Scorpions, red ants and chicken hawks

David M. Payne is a Reno-based freelance writer and can be reached at his Web site,

As a kid, I used to like to hunt scorpions in the fields around Reno. They were hard to find because they hid under rocks and things and usually only came out at night. They also had a nasty sting, so I had to be careful around them. They kind of remind me of the VC in Vietnam and the Islamic terrorists today.

I also used to like to stir up red anthills. At first, there would be a few, but as soon as I stuck a stick in the anthill and killed some of them, I got more. The more I killed, the more red ants I had attacking me. Even though I was bigger, stronger and smarter, had better weapons and air superiority, I could never kill a whole anthill. In the end, there were too many, and they always drove me away. I look at Iraq and wonder if we have found ourselves on top of a really big red anthill.

As an Agent Orange diabetic Vietnam vet (USMC) who will continue to pay his dues for the rest of his life for answering his country’s call to duty, I look at this mess in Iraq and think about how we got here. I see a leadership that was gung ho to invade Iraq, where Saddam was said to have WMDs and was a threat to the world. Well, the WMDs have proven elusive, though we know he had them once, as he used them on the Kurds and Iranians. And Hussein was a very bad man, and I’m glad for the Iraqis that he is gone. Though there are not that many similarities between Vietnam and Iraq, I think there are two we need to worry about. Quagmire is one, and a determined fanatical foe is another. Both of these things may well be in our future in Iraq, just as they were in Vietnam.

Mr. Bush was “talking the talk” when he said, “Bring it on” to our Islamic terrorist foes. But when he and many members of his administration and supporters had the chance to “Get It On” with the rest of us who served in Vietnam or Korea, they were unwilling to “walk the walk.” For me and many of my fellow vets, this display of his hawkish nature, in contrast to his avoidance of any real personal risk in Vietnam, amply displays just what kind of hawk he is.

To compound this “Bring it on” verbal blunder, he also said early on that we were on a “crusade” to destroy Osama and al Quaeda. Nothing like handing our enemies some ammunition to use against us among the Islamic zealots who already think we are the “Great Satan.” Great, let’s see if we can start a new “holy war” with this belligerent talk of a crusade.

So now we find ourselves bogged down in a conflict in Iraq with an uncertain outcome. We started out looking for Islamic terrorist scorpions under the rocks in Afghanistan, with the world on our side. Now we find ourselves almost alone, stuck on a huge red anthill in Iraq, hoping that the rest of the ants don’t swarm out and overrun our troops.

What a mess, Mr. Bush—your mess.