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Anger and Civic Responsibility

Twenty years ago today, was the angriest I remember being in my entire life. I was at a friend’s house going over SCA heraldic arms submissions with a friend and our host, when our host’s wife shouted down (we were in the basement) to turn on the news. All channels were broadcasting that the United States was at war, and that Desert Shield had become Desert Storm. I watched for a bit, called my boss to report in because I was active-duty Air Force at the time, received word that my unit was not officially involved and to report for work as normal the next day, and then continued to watch the news.

We neglected our heraldic review session.

I grew angrier and angrier as President George Herbert Walker Bush announced he was committing United States forces to battle and completely side-step and dance around the specific reasons why he was putting lives on the line. I did not disagree with the war at the time, but I thought it was shameful and irresponsible to commit to death without explaining why: clearly, succinctly, and without reservation. Bush put himself in the same hall of shame for me that day as President Lyndon Johnson, who abandoned U.S. troops already engaged in a war that he was very largely responsible for.

I am sad that nothing in the US News is marking this anniversary, as it clearly changed the world like very few other events. Warfare itself is vastly different as a result of the 1991 Gulf War, and our military-industrial complex has been on a very different footing since then. What civic responsibility does a general or president have when committing lives to battle? There are no easy answers.

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