THE OREGON WILDERNESS—Frustrated by the widely held assumption that he unequivocally endorses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a bald eagle said Monday that his thoughts on the conflicts were far more nuanced than many Americans might expect.
Speaking to reporters from his nest in the upper branches of a 175-foot ponderosa pine tree, the eagle explained that each member of his species was different and none should be taken for granted as a lockstep supporter of American military policy.
"I think World War II was justified, and I got behind the first Gulf War [in 1990]," said the bird, who has served as the national symbol of the United States since 1782. "But the recent war in Iraq, with its shifting rationale and poor planning, was clearly a huge mistake. Personally, I believe that these crucial, life-and-death matters deserve more honest and less politicized discussion than they get."
"I'm not a hawk or a dove," he added. "I'm an eagle."
The majestic bird of prey, who said he is not registered with any political party, admitted to having some ambivalence about the current mission in Afghanistan, lamenting that any argument one could make seemed to prompt an equally valid counterpoint.
"Sure, I understand the reasoning behind the latest troop surge," the eagle said regarding President Obama's plan to commit 30,000 additional soldiers to the region to combat the Taliban. "Can we allow that country to collapse and become an al-Qaeda safe haven again? That seems like a disastrous outcome to me, but at the same time, maybe our continued presence is just creating more terrorists in the long run. Plus, how can we work with someone as corrupt as [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai and still purport to be champions of democracy?"
"You see, these issues are not so cut and dried," continued the Haliaeetus leucocephalus specimen. "And yet, every time I try to explain myself from atop a flag pole or the middle of a baseball field, no one wants to listen. They just cheer and chant 'U.S.A.! U.S.A! U.S.A.!'"
Sources said the eagle then excused himself and launched into the air with a shrill "skree!" sound, returning three minutes later with a glistening fish in his talons.
"And another thing: We can't forget Pakistan," the eagle said as he used his hooked beak to tear at the flesh of the writhing rainbow trout. "We have to make sure that they're not so preoccupied with India that they neglect the terrorist threats within their own borders. Remember, Pakistan has nukes."
The eagle went on to tell reporters that, despite his attempts to individuate himself from the general public's perceptions of bald eagles, he could ultimately control his image only so much. He also admitted that he still had lingering resentment over the fact that someone had covertly photographed him crying on 9/11 and used the picture on a "Never Forget" dinner plate.
"I really hated being exploited like that," the eagle said. "Of course I cried on 9/11. Everyone did. But I guess that's the burden of being the symbol of a nation: People are going to use you in ways you don't always like. You step out of the nest to clear your head with a few minutes of soaring, and people automatically peg you as some kind of embodiment of American freedom worth killing and dying for."
"And, frankly, that's a little messed up," he added. "I'm just a bird."