Monday, May 01, 2006 | One of the foundations that made our remarkable republic an ongoing vibrant reality is the give and take among informed citizens through the written, transmitted, and spoken word. The operative word here is informed. Easy access to public placards for all to see has now made possible for all of us to participate, and that’s great.

Unfortunately, the flip side of this extraordinary advantage is that it allows some individuals to mindlessly vandalize these resources without so much as spending a sober moment of reflection before making logically unsustainable declarations, much too often followed by an almost predictable ad hominem. The result is rubbish, a wasted opportunity that does not advance any kind of a dialog, and the nation is the poorer for it. Heated exchanges can often contribute positively to the dialog as long as the debaters do not go down in the gutter in the process.

It just happens that the unease I expressed about the widespread signs “support our troops,” came from intense discussions with active participants under fire in Iraq. Collectively, most of those queried intensely disliked the frosty “troops” designation as much as they seem to have reviled the fact that those who return to the United States at Dover AFB in flag-draped coffins cannot be acknowledged through photographs. They see the callous use of the word “troops” as a distressing example of indifferent civilians in the United States. who do not seem to give a damn about them. Those civilians appear to worry more about the price of gasoline in San Diego, and whether the Chargers will be able to stay around, than about the daily sacrifice our military continues to endure in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Our military is engaged in a bold, although misguided and misdirected (think of Iran) endeavor to protect access to it. The Unites States saved Kuwait from destruction (remember?) of its considerable oil reserves and facilities, and we did not even have to pay in lives and money for most of that. If calling a spade a spade is “fighting against America” there ought to be an awful lot of firing squads all over the country for those of us who believe we may have gone after the wrong enemy for, which we have been paying and continue to pay dearly, and I don’t mean at the gasoline pump.

Elie A. Shneour, a native of France and World War II U.S. veteran, is president of Biosystems Institutes, Inc. and research director of Biosystems Research Institute of San Diego.

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