Support The Troops. Please!

There was a story on the local news the other day about a car show dedicated to Jeeps. We get them (car shows) locally every so often, but the hook to this story was that one of the Jeeps would not be on display. Apparently, it was the pride and joy of one of our servicemen presently doing time in Iraq, and the pictures indicated that it was in good shape, albeit a bit dirty. His family characterized his relationship to the Jeep as “#1”, ahead of even his family. I’m sure that wasn’t true, just mere hyperbole for the story, but it appears it was also part of the setup for the sales pitch. The family had decided that as a surprise for their military man, they would have a compete makeover of the Jeep accomplished: new upholstery, new dash, supercharged accouterments and accessories, etc, all to the tune of about $25,000. And they were asking for donations from people who were attending the Jeep show at the local fairgrounds to help cover the cost to do so. The unstated, underlying theme of the fundraiser was clearly “Support The Troops”.

Now I’m a big fan of the idea of support for our troops, but it irritated me that this family thought that they could cash in on the natural patriotic fervor of all Americans, bolstered recently by the front-and-center debate about the war in Iraq, to get the public to pay for the upgrade of an automobile for one of their family members who just happened to be in Iraq. I certainly agree that for the service he is rendering to his country, and indirectly to us, he is entitled to far more remuneration and benefits than our government is compensating him with, and a nice refurbished Jeep is probably wholly deserved. I wish him well, and hope his family is able to provide it for him. But why should we, the American public, be asked to help pay for it. He’s not down on his luck, he hasn’t been injured, and his family didn’t look like they were without the means to pay for it themselves. Call me cynical, but it seems more like a crass attempt to take advantage of the national guilt we have for sending him to Iraq in the first place, and not adequately supporting him once he got there.

And why do we have a national guilt? The answer is obvious. We are guilty because our leaders have really fucked up, and we, the voters of this country, put them in the position to do so. Think about it. If you were going to take this country to war, would you not 1) make sure that you had a very good, well articulated reason for doing so; 2) makes sure the country and you were on the same page, that is, you had adequately and thoroughly explained to the country  what your reasons were for taking this monumental and country altering step; 3) insure that the country was in agreement with you; 4) adequately plan and provision the armed forces prior to attacking, and continue to provide more than ample support to the troops as it proceeds, to the point of redundancy; 5) make sure you had the best and the brightest people in place not only to work directly under you, but also on the ground at the war locale, to makes proper policy decisions and to lead the war; 6) make sure that you had a plan for how to secure and maintain control of the war locale, and also, in the event you had to get out quickly, have a plan for that; 7) make sure the country understood the nature and objectives of the war, and was willing to accept the loss of life and health that was bound to occur, not to mention the expense; 8} provide for the continued support and maintenance of the returning veterans from the war, including the families of those who died, the ones who were injured, and the ones who came home healthy.

Now I ask you: Is there any evidence that this country’s current leaders fulfilled any of those requirements? Again, the answer is no. A resounding NO. Not one of them. Our President, the man we elected twice (well, at least once), lied to us about the reasons for going to war, created facts out of whole cloth in an effort to use our natural anger after 9/11 to blindly accept the war, put the war into the hands of incompetents, (people that made us feel just Rummy), did so with an inadequate number of troops to maintain control of the Iraq after it was taken over, and to add insult to injury, failed to ensure that the men and women on the ground, the ones putting their lives on the lines, had adequate armor to protect themselves. Now, this administration is doing everything it can to make sure that the returning veterans have to fight for benefits they should have been guaranteed.

This is why there is a pallor of national guilt hanging over us, and why it’s easy to use that guilt to get some poor slob’s car refurbished. I’m sure he’ll be happy with it.

If he makes it home.

Personally, I am getting sick and tired of hearing “support the troops’. Frankly, I’ve said this before, but that phrase is simply an argument stopper, designed to deflect someone who opposes the war, by implying that opposition to the war equates to a lack of patriotism.  I doubt you would find a single American who opposes the support of our individual troops (with the arguable exception of the current occupant of the Oval Office). Criticism of the war is not the same as criticism of our troops, as the right wing war mongers would have you believe.

While it’s a nice gesture, supporting the troops doesn’t mean sending a Care package to the front lines, or affixing a magnetic ribbon to the bumper of your car, like the one in the picture above. It means what I said above. It means not going to war unless you have a good reason for doing so. (Why should one good American serviceman die for a lousy, unfathomable reason?). It means once you send people to put their lives on the line for their country, that you spend the money and the brainpower to insure that they are well supplied, armored and capable of defending themselves in a hostile environment, so that they have the best possible chance of returning in one piece, or at all. Finally, once they do come home, often psychologically, if not physically, damaged, they are often left to their own devices, often time finding that the heroics of war don’t equate to a wonderful life at home. Many suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome are not getting adequate treatment. They should be entitled to adequate post war care  and benefits.

I’m going to climb out on a large, sturdy limb here, and say that this “support the troops” response to criticism of the war is not patriotic. It’s false patriotism. Blind patriotism is worse than no patriotism, because it allows the government to do whatever it wants, without any check or balance from the people presumably being governed. “Your Country, love it or leave it” is counterproductive to good, responsible, accountable government, and government, in order to be good, must be accountable to the governed. That is impossible if we don’t hold our leader’s feet to the fire, if instead we go around spouting “support the  troops” without actually making sure that our government is doing so.

In short, proper support of our troops should come from the top, from our government, not via some pitiable platitude from individuals in the street, nor via donation to some Jeep refurbishment fund.

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13 thoughts on “Support The Troops. Please!

  1. Great post, SI.

    I have to say, though, that I don’t necessarily support “our troops.” I support individual soldiers, singly and collectively, in attaining their rights and the remuneration due them. I support the men and women who choose to put themselves at risk when they believe they’re defending our country — whether that belief is justified or not. But I don’t support some amorphous entity known as “our troops.” For one thing, “our troops” in Iraq are most decidedly not mine, so the pronoun isn’t correct. They’re not fighting for me, or because of me, or with my approval.

  2. Good post, SI. Supporting troops is not at all the same as supporting the Bush Administration’s policies. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.

  3. Well they are our troops. We all pay for them and we vote for the people who will decide on our behalf how to use them. Our troops will also risk their lives doing something for us, and everything they do is supposed to be for us since their instructions come from those who we vote to speak for us. The facts that those you voted for didn’t get elected or that they did but chose to use our troops for their own twisted purposes and not ours in no way makes our troops any less our troops. In fact, it makes them even more our troops since even though we’re all getting fucked by these politicians, they must assuredly are getting the harshest end of that fucking.

    That being said, I’m not chipping in to help one of them upgrade their Jeep.

    I think another guilt that’s being exploited is Vietnam. The Vietnam vets caught shit from the average American which wasn’t fair. Disgust for that war should never have been taken out on the troops, but the leaders who called for it, continued it and mishandled it. I think that in some way, no one wants to make that mistake again, but in so doing, those leaders are getting a pass. That’s bullshit.

    I wholeheartedly agree though that supporting the troops means condemning the leaders who exploited them and put them in needless danger through failing to equip them and manage the conflicts, who also are failing to take care of them after and who fought the increase to the GI Bill. Supporting our troops does not mean lets move on to Iran.

  4. As was said during the Viet Nam war, when protesters were bombarded with “America – love it or LEAVE IT”… “America – Fix it or LOSE IT”. If “supporting our troops” means hoping they do a good job of kicking Iraqi butt (and, make no mistake, that IS their job), then I don’t support them. It’s not their fault. I’m sure they had the best of intentions. But we are guilty of war crimes, if Bush is. In the same way we look at the German people and say – “they knew”. Even more so. While what our government has done does not raise to the level of the Nazis (yet), we are a more free society than what the Germans had. We have more access to information. That we are equally as stupid is of no ones fault but our own.

  5. Ex

    I have to say, though, that I don’t necessarily support “our troops.”

    Funny that you would say that. I originally wrote the post with the word “our” in the phrase. When I was done, I was a little unsatisfied with it, so I went through it and changed “our” to “the” throughout. There, that’s better, I thought.

    Chappie.

    Supporting troops is not at all the same as supporting the Bush Administration’s policies. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.

    Actually, it’s unpatriotic to support the policies of an administration when you know it is wrong. The founding fathers are rolling in their graves.

    Philly

    I think another guilt that’s being exploited is Vietnam.

    So, we are going overboard in “supporting the troops” to make up for how badly we treated our Vietnam Vets? I think you’re right. We don’t want them coming home from this war and being shuffled into a feeling that they did something wrong. It’s not their fault.

    Evo

    Thank GOD there’s not two of you. I got very nervous for a minute, there.

  6. Pinging off of what Evo said, we can’t continue to think of the government as an us and them scenario. While our leaders may make decisions that we don’t agree with, in the end we are the government. Although we aren’t truly a democracy, we are still responsible for what our leaders do. The government only has power as long as we give it to them. But it’s easier to blame “them” rather than do anything about it. Hey, I’m guilty of that too.

    I know “we” is a amorphic term. Our country is largely ruled by consensus, with a little bit of individuals running away with the power that’s given to them from time to time. There were plenty of people who supported the war when it started. And even if they hadn’t, I think the we still would have had a war, but I don’t think we’d still be there. What’s keeping us there now is apathy.

  7. Ord Girl –

    It’s not apathy keeping the United States in Iraq. It’s arrogance. It’s narcissism. It’s egotism. It’s stupidity. And not a little psychosis. It’s Bushism and McCainism and Republicanism. It’s gutless Democrats. It’s military commanders who know war will make their careers.

    As for supporting the troops, no. Their actions are crimes, fruit of the poisonous tree of an illegal aggression, if you will. They should be taken care of properly, without question. Someday we may need them for a legitimate purpose. Given how badly Bush and his psycho friends have fucked things up, that day will likely come sooner than later and it will be very very ugly. But patting them on the back and saying ‘Wonderful job you did there, fella’ – no. They did what they were told, but they did the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. A million or so people are dead, another four or five million displaced, two countries in ruins. And the United States is less safe, less free, less able to function as a nation and less able to function as a democracy. You can say don’t blame the tool, blame the wielder, but the tool has a brain, it has the ability to make moral choices, it has the intelligence to gather information and make informed decisions. Instead most of the troops still believe Iraq and Hussein participated in 9/11.

    Support bringing them home, providing care and benefits for them, but let’s not pretend they did anything noble or heroic or that we should sponsor parades. Bring them home, let them get on with their lives, and let us throw into the gutter the Republicans and Bush and the NeoCons and their enablers and let us support bringing this country back to sanity and reality and democracy so that the troops never have to fight and die in phony wars for evil men again.

  8. What’s keeping this country in Iraq isn’t apathy, it is the fact that powerful people have the clout to do so, and will continue to do so as long as they can wring money and more power out of the situation. They will fight to the last drop of someone else’s blood and spend fifty dollars of someone else’s moey to put six in their own pockets to do so.

    This was summed up by our vice president in one word when he was informed of the facts concerning national dissatisfaction with the policies and practices of his gov’t. One word with the sneer: “So?” The Preatorians didn’t whisk the questioner away to an oubliette’, true, but why bother?

    When I joined the army in 1965 things were pretty chicken shit in society, and a lot of the patriotic talk was sloganistic horseshit, but you could sort of believe that “We the people in congress assembled” actually had some meaning. That there actually was a gov’t that existed for, of, and by the citizenry. That that entity existed at the pleasure and convenience of the citizenry, for their benefit. Documents almost sacred attested to this, word whose worth (we were told) have been proved again and again.

    Last eight years especially we have seen that citizenship itself is retained at the convenience and pleasure of the executive, these semi-sacred documents are just so much ass-wipe if they can’t be used to keep the rabble in their place making ritual motions and saying ritual words while the junto goes about its business, it turns out we’re really just another banana republic writ large.

    Gitmo and Bagram are just the out of town tryouts. After a decent interval they’ll be at your local cop shop when even the rituals are no longer convenient.

  9. Was there ever a more arrogant and despicable statement than Rumsfeld’s sneer of “As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want”? That might be true when you’re invaded, but not when you pick the time, the enemy, and the “cause”. In that case, the army you have IS the army you wanted.

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