Gibbons: Anti-war equals anti-soldier
U.S. Rep. James Gibbons of Nevada has equated opposition to the U.S. government’s war in Iraq with “deriding” the servicepeople who have had to fight that war.

Gibbons made the charge in a letter to the Lahontan Valley News last month to explain his remarks at a Republican fundraising dinner.

The letter was prompted by criticism of Gibbons by former Nevada Assemblymember Marcia deBraga of Fallon, a Democrat, who faulted his now well-known appearance in Elko. In that speech, Gibbons used a plagiarized speech to call for buying plane tickets to Iraq for those who “wanted to go to Iraq and become human shields for the enemy.”

Gibbons also said in his dinner remarks, “I say we tell those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and their music and whine somewhere else … I want to know how these very people who are against war because of loss of life can possibly be the same people who are for abortion? They are the same people who are for animal rights, but they are not for the rights of the unborn.”

In his letter to the Fallon newspaper, Gibbons said, “I cannot help but put myself in the place of our brave soldiers who are fighting the war on terrorism, while the new generation of Jane Fondas—people like Michael Moore—deride their efforts. Further, I know that such efforts to break our resolve in Iraq are also used to inspire the insurgents to continue their assault against the elected Iraqi government, the Iraqi people and our soldiers.”

Gibbons cited no specific instances of war critics “deriding” servicepeople, but there were plenty of Nevadans opposed to the war who disagreed with him.

William Chrystal of Reno, a former military chaplain whose son Philip is serving in Iraq, said, “As a veteran and the father of a combat soldier in Iraq, I respectfully disagree with Congressman Gibbons. Our servicepeople deserve thoughtful realism, not warmed-over jingoism when talking about a war whose premises are ever-changing. Indeed, my son in Iraq is proud that his family thinks and speaks something other than the old party line.”

UNR women’s studies instructor Rebecca Thomas, an opponent of the war, said, “As the mother of a son who is a member of the armed forces, I want nothing more than to see each and every one of those brave men and women come home to the families that love them safe and whole. If my love and respect are what inspires the insurgents, then I am afraid they will have to continue to be inspired.”

Dan Gingold of Reno (an occasional RN&R contributor) said, “[T]hese Americans could be said to hold the efforts and the very lives of our brave soldiers in much higher regard than war hawks who support a government that sent our men into harm’s way under false pretenses. … The truth is, we support our troops the most—we say, bring them home.”

“I am gravely disappointed, but not surprised by his comments,” said Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “Perhaps Mr. Gibbons would rather we stifle America’s commitment to democracy. … Criticism of the war in Iraq does not in any way criticize our brave men and women fighting. It is all part of the democracy which makes our country great. Michael Moore is just as much a patriot as Jim Gibbons.”

Moore, incidentally, has been a consistent supporter of U.S. servicepeople and published a book of letters from soldiers in Iraq, from soldiers around the world, from veterans of earlier wars, and from family members of soldiers. His Web site has a section, “How I can help the soldiers,” that has information on groups like Homes For Our Troops (which provides houses for disabled soldiers), the Wounded Warrior Project, and AnySoldier.com. The Web page also has a message board where soldiers can post their thoughts and veterans groups seek help.

In an e-mail to Moore, dated March 19, a U.S. soldier in Iraq named Daniel Goetz wrote, “Thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of the soldiers. I am currently deployed to Iraq. This is my second time here, and I have been stop-lossed. By the time I return to the United States, I will have served more than 12 months past my contract. … Yours is a respected (if not feared) voice in Washington, and I hope you continue to champion our cause.”

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...