Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

90 Days

May 19, 2008 | 17 Comments

Mr. Keillor,
I am a US Marine who has recently returned from Iraq. I have 90 days until I return to the Desert. Please bear in mind that I am a right wing, socially conservative Marine , not an English major as you read this. I hope the poem below will demonstrate the conflict I feel about our nation's current situation.


I ought to bust out a window with these books
Let some air in
90 DAYS till we're trapped in that suffocating heat and smoke
Trash just keeps on piling
Gotta burn up the phone lines
90 DAYS till I'm sharing one line with 30 buddies
Just want to let it all go
punch the desk or wall till knuckles are done
Just heard "Go to war" used as a curse
Makes sense, it gets their angry point across
90 DAYS and I'll be back to GroundHog day
sleep, work, eat, work, eat, work, sleep...
Run in a circle that won't change anything
but that just isn't so
Those folks had their Eid and Hajj in some semblance of peace
And she realized we were gone
So we charge forward
confident that tomorrow will bring a better adventure

I would like to know where are the protests from my contemporaries in America's colleges? Why do I not detect an appropriate sense of urgency from our citizens and elected officials to solve the problem we face (not just pull out, but actually solve the problem)?

Camp Lejeune

Josh, I wish you a safe tour and a safe return. Keep your eyes open and remember what you saw. It's grievous that you feel so disconnected from your fellow citzens while you are wearing our uniform. According to a survey I saw, 60% of Americans between 18 and 24 cannot locate Iraq on a map. I doubt that 10% of them could explain why we are in Iraq in any way that you would recognize as representing reality. As for me, I am a Democrat and this is not my war and I'm sorry we're in it and there's no way I can sign onto it. Wars can only be fought with the support of the folks at home and this one lost that support a long time ago. This is what puts you into such a precarious position. It is the unique heroism of men and women in uniform that they put their lives on the line for policies that they believe to be wrong, and I admire that heroism, but I'm not in uniform. I'm just an old writer and I thought this war was a tragic mistake when we first invaded. I was in Florida on vacation with my family and CNN was all excited, correspondents standing by in Kuwait, journalists all thrilled to have a war to cover, and I walked down the beach and saw a bunch of aging protesters standing around a ring of candles in the sand, singing "Give Peace a Chance" and "We Shall Overcome" and other lefty songs from long ago, and I felt utterly powerless. The protest needed to come from Colin Powell, the only man who might've stopped it, and he fell into line and in doing so, he lost his good reputation forever. As for solving the problem in Iraq, I do not think we can invade a country and remake its culture and history. I think that after five years it's time to reexamine what we're doing there and why and for those responsible to take responsibility. None of this helps you in your situation, I'm afraid. Take care.


My heart goes out to you.
Where are the protestors? They
are comfortable on their cell
phones, or chatting with friends,
or surfing, or studying.
Way back in the 1960's there were
protests by college students. Why?
There was a chance they could be
drafted; one thing led to
I live in San Clemente on the edge
of Camp Pendleton. I see young
Marines everywhere I go -- the market,
church, driving up the I-5.
I always wonder what led them to
join the Marines -- of course a sense
of adventure and honor, but what
about the ability to get an education
and raise themselves out of poverty?
The young men and women who are willing
to put their lives on the line don't
deserve what our government has done.
I'm ashamed I haven't done more to
support you and other Marines.
You're fighting a war that can't
be "won," but you deserve the credit
due for "doing the job."
San Clemente

Dear Josh:
You are hearing no protests from college campuses because those students are just students. They have no draft to dodge, no student deferments, no fear of fighting in a war unless one choses to put one's self in harm's way. This is not Vietnam redux. This is Iraq and a mess and only some of us are directly touched by Mr. Bush's war. Until most of us--members of Congress, other elected officials, candidates for public office inclusive--instead of just a few of us have loved ones in danger, nothing will change.
We are not all in this together, and that's the problem.

Responding to both the wondering where the protests are as well as the "felt utterly powerless", perhaps you could write a song about your strong feelings and sing it on your show.

I have also been struck by the lack of protest songs like there was in Vietnam. That war sparked a whole genre of music. And music moves people. And people moved can accomplish things - like voting for people who will end the war.

The reason we don't have a sense of urgency to solve this war resides in the hands of Liberals (who mistakenly call themselves 'Progressives') who will only support a war (read: only support our troops) if they believe in it. By the way, Liberals generally don't believe in wars, so you see the circle we are in. Sort of like a Prairie Home Companion 'play'--it never really gets anywhere, except in the general area of where it started. Which is great for entertainment, bad for politics of war. They refuse to acknowledge that their vitriol against the war undermines our soldiers in the field.

It is said that, "those who ignore history are destined to repeat it". It has been documented that FDR told Churchill he could not ask Congress to declare war on Germany, even as the Nazi's (OMG, Garrison, THAT word again) were bombing England and had gobbled up all of Europe, because the people of the US would not support it. But he DID promise to get us into the fight. How did he do it? He sent naval ships into the North Atlantic where he KNEW the U Boats would do just what they did--sink a Destroyer. So, to get the people of the US to 'support our troops' he sacrificed some of your brothers. If he hadn't, then its likely Garrison would have no show and you would be speaking German and goose-stepping. Unfathomable as it is, only certain members of our society have learned from history and understand the ugly truth: we save lives, American and others, by being proactive in deposing clear threats to world peace, BEFORE they kill millions and take over peaceful nations. By the way, Garrison did not print the last part of your last line,...'(not just pull out, but actually solve the problem)' in his column today. You see it just wouldn't be 'supportive' of his position, which is to justify pulling out of a war that has been prolonged by anti-war sputum from Liberals that give your enemy hope. God Bless you, and thank you for going.

While I agree with most of what GK replied here, I wonder if maybe he is being a little too smug in saying, "As for me, I am a Democrat and this is not my war." Many congressional Dems voted for this war, including the man GK probably voted to make president in 2004. With more Dem resistance, the war resolution could have been filibustered in the Senate, but too many of them were clueless or cynically held a finger to the political wind and voted with the belief that only Bush would pay the price for the war's probable failure. And, history aside, U.S. participation in the war today goes on only because of continued Dem votes to fund it.

Josh, Americans are not clamoring for a way to solve the problems in Iraq because there IS no solution. We cannot "win" this war. There's no right way for us to leave, but staying there long-term won't bring about a victory, either. What would you have us do?

I hope your time overseas won't be extended, and that you'll come back safely.

My only problem with your reponse was "As for me, I am a Democrat and this is not my war".

Democrat or Republican, Communist or Quaker this IS your war. You may not support it but it IS your war. This is the war of every man, woman and child in this country and so many others, like it or not, mostly not.

As for you Josh, you are in my prayers and I thank you for the thankless job you do. Come home whole Josh.

Maybe, just maybe one of these centuries mankind will wake up and realize we are no more civilized than we were 10,000 years ago, we have just become more efficient in our incivility.

The emperor is naked ! That is all there is to it !

We went into this war on false information and bad intelligence. Now we are in it up to our necks and there is no way in sight to get out. My heart goes out to those in uniform who are "doing the right thing" and following the oaths that they made to serve their government. Which I am sure they believed ( yes past tense ) was in the best interest of themselves their families and the country.

I burn with rage when I hear we will pull out when we achieve "victory". Can someone tell me what victory means ? Who will decide when it has been achieved , what price are we willing to pay for it.

We are up to our waste in the deep muddy and the big fool just says push on, push on .........

I am saddened by the actions of our government and the position it has put our brave and honorable members of our armed forces.

I grieve for them and our country.

Dear Josh,
The unraveling of any country begins slowly and from the inside. It is our very loss of humanity for others that may be our undoing. Humanity for those struggling in this country, the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, and especially those who serve in uniform in our name. My daughter has 6 months left of a 15 month deployment in Iraq. Friends and family quickly change the subject when the topic of Iraq arises, even in the context of my only child. I cannot make sense of it. It is the saddest commentary of what has become of my country, the country I have cherished. The unraveling is evident in the change of our conversation. The latest pop star takes precedence over our fallen loved ones. How could this have happened in my beloved country?
I pray for you, those you serve with and for remaining humanity in my country.
God Speed,
Tustin, California

This war would be over in six weeks if the draft was reinstated.No in America other than our service men and women and their families have a stake in it.


I've been there, I've returned, I've repeated. What you are feeling, the questions you have, the resentment you feel are all normal for a person in your situation. The amount of apathy in this country is demoralizing at best, catastrophic at worst. Leaving the children of one country who have neither food or proper clothing to arrive in another where children cry for cellphones and "The Hills" has a detrimental affect on your ability to look at our country with pride or concern. When I was first deployed I had a sense of national responsibility when i returned i had a hate. Not for the things that i had seen or done, but for the american people and their fickle, disinterested, and distracted views. What is important is not how others in this country view us; what is important is your brothers in arms. Your friends and colleagues who would sacrifice their lives for you in a heartbeat. Those that die with you when you die. I no longer serve for freedom or the american way. The people we are fighting have never had the ability to take away from us the freedom we enjoy. I serve for you, because when all else fails, we will not.

Josh thank you.

Don't give up hope. You are a better person than most are in this country. Someone willing and able to make a commitment and follow through! I'm not "signed on" for the war, but I am signed on for all of our troops which every American who lives in this country should be. No, this country isn't European, it's American and what this country needs is people who support our troops! When this war first started I was anti-everything about it. Now I realize this country needs people to wake up and smell the coffee (organic or not). We need to realize that we need to support every man and woman who is putting their life on the line, even if you think it is a waste of time putting their life on the line! Why? Because they are stronger than you and myself for dedicating themselves to this country we call home and sometimes reject as our home, which should never be the case in the land of the free. Oh, and our troops are leaving behind families wives, husbands, children, etc.

Nothing can ever happen if we stand divided (which is what this country is and sadly brought to you by a two-party political system [by the way... I don't consider myself liberal or conservative... I'm American]).


Show that you are proud to be American and lets make this country once again a leader in everything we do.

Josh, I have been protesting the only way I know how which is to pray mightily that God will knock some sense into the powers that be. Unfortunately, not everyone was raised to be the sort of young man who would put his life on the line for his country. And, unfortunately as in most wars, the men and women who volunteer most often are the ones from poorer families like mine who need the GI Bill to go to college. Most of the deaths during this and any war will come not from the wealthy families but from the ones who have the least to offer but gladly put their dearest and best on the altar. All three of my children and both of my sons-in-law are in the Navy. I was working at the jewelry department at the Tullahoma, TN Wal-Mart the day our 1175th National Guard transportation unit came back home. It was Mother's Day. Some of the men came in with their wives and families to get gifts for them. I asked one of them if they had come home with all hands safe and sound. He said they had. I stood their and cried in gratitude. Josh, you and every man and woman in uniform are in my prayers daily. And, remember, you don't have to be an English major or a member of P.O.E.M. in order to tell your story. You have two hands and access to pen and paper. That's all you need. Find your voice and write your story down. You have a son who will need to know that story. Godspeed, Josh. BRAVO ZULU! Thank you for a job well done. Mary Rhudy

It's not simple is it? The temptation to paint things black and white is strong if not overwhelming. It makes it so easy to rationalise what's happening in a way we can look in the mirror and be proud. Then we can relax knowing we're RIGHT, file it away as solved and get on with living.

Some things are clearly wrong though.

Flying planes into buildings is WRONG.

Killing a man in a gas station because he wears a turban is WRONG.

Misleading the people with web of lies to generate support for an INVASION, is WRONG.

Unbridled media spin in support of an action because "war means viewers" is WRONG. Riddle me this how can people who were in the country before you be the INSURGENTS? Check out a dictionary.

Some things are not wrong:
Supporting an action to invade a country because one has been mislead by one's government and media is not wrong; it's misguided through being the victim of misinformation.

One's first allegiance is to truth, justice & love. Christians, Muslims, people of many faiths and non-faiths know this. Much as we all would want it to, that does not necessarily come wrapped in red, white and blue through a screen in the den.

Don't let simplistic arguments leave you to sleep easy at night. Educate yourself. Read books, websites, newspapers with alternative views (not anti-American just alternative). There are many more good people out there than bad, and that includes non-Americans.

God Bless America.

Steve, Dublin, Ireland


I admire you and pray for you. There are so many Americans supporting you, however, we are frustated because we are not being heard. We are called "unpatriotic"or "liberal" ( which by the way, Dennis, means being open to new ideas and opinions, favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms, according to the dictionary). And, as most people have made the point, we don't have a personal stake in it. But, we are saddenly mistaken, the cost to all of us is enormous.

Godspeed, Josh


Bless you for your service to this nation. Regardless of the politics involved in this tragic situation, you and those with whom you serve are heroes. I pray that you come home safe and sound ~ and all your comrades as well. Our son ret'd safely last October from a year+ tour in Iraq, and we are so grateful.

As for the lack of outrage in this country, I personally believe that part of the reason for this is because of collective guilt ~ and that guilt for the fact that everyone knows the real reason our gov't went to war in Iraq is for oil. And people in this country still have the audacity to complain about the price to fill up their tanks. Those who drive SUV's when so many of our best and brightest are being killed and maimed should think about the part they are playing in this war. We need to once and for all rid ourselves as a people of this obsession with the almighty dollar ~ it is greed, pure and simple that is driving this war ~ but most in this country don't want to admit this.

I am grateful that Barack Obama is the nominee for the Democrat party and will be praying that he will be elected. He did not vote for this war, and I do believe he will do all that he can to bring each and every son and daughter home safe and soon.

josh,thank you for your service,and as you can see i'm not an english major either.
the way i see it is, ther were people who flew plane into buildings,coupled with a nut who kept the world at bay by not coming clean as to his arsenal of weapons.then we had a president,who unlike other presidents before him decided to do something about it.congress authorized him to do it,then somewhere up the road decided to start undermining him.
granted there were protest of a undermanned,overstrapped ,underequipped military,but no one realized that we were reaping our oats that were sewen from previous administrations. then we continue to ball because congress keeps funding the war. which is something i don't understand because if we don't fund it our troops are left holdin the bag.
in short we need to quit bikkering as to whose war it is and come to the conclusion that this is our war and no one else's and to skinner back and gitt'er done.
god bless josh, the armed forces for the job they are doing!

Previous Post:
« The Details of Tomato Butt

Next Post:
Kids Songs »

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy