Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Support our troops?

Posted by digglahhh on 28 July 2007

Recently, I’ve read numerous pieces about what it means to support our troops. The GOP fringe likes to make the argument that one can’t support the troops while being against the war. Their contention is that the troops are fighting to win and supporting legislation that would undercut their mission is, by definition, non-supportive of the troops. The anti-war crowd is quick to point out that approval of a mission is not a necessary precondition of supporting those who undertake that mission – a hate the sin, love the sinner type of argument. They also claim that truly supporting our troops would mean working to prevent them from dying needlessly in a war of choice.

I think it is time that we lefties confronted some very difficult realities that are associated with our position. There is a sense of validity to the fringe righty argument here. But, I’d like to flip it on its head and note that, on a certain level, supporting the engaged troops is supporting the war. Truly supporting the troops begins before enlistment, before our “support” puts us in a difficult position in which we have to support those who are fighting wars of choice that line the pockets of our ruling class and spill the blood of innocent civilians in the name of “freedom” and “anti-terrorism.” The troops are the soldiers of neo-colonialism and economic imperialism. Yet, because we view them as pawns who don’t control their own destinies we are driven by empathy to support them.

Wars are carried out by troops. Troops don’t have the authority to make decisions regarding entry and they don’t choose their missions or their means, but they do perform the grunt work of war. If we believe that Iraq did not deserve to be attacked, that we are involved in a colonialist/imperialist occupation, and that we are slaughtering Iraqi soldiers, women, and children needlessly and in startling numbers, then we have to confront the fact that it is the soldiers who are attacking, occupying, and killing.

To be sure, such an operation is not what those who enlisted in the military signed up for. But the fact that they might be called upon in this way should not come as a surprise. The United States has a long and ugly history of using its military for unethical, selfish, and destructive purposes – both in terms of “public” ops – like this one, as well as countless documented black-ops missions. For anyone who knows even a little bit about the military history of the United States—and if you’re going to devote two or five years of your life to it, it’s worth 10 minutes with your friend Google—the current occupation of Iraq would be just the type of thing that one would realize he or she is signing up for when joining the military.

Our military is disproportionately young, poor, and brown. Our poor and disenfranchised are sent off to sacrifice, and potentially die, to preserve the entitlements of wealth for a select few of our American aristocrat class. Those poor, young soldiers who put their lives on the line do so for reasons for reasons dictated by circumstance. Simply, they are not given many other options. They have been failed financially, and socially – sometimes by coincidence and others by malevolence. They have been systematically failed by our educational system, so jingoistic rhetoric resonates with them and a comprehensive, international perspective of our country’s history never has the opportunity to prompt tough moral questions about “what they are enlisting for.”

I don’t support the troops as much as I empathize with them. They have been manipulated to do the bidding of those who care not whether they live or die.

The military offers many of our soldiers the best health care they can get, the best salaries, the best job training. If we want to support our troops, the first thing we need to do is make sure there are comparable civilian jobs, universal health care, education, and training available to them. If they then still want to trade their blood for oil for all of us, at least it will have been an honest choice, independent of pressing economic need.

In terms of supporting troops, the Iraqi troops have the higher moral ground. They truly can believe they are fighting for patriotic freedom. Granting our troops ignorance or naïveté to the true pretenses that precipitate their situation does not change the moral standing of the pretenses themselves or the acts carried out in pursuit thereof. We can offer only explanations, not excuses.

I “support” all parties thrust into this nightmare against their will; that includes soldiers on both sides, Iraqi civilians, families of the troops, anti-war protestors, and international diplomats. I have nothing but ill will for those who knowingly escalated this situation, disingenuously, for their own purposes or those who jumped into the fray out of hate or fear.

As long as our troops take orders from selfish, immoral cowards who don’t value domestic or foreign life as much as the accoutrements of wealth and power, they will continue to be called on to commit atrocities on their behalf. Pleading ignorance or trickery will never reverse any of them. The actions of our troops, even their victories—especially their victories—further embolden our ruling class. They pave the way for further exploitation in the name of “freedom.”

So let’s truly support our troops so that they don’t have to become troops. Let the rulers of this country go out there on the battlefield and put their own asses on the line for the government contracts, manipulated markets, and installation of governments that they need to continue living their MTV Cribs lifestyles. If the ranks of the military was filled with the Bill Kristols and Rush Limbaughs of the world, or at least their children, then we could sit back and root for the good guys with a clear conscience.

7 Responses to “Support our troops?”

  1. ClaireDePlume said

    I too support life and like you, I empathize more than support those who are engaged and ~used~ like cannon fodder in this willful destruction. These men and women give more than they might consciously bargain for. There are no victors in war – merely victims.

    Our world has yet to recover from two world wars and the cascading effects on society and life. Recent wars have left scars on all of us, but none so damaging as those of WWl and WWll. The U.S. government is arrogant and this arrogance stems from their blood stained past.

    As for victims, one might wonder how those who manipulate might be victims? The Reader’s Digest version is; they who think they own victory sell their souls for it, and fuel it with a gluttonous appetite of despicable avarice and illusory “power”. There is no power in greed, it is truly an illusion which if marketed well, pretends to have substance. The U.S. government & military are adept at spinning illusions; recent wars from Viet Nam onward are illustrations of this.

    Meanwhile, back at home, everyone lives in a state of perpetual Yellow Alert while the government weaves it’s web of further smoke & mirrors. Of particular ‘interest’ are the encampments at the ready to hold “terrorists”. The reality of those camps is that the “terrorists” intended to use these facilities are American citizens themselves. They can hold those who rise up in revolt when there is no oil. Potential mass mutiny may very well follow when the realities of soul selling for the destruction and depletion of the earth’s $OIL$ is revealed. Truth cannot remain unseen ad infinitum.


  2. As long as our troops take orders from selfish, immoral cowards who don’t value domestic or foreign life as much as the accoutrements of wealth and power, they will continue to be called on to commit atrocities on their behalf. Pleading ignorance or trickery will never reverse any of them. The actions of our troops, even their victories—especially their victories—further embolden our ruling class. They pave the way for further exploitation in the name of “freedom.”

    So you want the troops subject themselves to the full force of military disciple (and its consequences in civilian life) in order to thwart the selfish, immoral cowards.

    And you want them to do that when us plain citizens have a easy, risk free way achieving the same result: vote the bums out or don’t vote them into office in the first place.

  3. digglahhh said

    I’m not sure what you are asking in the first paragraph. Are you asking if I would support troops who refused orders? If so, the answer is an unequivocal yes. However, I understand why even a troop who disagrees with the war him/herself would probably not consider doing so, given the expected consequences of such an action.

    What method do we have of changing the system, voting? If you still believe that fairy tell, I’ll email you when I get my magic bean website up and running… We can rotate the revolving door of bums – but as is, the ballot box is virtually impotent tool to achieve meaningful social change.

    Only by changing our culture and priorities, by educating ourselves to the true humanitarian, social, and environmental costs of our pathological decadence can we begin to even understand how dire the need is for a new kind of leadership. We basically have to recognize that we are a band of uncivilized goons who have never gotten over a childish fascination with shiny objects and that our idea of advancing civilization is to destroy it.

    Meaningful change requires a whole lot effort – intellectual and physical- and sacrifice than periodically pulling a lever to vote for which color wig you’d like your rapist to wear.

    I’m hesitant to voice some of true feeling regarding these types of matters in a public forum. And, perhaps, that in and of itself, it the most poignant statement I could ever make on this blog.

  4. ClaireDePlume said

    Andrew, if only it were as simple as voting against policy… This social malaise which permeates our world is not so easily dismissed with making a stroke on a ballot. And to think this is all it requires of us may very well be our undoing by ignorance and sloth.

    If you are satisfied with your role in your society with 15 minutes of effort once every 4 years, be satisfied that you have exercised your free will and free speech and speak no more.

  5. In a choice between fixing representative democracy and breaking the military in order to prevent selfish, immoral cowards from screwing things up, I’ll choose fixing representative democracy every time. Of course, I assume that the selfish, immoral cowards you refer to are our elected officials and their minions. If not, then we really need to have another discussion.

    Meaningful change requires a whole lot effort – intellectual and physical- and sacrifice than periodically pulling a lever to vote for which color wig you’d like your rapist to wear.

    Well, yeah. And we plain old citizens can do that that without risking our jobs or prison but the average soldier can’t.

    I’m hesitant to voice some of true feeling regarding these types of matters in a public forum. And, perhaps, that in and of itself, it the most poignant statement I could ever make on this blog.

    Don’t forget to scream real loud when the jack booted thugs drag you off.

  6. digglahhh said

    Actually, the courage to live by your true convictions risks a lot.

    You don’t risk your job or prison? Tell to the Kent State Rioters, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, John Sinclair, Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Wellstone, Mumia, the attendees of 1968 anti-war protest in Chicago, Malcolm X…

    Shit, Andrew, I’ll cut the grandstanding – prospective employers look at an interviewee’s Myspace page… Your sensibilities are on constant trial, man.

  7. Good post,

    My initial thought was where do you draw the line between “following orders” in both the real and metaphorical way? Are the soldiers caught up in a structure that erases their autonomy? Would believers in the capitalistic-individualistic society have to conclude that basically all soldiers that are in the war are for the war?

    It’s also interesting that people tend to be very skeptical about the government but when it comes to the army who is the pro-longed arm of the current administration a lot of people shut up and don’t question. A year ago or so I watched a fascinating documentary about the beginning of the war where you get to follow a US military press informant’s and a BBC reporter’s conversations with eachother. The fascinating part is how the informants idea of things changes as the BBC reporter starts asking question poking in the holes of the press releases and how he comes out through some personal catharsis as a total new being.

    A final thought is that one of the US biggest mistakes was to convert from a compulsory military service to the professional army and thereby erasing the possibility of that nice kid further down the street having to go fighting for whatever the war-mongers come up with, as well as reducing soldiers lives from a human to a monetary entity. War is now, and may have always been, a global economic phenomenon.

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