Editor Describes Sending His Son Off To A War He Does Not Believe In

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By: E&P Staff

In a remarkable op-ed column, published today in the Charlotte Observer and by several other newspapers across the country over the past eight days, Stephen E. Wright, editorial page editor of the San Jose Mercury News, describes sending his 18-year-old son off to Iraq this month — and calls it “the wrong war.”

Wright says that his son is part of the “surge” of troops to Iraq, adding that a “central theme in the national debate — Support the troops, but not the war — just got personal…. As the Mercury News’ editorial page editor, I’ve often discussed the war in Iraq with our editorial board. Before my son enlisted, none of us had a family member serving in the military, so the discussions were mainly about how and when to write about the conflict.”

Now he advises a phased U.S. withdrawal.

Few top editorial staffers have children in the military and fewer still have watched any of them march off to Iraq. E&P has published more than a dozen pieces in the past four years by Dennis Anderson, editor of the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, Calif., a former embed whose son has served in Iraq, including taking part in one of the battles for Fallujah.

Excerpts from the Wright op-ed, first published in his paper on March 22, follow.


Our son had many choices after high school. Joining the Army was not a last-ditch effort to straighten out his life or earn money for college. Instead, he was answering a call he had felt deeply for some time — to be a soldier, to protect America and democracy from terrorism. He was prepared to fight — and die — for our freedom.

But now our newly minted U.S. Army cavalry scout is in Kuwait awaiting deployment into Iraq any day now. As a scout, he’ll be responsible for reconnaissance and will go into situations before most other soldiers. The scout’s motto is: Never pull out.

That’s not the way I feel about our military presence in Iraq. After four years of maintaining a troop strength of 100,000-plus soldiers, after the deaths of 3,200, the wounding of 23,000 and the spending of billions of dollars, it is clear: The best way to support our troops is for Americans to put more pressure on Congress and the president to devise a timeline for phased withdrawal.

If more Americans — including the president and those in Congress — had to make the personal sacrifice of sending a son or daughter to this war, some for a second or third time, or if they had to pay the ultimate sacrifice of losing a child in this war, we’d be long past the “support our troops” slogan. We’d be pulling out and concentrating on the real war — the war against terrorism….

But now we talk about the war, via my son, almost daily: How’s he doing? Have you heard from him? Is he in Iraq yet? In a far more personal way, we discuss the impact on families and friends, the political maneuvering and the lack of progress in bringing stability to the country.

What we don’t talk about are the daily news stories about soldiers killed in action.

Having a son on his way to Iraq hasn’t changed my view of the war: We should not have invaded the country.

If this were a righteous war, it would be more bearable to see him go. But now there’s a knot in the pit of my stomach every time I think about where he’s headed, what he might have to do and what might be done to him. He and the other patriots are being sent to the wrong front.

My wife and I had a hard time understanding our son’s decision to join the Army. Some of our discussions with him did not end particularly well. But over time we understood the depth of his earnestness and commitment. We knew the choice was his, and we’ve been proud and supportive since the day he signed his contract at the Military Entrance Processing Station just outside Moffett Field last July….

He is headed into a war we don’t believe in, but more than ever he has our support.


Related E&P story: Editor’s Column On Son Going to War Draws Praise — and Claims He’s a ‘Coward’

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