I’ve often thought about this notion of “supporting the troops” while opposing the war. It seems wholly incongruous to me. While it is generally true that every nation requires some form of civil and national defense (delivered by citizens or agreements with other nations serving as protectors), no nation has sent troops to as many nations as the United States. No nations soldiers have waged more wars to overthrow popularly elected leaders or to appropriate more natural resources in other nations than the United States. The justification for such activities (freedom, liberty, capitalism, etc.) provides common ground for the nation’s policy institutes, think tanks, universities, schools of journalism and media organizations. For the public, America’s “interests” are seldom discussed in terms of natural resources and dollars and cents. If they were, discussions of extending democracy and liberty would not make much sense. The game, as it were, is much simpler than that.
Americans have as much right as any thug with a gun to kill their neighbors and steal their wealth. There are moments when US political leaders are just that brazen. I believe there is something immensely empowering, in a satanic way, about killing a man in broad daylight or robbing a bank or pimp smacking your least favorite neighborhood ‘ho. Squeezing off has to be somewhat how Alexander Haig felt when he declared himself to be running shit ’round DC or how Charlton Heston felt when he uttered his line about, “from my cold dead hand.”
Supporting the troops, on some level, must mean supporting their mission. After all, if they are unsuccessful in their mission, they are not likely to return home. If their mission is successful, they are likely to be laying the groundwork for 1) the expulsion of a democratically elected leader, 2) a gun-toting leader who has previously expelled a colonial or neo-colonial/corporate army or 3) about to run a snatch and grab on the natural resources of some 3rd World nation whose poor as farmers are salty about US farm subsidies. Or, all of the above.
Supporting the troops cannot simply be an expression of personal desire for family members to return home. After all, conscription is not part of the game. Libraries are full of information for young people to make informed decisions about the merits of serving. If the real issue is a shortage of domestic work opportunities, the solution (at least from a moral perspective) is not to go out and find work by killing some poor bastard half way around the world. It is not enough to plead ignorance of the facts on the ground after being deployed. Supporting the troops cannot be so narrowly proscribed – or can it?
I googled the term “Support the Troops” and there were 26.1 million hits. That’s plenty. I read about half of the links. There is no question that many Americans feel young men and women choose military service because they believe it to be honorable, because it affords them greater opportunities at the end of a tour, and because the ideals stated by the leadership are worth fighting for, killing for, and lastly, dying for. All of this may be true, but it all seems to say, very clearly that we each draw concentric circles of affection around ourselves – and as the circles get wider, the permission to kill for little things like a $4.00/hr raise is granted much easier.
Killing Iraqis is cool if it can get you WalMart in Davenport, Iowa to Lockheed in Littleton, Colorado. And, at no point is the citizen (before he or she becomes a soldier) morally expected to know a damn thing about the situation into which they voluntarily walk. I don’t believe any of this is easy or fair or anything of the sort. Of course you want your wife or daughter to return home safely. And you have a right to expect that – but you cannot expect that Shiites or Sunnis give a rats ass about what you want. And you cannot comfort yourself with the ahistorical notion that you have a morally superior position because you know one side uses car bombs and you’ve ignored that your side uses cluster bombs. That’s just crazy.