I never expected to write this letter, but my Mom e-mailed me to get information about my career for a writeup on Veterans Day, and as this is the first such holiday in 22 years when I will not be on active duty, I felt compelled to let you know why I decided to quit.
Quit is a strong word, I know. Everyone I’ve talked to has repeated that I’ve had a marvelous career and that I’ve retired with honor. Maybe that’s true on paper; I guess that it’s reflected by the record. But that’s not how I feel. I feel like I’ve quit. And because I’m not a quitter, I feel I have to explain why — not that anyone is asking, but because perhaps they don’t know to ask.
Briefly, my career had been a representation of the promise of this country. Starting out on the lowest rung of the rank ladder as an F-4G Wild Weasel crew chief, continuing on F-16s and the F-117A Stealth fighter in Desert Storm, then a small part of Desert Fox as a nuclear Maintenance Officer and finally a pilot that took part in numerous deployments in Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. I finished up an awesome year on the ground in Iraq, and was selected to receive a coveted “Definitely Promote,” assuring me of promotion to lieutenant colonel. They don’t pass out many of those. My dreams were right in front of me. All I had to do was grab them. And then I retired. Why?
I had chosen, freely, to place my life between those that would do harm to the U.S. and those whom I would protect: her citizens. I had always believed in the best of America and the people of her lands; that despite occasional missteps there was a general “rightness” to our way. I lived that belief for 22 years, leading and following warriors into combat. I’m certainly no war hero; my brothers in arms have seen far more combat, more intense and personal than I. But I have become acquainted with death in a way that I hope you never do. My last tour, on the ground in Iraq was where my heart started to be hardened towards you, the electorate, and culminated in this letter, written two days before our elections. And here’s why.
You’ve elected officials who, for partisan points, spoke openly that the “…war is lost.” I happened to be in a dining facility in Baghdad that day, filled with the (mostly) young faces of (mostly) Army men and women. CNN was on the TVs, and things got very quiet when this elected official continued on, railing that the mission that some of these very people were here to do, had “…failed.” Yet, they would be donning their body armor, strapping on med kits and weapons, mounting HMMVs or MRAPs and heading outside the wire, ensuring that the newborn democracy in Iraq, purchased with so many lives, would be safe another night. The newly re-invigorated insurgents would be waiting, teeth bared back in a hateful smile, gripping the IED detonator, the RPG launcher, or the AK-47s to ply their trade with new energy, because the Senate Majority Leader had said they were winning.
You elected officials who continually defame and berate military members, whether it is the observation that if you’re not too bright, you’ll get “…stuck in Iraq” (this from a guy who has two Purple Hearts for self-inflicted wounds, and known for throwing someone else’s medals away in protest), or the calling of combat Marines cold-blooded killers (in a war; before trial). You’ve elected officials in the role of commander-in-chief who “loathe” the military, while using ROTC deferments and special treatment to avoid military service that the less “connected” take as a responsibility. On the basis of “change,” you elected someone who had close, ongoing associations with people who were part of an organization that tried to kill us [U.S. military] on our own soil.
You elected officials that promised to take property from some Americans, and give it to you, merely because they had more than you did. Those Americans that these officials have labeled as the “rich” are your neighbors, who provide jobs and pay far more in taxes than you ever will. That means they are already subsidizing your lifestyle choices; you just want more of their property without the responsibility of risking your wealth and labor to get it. You would rather hire someone to take it from them. And you have.
Yet these same officials from this same party are the wealthiest group of people in both the House and Senate. They have offshore accounts, forbid unions in their businesses and use every tax loophole they can find with their armies of accountants. But you keep sending them back to those jobs, because they promise to steal from some Americans and give to you.
You elect officials who openly embrace illegal activity; but they don’t have to live with the consequences. Other Americans pay the price. You support “sanctuary cities” and open defiance of federal law, including supporting administrations who sue our sister states as they desperately try to control a crime epidemic by supporting federal law. You support an administration that leads a party that gives a standing ovation to the leader of a country that exploits our kindness and actively encourages law-breaking in our country while insulting our fellow citizens who dare to try to enforce the law. Check out your elected officials; did they stand and applaud the racist diatribe of the president of Mexico? Did they join the attorney general and the head of Homeland Security in applauding this gaping hole in (homeland) security and law? Do you have locks on your doors? Why?
You elect officials who are openly racist, decrying that “White folks’ greed drives a world in need…” and that their own grandmother was a “…typical white person.” Someone who sits in admiration as their pastor (small p; no capital letters for racists), in a church he attended for 20 years, slanders the United States as the “…U.S. of KKK America” and delights that the 9/11 “…chickens have come home to roost.” Someone who refused to denounce a paramilitary, racist organization that placed its members in front of polling places armed with billy clubs, and yelling racist, threatening epithets. On video. And the Attorney General did nothing.
Oh, wait. The Justice Department is now apparently, under sworn testimony, the Department of Racial Payback. And you continue to support the party that supports this blatantly racist behavior because they say that they will stick it to “the man” on your behalf. A Nation of Cowards? I don’t think so; the courage of this breathtaking racism is without equal in modern times. One would think that you would use your votes to eradicate these racist policies from the U.S. But that assumes eradicating racism is your aim. It’s not, or you would be as incensed at this blatant racism as you would if sheet-covered whites were there. But longtime Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd’s old gang has been rightfully disgraced and shamed into a virtual non-existence. Thank goodness that 52 percent of you discourage that kind of behavior.
But you don’t. You support the tactic of using the epithet of “racist” as the cudgel of choice for racists who don’t like policies that conservatives advocate. Don’t like illegal activity? Racist. Your party insists that to provide a photo ID — proving you are who you say you are — is not only too much of a burden to ask a voter to bear, but it’s racist as well. This not only terribly insulting to all races, but when the burden of proof to rent the DVD “Second Hand Lions” (amazing movie!) is higher than that required to vote for someone who has control of nuclear weapons or deploying men and women into harm’s way, there is something wrong.
It doesn’t end there. Don’t like a particular female’s policies? Sexist. Yet, you support politicians who prey on 20-year old interns, seduce underage male interns, and, as a double bonus, support a person for the Supreme Court who says she is “wiser” than white people because of her race and sex. And any opponent of hers must be sexist and racist. Yet the prevailing double standard makes “bitch” an acceptable term for a conservative grandmother with the temerity to want to stop illegal activity. And “whore” is acceptable terminology for any conservative woman.
Sarah Palin seems to be a nice person, the kind you would love to have as a neighbor, regardless of her policies; but you insist that she is stupid and vile. She is ignorant and inexperienced, clearly not ready for anything, as holding a variety of elected and appointed positions culminating in the governorship of Alaska clearly doesn’t hold up against… an organizer of race-based communities. Sexist, if a conservative said those words about a liberal, but because she is not pro-killing-little-kids, 52 percent of you decided she was worth vicious ad hominem attacks that continue to this day. Not just saying that you disagree, but saying she is evil. You support it all. All because the folks that practice this abhorrent behavior promise to give you free health care stolen from other Americans who haven’t paid their ill-defined “fair share.”
My oath was this: “I, Mike, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
I took that oath seriously. But you have responsibilities, too. You should take them seriously.
Mike Banzet, a retired major in the U.S. Air Force, is a 1986 graduate of Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana.