"I don't know who is running," said one soldier.
"I don't plan to vote," said soldier number two. Three more soldiers didn't know who was running either and a few more also didn't plan to vote. Nobody mentioned Giuliani, Hillary or Obama. Actually, nobody mentioned anybody -- much to my surprise. These troops' lives depend on who is in the White House. You would think that this would be a prominent event in their lives, seeing that whoever controls Congress and the White House will pretty much determine their fate.
"I don't know much about politics," said another soldier. "I don't vote."
"That's okay," I jokingly answered. "I can vote for you. I'll just move to Ohio and vote twice." The grunt laughed. "And who is your favorite candidate?" he asked. You could tell that he too was bored. We had been stuck on the runway a freaking long time.
"My two personal favorites are Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich and Republican candidate Ron Paul," I replied. "You wouldn't have heard of either of them. They are honest politicians and don't have big bucks. Has the last 100 years taught us nothing?" Nobody with the good of America at heart is ever gonna get elected. Politics don't work that way.
As my friend Stewart is fond of saying, "Ben Franklin gave us a Republic but he had his doubts as to how long we would be able to hold on to it." Stewart also stated that, in his experience, "in Iraq, you don't hear guys say they're into winning the war. Not really. They want to do a good job, they want support from folks back in the States and they want to get their asses back home."
These are the thoughts of the enlisted men, the grunts. But what are their officers thinking? According to the New York Times, here are some younger officers' opinions: "...a key role of generals is to advise policy makers and the public on the means necessary to win wars. 'If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means,' [a young officer] wrote, 'he shares culpability for the results.' Today's generals 'failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly,' and they failed to advise policy makers on how much force would be necessary to win and stabilize Iraq. These failures, he insisted, stemmed not just from the civilian leaders but also from a military culture that 'does little to reward creativity and moral courage.' He concluded, 'As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.'"
Then, finally, near sunrise, our plane took off and guess what? They had run out of space in the hold of the airplane and I was FORCED to ride up front in the cockpit. I am here to tell you that those guys are surrounded by all kinds of dials, wires, levers, switches and knobs. Plus I got a bird's eye view of everything as we went into the famous approach to the Baghdad airport, diving suddenly straight down. Air sickness suddenly became a real possibility.
Once on the ground, I wandered around looking dazed and confused from lack of sleep and dragging a whole bunch of luggage behind me (it finally showed up) until someone finally took mercy on me and stuffed me into a bus to the nearest military transit camp and the nearest dining facility. The DFac! Yea! For lunch we had barbecued chicken, chef's salad, mashed potatoes and -- gasp! No pumpkin pie! So I sacrificed for God and Country and suffered along with plain old sweet potato pie. Ah the hardships of War.
Anyway, as I was lined up at the dessert table someone spotted my Orlando Pirates hat and started talking to me about soccer. Up the Bucs! And I asked him my standard presidential candidate question, "Who will you vote for?" and boy did he have opinions. At last. A grunt who cared about politics. And was a Pirates fan too. Good man. "I like Chuck Hagel," he said, "but he's no longer running. And as another guy in my platoon always says, 'They are all sleaze balls anyway. I just vote for the least of the evils!' That's not a bad assessment."
And the graffiti in the latrine today read, "We are all being lied to." But was the writer talking about politics or about the opposite sex?
Then another grunt in the dining facility noticed my hat. "I'm in favor of John McCain," he said. "You know why? McCain actually came over here." To him, that was an important point. "Also, I hear that only 49% of the ballots that servicemen cast over here actually get counted. So why should I go to all that effort if it's not even going to count?" Why indeed? I'll tell you why! Because, dag-nab it, Ben Franklin gave us a republic and I wanna keep it that way!
But the soldiers I talked with today aren't the only ones who are skeptical about politics. I am too. "Do you want to know who will be taking over the White House in 2008? " I asked a friend. "It will be the guy who is the richest and/or most willing to sell America out for money and power." Figure out who that is and you can predict the winner. It's as simple as that. Ben Franklin must be spinning around in his grave and screaming, "Election reform! Election reform!" in his (endless) sleep.