Have you noticed the mantra that being uttered by all parties in the debate about U.S. military involvement in the Middle East? George W. Bush uses it. Nancy Pelosi uses it. So do all the presidential hopefuls from John McCain and Rudy Guiliani to Hillary, Barack, and John Edwards. And when Rosie O’Donnell spoke in favor a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq on her show, “The View,” one of her critics commented that if she wanted to have any credibility with the American people she better use this mantra. What is this sacred cow, this holy utterance, this inviolable commitment to which all true blue Americans must submit (especially if they are politicians or celebrities)? It is those magic words “support the troops.” You can be for or against withdrawal, you can be Democrat, Republican or Independent, you can be politician or celebrity; none of those things matter — the one thing you must do is “support the troops.”
So it is with trepidation that I write the words: I don’t support the troops. I have not supported the reasons the troops are over in Iraq from the beginning. From the beginning the cloak of democracy and freedom were placed over the real motivation, which was control of the oil fields and the possibility of huge profits for Halliburton, Exxon and other mega-corporations (who by the way were doing quite well as a result of this effort). I don’t support the strategy that says that we can impose democracy on a people whose culture and religious sensibilities are largely undemocratic. I don’t buy the line that somehow by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, these soldiers are “protecting my freedom.” I don’t support the notion that by seeking to get the terrorist there, that we somehow will stop the possibility of their bombing us here. I don’t support the practices of the military recruiters who lure unwitting young people with the myths of a GI bill- supported education, and vocational training while “serving your country.” Nor do I support the decision that those young people make to join the military no matter how misguided or deprived they are in their present situations.
Now that is not to say I wish the soldiers ill. Nor does it mean that I don’t care if they come back alive; I would much rather they come back whole rather than physically or psychologically maimed or in a body bag. Of course I care. Every time I see the young face of another soldier killed in the line of combat, I grieve. However, I can’t say I “support” why they died, nor do I support the decision of their comrades to keep up the fight. Nor, can I buy the line that they “died to preserve our freedom.” They didn’t die for me; I didn’t support their going in the first place. To me their deaths are a waste in a misguided effort led by duplicitous leaders.
The more we talk about “supporting the troops” but not the war, the more we contribute to the doublespeak that confuses and confounds efforts to find a way to peace in that area. Military solutions are not in the cards, and especially military solutions involving the United States. Our presence in the region is a lightening rod for violence and an embarrassment to other countries who might step up and have a hand in bringing some order to Iraq. We went in without global or regional support and that has not changed. George W. thought we could bully our way to democracy and peace, and it has become a quagmire and a disaster. The sooner we get our troops out of there, the better the chances will be for some sort of order to be restored. There are no guarantees, but there is no way as long as the U.S. is there that peace will ever be attained. Supporting the troops’ efforts to do whatever they are doing is a failed policy.
So, I am breaking ranks: I don’t support the troops. I am saying the emperor has no clothes. I am saying supporting this war at any level by “supporting the troops” only contributes to the travesties that have already occurred. Call me crazy, unpatriotic, ungrateful, uninformed, uncaring or whatever negative appellation you can find. I am not contributing the madness any more – I don’t support the troops.