- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

Etan Thomas supports the troops but not the war in Iraq, which is not unlike supporting the Wizards but not the games in the NBA.

The contradiction eludes the morally smug.

The far-left politics of Thomas are well-known, and his objections to the Bush administration and all things Republican are usually about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

It should come as no surprise then that Thomas took exception to Team USA’s various functions with members of the U.S. military last month.

He thought it tasteless, exploitive, if not a sign of USA Basketball’s tacit approval of America’s war on terror.

He questioned the practice of having wounded veterans speak to the players, as if culling the insights of the brave and noble was somehow wrong.

Would any company or group seeking the wisdom of a wounded veteran be wrong as well?

Do these wounded veterans not possess a unique character that would be helpful to those in a wide range of endeavors, such as a company looking to improve morale and the bottom line?

It is doubtful Thomas would have an objection to a wounded veteran speaking in an anti-war forum.

“I don’t have a problem with the troops talking to the players on their own,” Thomas told the Nation magazine. “But for them being brought in 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.”

Thomas speaks in all-knowing absolutes, as if he has a window to the history that has not been written yet on this fragile period in the world.

Thomas neglected to mention that Team USA’s experiences with our troops was conducted under the auspices of the NBA’s Hoops for Troops program, which has sought to celebrate those who protect our interests.

The program was equally active in Team USA’s build-up to the Athens Games in 2004.

It is necessary to note the NBA’s Hoops for Troops program because of the left’s urge to cite Mike Krzyzewski’s West Point background and Jerry Colangelo’s GOP work in Arizona as the only impetus behind Team USA’s embrace of U.S. troops.

They politicize an affair that the NBA intends to be apolitical, if that is possible in these highly polarized times.

The NBA players professed to be moved by the stories and sacrifices of our troops and demonstrated this by saluting in their direction during the FIBA World Championship.

If theirs was a political statement — beyond the showing of support for the troops — it was a benign one.

“It felt great to come here and do something for our troops,” Dwyane Wade said after Team USA practiced in front of the troops in Seoul last month. “It definitely helps us get motivated by realizing there are a lot of people behind us and we’re representing our country.”

Every member of the team made similar statements.

Yet to be genuinely supportive of the troops is to be at odds with the far left, which limits its support to lip service.

Thomas, alas, is of this ilk.

He finds little to celebrate in America.

Or if he does, he keeps it to himself.

His screeds masquerading as poetic musings touch the customary talking points of the far left. He sees all kinds of social inequities in America. He sees poverty, racism and the broken-down public schools of the inner city. He sees that which he disdains but offers no solutions.

Darkness is inevitably a tough sell, even more so for a person who lives incredibly well.

To ease some of the injustices and inequities, at least in his tiny corner of the world, Thomas could start with himself.

He could start performing at a level worthy of his contract.

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