for political infighting need to reveal themselves and back up their accusations. Only then can we defend their claims, restore the dignity of those servicemembers denigrated as "losers" and "suckers" and recapture the power of the imperative.

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John Bruhns is an Iraq war veteran and writer. He currently resides in the Philadelphia area.
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