A few weeks ago, Washington Times columnist Tom Knott attacked me in his newspaper (Washington Times Sept 4, 2006 "Injustice? Look at your contract, Etan"). Unfortunately, Knott didn't have the decency to discuss my views with me before publishing his article.
That Knott didn't speak to me about my views should not be a surprise -- Knott has never talked to me about anything, nor has he talked to any Wizard player (maybe Gil once) or visited the locker room since the days of MJ. What else would we expect from the lead sports columnist from the Times? I wasn't a journalism major, but I'm fairly certain that reporters/columnists are taught, and usually required, to do some research and speak with the subjects they are covering. And yet, Knott has the audacity to question my work ethic.
It is remarkable how a reporter like Tom Knott, because of his far right politics, is absolutely blinded to reality. For some odd reason, he and other right-wingers of his ilk, equate being against the war with being unpatriotic. They feel that if one discusses a way in which their country could be better -- whether through just practices regarding the public school system, the broken health care system, the government's lack of a response to Hurricane Katrina, an unjust war, or other issues -- that it somehow means that person is one who "finds little to celebrate in America," as Knott described me.
If Knott, and others who share his opinion, support a war that has cost the lives of more than 2,600 U.S. troops, had absolutely no exit strategy and no connection to September 11, and did not make us safer here in America, they are free to do so. But don't claim someone is un-American if they have an opposing view.
I stand by my statements published in the Nation magazine, from which Knott bases his column. As I told the Nation, I don't have a problem with the troops talking to the players on their own. But bringing in wounded soldiers to build a better basketball team just feels wrong. If I was there, my reaction would have been completely different. The fact that Capt. Scott Smiley has lost his sight would not have made me feel patriotic pride. It would have made me feel ashamed, angered and saddened that this soldier was blinded at the service of a war we shouldn't have been in in the first place.
I think that what's really unpatriotic is sitting by, allowing a President to make bad decision after bad decision, and keeping quiet. The beauty of living in a democracy is the ability to express your displeasure. Each citizen has the right to voice his/her opinion, although Knott obviously feels otherwise. Silence is the enemy of democracy.
I'm sure that if I spoke out in favor of the Bush administration and painted some fictitious picture of how brilliantly he has handled protecting America , Knott would have had no objection. Iraq will go down in history as an American tragedy, and people will ask, "Why didn't anyone do anything? How did they let this happen"? Little kids will read in their textbooks about all the U.S. lives lost, innocent Iraqi civilians slaughtered, and wonder what type of patriotism did people show?
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Capt. Smiley and every other soldier who has been wounded and risked their lives for our country. The players on the national team saluted them, and I would have saluted them as well. In addition, it came as no surprise that the players were moved by their words and gained a higher level of understanding as to the sacrifices that they made for their country. Unfortunately, Knott missed the point of my objection. My respect, admiration, and overall reverence for the soldiers are what compel me to speak out on their behalf. Not that they asked me to, or even feel the way that I do.
I frequently hear people who disagree with me say that this is what the soldiers signed up for, and they knew what they were getting themselves into, but I vehemently disagree. These soldiers put their lives on the line for their country, and there is no greater sacrifice that one can make. That's why it's critical that our country's leaders do not needlessly sacrifice them as pawns in a war that simply did not have to happen. It is the job of the President to lead, and I do not feel that Bush has led us in the right way. In fact, his actions have actually done us a disservice. Instead of spending all of this money in Iraq , that money could, as Tim Russert stated, "have been put to much better use in homeland security."
It angers me every time I see or have conversations with wounded soldiers (which I often do), or hear the number of U.S. casualties continue to rise. And it's more infuriating to then hear Bush say he's looking out for their best interest, praise them for their continuous work, and says he's committed to staying the course. Dick Cheney was just on Meet The Press and echoed Bush sentiments, as did Condoleeza Rice and the rest of the GOP leadership on different shows -- that if given the chance to start all over, they would still invade Iraq. Russert asked Cheney, if they did it all over again, would they do "Exactly the same thing?" Amazingly, Cheney said "Yes, sir."
With all the casualties -- both U.S. soldiers and Iraqis -- and the fact that there's a civil war on the brink between the Shiites and the Sunnis, it does not appear we will be able to bring our troops home anytime soon. Yet there is nothing, apparently, that the Bush administration would have done differently. And they pretend to care about the soldiers.
Life is precious. And the lives of our soldiers, our heroes, even though they signed up to defend their country, are precious as well.
I would have been happy to talk about any of this with Knott personally. But, instead of talking to players, he cowers in front of his computer and offers up feeble prose and limp, ill-informed opinions. It was Confucius who said, "No investigation, no right to speak."
A version of this post originally appeared on realgm.com.