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A Patriot’s Right to Disagree

By Sergio Troncoso

Recently, I went to Zabar's to select boxes of nuts and dried fruits for my brother in Afghanistan with the Navy.

As the holidays approached, it was important to get this package in the mail, and not forget those who are serving our country overseas and in harm's way.

Until last May, Oscar was the principal at Anthony High School near El Paso. He has been an educator for decades, but he has also been in the Navy Reserve for 22 years.

In other ways, Oscar also breaks the stereotype many of us might have of our military servicemen and women: He is in his 40s with a master's degree.

Before he left to Afghanistan, Oscar was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.

I worry about my brother, and I hope with a little luck and skill that he will return safely to El Paso. My mother couldn't stop crying for days after Oscar told her the news of his deployment. Now she keeps a candle lit to the Virgen de Guadalupe to ask Her to guide him home.

Our family is proud of Oscar, because we know he is doing his duty for his country.

I believe many if not most Americans are smart enough to support our military, but judge the politicians in Washington by a different metric. These politicians create American foreign policy, while the military is one of those instruments of that policy.

I don't believe we should have attacked Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein or the weapons of mass destruction that were never found. That war was George W. Bush’s and Condoleezza Rice's mistake. They manipulated the fear after 9/11 to start a war that should never have happened.

We should have always focused on Afghanistan where al-Qaida operated.

But not for one moment would I ever disparage soldiers, sailors or airmen for their service in Iraq. On the contrary, I would thank them for doing their duty. Once they are back home, I would do what I can to help them.

Give Obama credit for winding down the Iraq war and beginning the process in Afghanistan. I believe the majority of Americans support this policy, in part because we see our economic problems as paramount, but also because the marginal benefits of what we can do in Iraq and Afghanistan decrease each year.

I am not a jingoistic patriot. But I am a patriot. It plays better for simplistic hurrahs, and in our television culture with three-second attention spans, to wave the flag and spout accolades to motherhood, apple pie and the United States of America.

But I do not always agree with my mother, although I still love her. I like apple pie but I prefer bunuelos with honey.

I support our military and my brother in the military.

But I know I can write what I think, even if it is critical of the United States, and that is one of the reasons I am lucky to live in this country.

This editorial appeared in the Sunday editorial section of the El Paso Times on January 1, 2012. The original version appeared in Sergio Troncoso’s blog, Chico Lingo: My Brother in Afghanistan.