Where Have All the Blowhards Gone?

An Iraq invasion retrospective!

The people who stood on corners waving flags had all but disappeared, as had, apparently, the weapons of mass destruction Kenny and the other soldiers had been sent to destroy.

"I don't believe people realize the war is still going on," she says. "I mean, I've had so many people come up and ask about Kenny, and when I tell them he's still over there, they say, 'He's still over there? I thought the war was over?' It's not over. They're dying over there every day."

By the end of the summer, Barbara had started writing letters to Bush—"When Bush says, 'Bring 'em on!' I yell at the TV, 'You go over there and bring 'em on, okay?'"—Senator Barbara Boxer and Huntington Beach Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. She wrote:

My son and the Marines have been in Iraq for over nine months now. They have done the job YOU sent them over there to do. We have continued to be lied to. We were told they would be home once they reached Baghdad. Now, five months later, they are still there being used as peacekeepers, used to guard and protect the same people YOU sent them over there to kill. When is enough enough? You have forgotten the Marines and left them there, and they need to be brought home. As an American, I am demanding answers. As a mother, I am begging for answers.

There were no replies, save for the Australian newspaper that asked permission to publish her letter, but Barbara's father told her to decline because the paper was "anti-war." And Barbara was not anti-war. It's the peace that's killing her. Even though Kenny is home, she has continued to write and pace and cry. When she met his homecoming bus, she started bawling again, this time "for all the boys who weren't on the bus." When she found out that the 15 soldiers killed when their helicopter was shot down Nov. 3 were not given proper protection, she was outraged. The fact that her son made it back didn't make it okay.

When Kenny came home, she thought returning to Iraq an impossibility—When is enough enough? She joked that she'd break both his legs before she'd allow him to go back. Last week, she found out Kenny's unit was likely going back to Iraq in February. With that reality staring her down, she's not only wondering about why but also how?

"How do you send your son back into that?" she asks the day five more soldiers die aboard a helicopter, her voice now flat. "How do you do that?"

—Steve Lowery
Cook: Not a Blowhard
Photo By Jeanne Rice

Yellowing Ribbon

In mid-April, just after the U.S. military swept through Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the California chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) launched an offensive of its own. The goal: support the troops by decorating the entire country with yellow ribbons. To jump-start that process, YAF showed up at an April 21 Huntington Beach City Council meeting and urged the city to pass an ordinance requiring yellow ribbons to be attached to trees in front of every city building as well as to the antennas of every city-owned vehicle.

The ribbons would be available free-of-charge from YAF—which called for nuclear weapons to be dropped on Afghanistan after Sept. 11 and staged anti-French wine-spilling spectacles in LA earlier this year—at its website ( At the meeting, the council heeded the call to action, but Councilwoman Debbie Cook earned YAF's ire when she questioned how long the ribbons would be tied to trees and car antennas.

Specifically, Cook pointed out that U.S. troops had already been in Afghanistan for 18 months and more soldiers were being sent abroad every day. "If we're looking at years and years of seeing these [ribbons] on poles, they start to look ragged," she argued. "I would encourage people to actually consider doing something to contribute, something rather than just the typical jingoism we get so hung up on during these times. . . . Of course I support the troops. But this becomes meaningless. Just because you put a ribbon or a flag on your lapel does not make you patriotic."

Don't tell that to YAF member Brad White, however. In a recent interview, White claimed that hanging yellow ribbons is about the most patriotic thing you can do when troops are in harm's way—other than enlisting for active service, which neither White nor anyone he knows has done.

"We must support the family members of the people who have gone [to Iraq]," White said. "We need to continue the mission of going out to the cities and getting support for long-term objectives, like getting the state of California to declare a yellow ribbon day."

Unfortunately for YAF, Operation Yellow Ribbon appears to be moving more slowly than Operation Iraqi Freedom. Not a single news story has appeared in the past six months about YAF's ribbon crusade, nor has the group succeeded in convincing other cities to follow Huntington Beach's bold example. In fact, the group's website—which includes links to outdated stories on U.S. casualties in Iraq—hasn't been updated since it posted a bulletin attacking Cook last May.

—Nick Schou
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