Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"Supporting the troops"

I've taken a bit of guff in the past from fellow opponents of the war on Iraq for "supporting the troops." I have no apologies to offer for that support, and I don't care to make my arguments in favor of that support yet again. Suffice it to say that many of the men and women now fighting and dying in Iraq are friends of mine, that I served with many of them when I was in uniform myself, and that I choose to keep personal faith with them and assume that their motives for continuing to serve are motives which are either worthy of support or understandable given their circumstances.

I've also taken more than a bit of guff from supporters of the war to the effect that it is not possible to oppose the war or the President of the United States while simultaneously "supporting the troops." It is to that rhetoric which I now address myself. "Web Loafer" of Sanity's Bluff has graciously provided grist for the mill. Below, Web Loafer's comments appear in italics, my responses in plain font.

In my opinion it is shameless to say "the Commander in Chief is a dunce and a liar, and I don't support anything he has done to fight terror and I don't think we should be in Iraq. You are welcome to have this opinion and express it publicly because someone fought for that right you have. BUT, don't say in the next breath, "I support the troops."

I am, indeed, shameless. I do not regard George W. Bush as a dunce (idiots do not make it to the Oval Office), but it is indisputable that he's a liar. I don't support anything that he has done to fight terror because I don't know of anything that he's done to fight terror. And I don't think "we" -- i.e. the armed forces of the United States -- should be in Iraq. There is no shame in saying these things, because they are facts; nor are any of these utterances in the least incompatible with the factual statement "I support the troops."

What part of this don’t you understand, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF ALL ARMED FORCES, SO HE IS INCLUDED IN THE TROOPS, YES HE IS PART OF THE TROOPS YOU SAY YOU SUPPORT. Our wise forefathers understood that the military of this great Republic needed to have a civilian leader, but HE IS THE LEADER.

Because I support the troops, I decline to sully their reputation by numbering among them a coward and deserter who has abused his power and used those troops in a manner at odds with their legitimate mission. Constitutionally speaking, the President of the United States becomes Commander in Chief of the armed forces when those armed forces are "called into the service of the United States." The war on Iraq being of no service to the United States, George W. Bush is, as in so many other roles, a usurper when he claims the title of Commander in Chief, or the authority thereunto pertaining.

Furthermore, America's understanding of the role of the presidency has evolved far away from the original intent of the founders. This may have been inevitable, given that the first President (after the adoption of the Constitution) was George Washington -- who had, indeed, been a "leader" in the Revolution. Nonetheless, the Constitution is clear that the presidency is an executive, administrative position, not a position of "leadership" in the sense which WebLoafer clearly means. That concept is alien to the foundational ideas of American governance. As a matter of fact, it is characteristic of an entirely different form of governance.

In the old days, it was characteristic of absolute monarchies. In the 20th century, it was adapted to fascism a la Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and, in the disintegration of the Soviet Union's political system from Cult of Party to Cult of Personality, Stalin. This concept had undeniable cachet and the Americans of the 1930s and 1940s eagerly incorporated it into their worldview. FDR's cult was, and remains, as strong as that of any of the aforementioned "leaders." The "leader principle" was basic to the emerging post-WWII political paradigm in the Middle East as well, culminating in the foundation of the Arab Baath Socialist Party and the eventual ascension of two of its "leaders," Hafez Assad and Saddam Hussein, to power in Syria and Iraq.

Or, to quote straight from the horse's mouth:

"The true vision of the leadership of the Comrade Leader Saddam Hussain begins with a true vision of his stature, which is sometimes not ever-present to the senses, as in the eyes of children whose parents belong to a party or whose parents were killed by your honored hands, and who have been left as orphans. Show concern for all of them, especially those who are orphans. Teach them to love the Leader and the Revolution, and clarify to them the evil of their sons and brothers who committed treason. Let them damn them as they lie buried underground, and teach them that the pure air of Iraq is not deserved by anyone other than a Baathist." -- Plan of Action Annual plan for 1992 from 1/1/1992 to 1/1/1993, Al-Ta'meem Governorate Security Directorate

Fortunately, Americans have continued to resist the creeping influence of the fuhrerprinzip, realizing that there's no place for it in a free nation -- not even if the fuhrer is George W. Bush. He is not our "leader." He is our employee, and his performance evaluation sucks. I reject the notion that I must love him or his works, or regard his opponents as unfit, as a pre-condition of patriotism. Deal with it.

Plain and simple: You don’t support any troops that are fighting in a war you don’t want fought. What part of this escapes your reasoning?

In modern evangelical Christianity, a principle has developed over time regarding homosexuality: "Love the sinner, hate the sin." While I disagree with the notion that homosexuality is a sin, I respect that principle -- and a parallel principle is easily applied to the troops: Many of us dislike the way in which they are being used, but decline to allow that dislike to extend to the troops themselves. Much as evangelical Christians regard homosexuals as in subjection to Satan when they engage in sexual activity, we regard the troops as under the command of a liar, fraud and usurper who has abused their trust and loyalty and compelled them to act in a manner contrary to their oaths of enlistment and contrary to the legitimate function of the force to which they belong.

Extending the parallel, evangelical Christians realize that many homosexuals do not in fact believe themselves to be in a state of "sin" and regard this not as a character flaw but something resembling a disease or mental defect. The Bible itself even distinguishes between those in mere subjection to sin and those of reprobate mind, i.e. those beyond redemption. But even given that, the Christian doctrine seems to be that all which is required to transcend the "sin" is an awakening and a spiritual experience -- where in the case of members of the armed forces, real change requires not only recognition of the wrong use to which one is being put, but a commitment to change in the face of imprisonment or even, in extremis, execution for declining to further participate in the "sin."

So yes, I can support the troops -- realizing that many of them do not understand the nature of the uses to which they are being put, and that many who do understand are unable to summon up the courage to face severe punishment for refusing their consent to continue being put to that use.

"Love the soldier -- hate the war."

Naturally, this produces dilemmas when shopping for care packages. Are the candy, socks, etc. which I buy at the store and throw into the "support the troops" bin merely offering harmless succor to the sinner, or are they facilitating the sin? In this matter, I've decided to err, if at all, on the side of kindness. Given the environment, I doubt that a bag of starlight mints or an unblistered foot lend themselves to an increase in atrocity (the Sergeant doesn't care that your sweet tooth hasn't been serviced, and the corpsman is going to have plenty of moleskin to get you on your feet and out on patrol) and I believe that reducing the environmental discomforts to which my misused brothers and sisters are exposed is a good thing.

So yes, I can -- and do -- "support the troops" while opposing both the war and the monster who has sacrificed nearly 2,000 of those troops to the neoconservative Moloch. I support the troops because I've been one of them, because I know the pickle they're in, and because I want to see them return home alive and safe, where they will hopefully be put back on the job they signed up to do.

In the spirit of such arguments, however, I do believe that it is time and past time to question the motives of those who support the war on Iraq, and their claims to "support the troops."

To support the war is to objectively align one's self with al Qaeda and Iran -- since the war has redounded to their benefit versus the benefit of the United States -- and to place one's self in opposition to the safety of America's troops and to their mission to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. Those who support the war from outside military ranks are free to correct themselves at any time without fear of reprisal, and the failure of many to do so (many, not all -- a majority of Americans now realize that invading Iraq was a monumentally bad idea) cannot be made up for with a yellow magnetic "ribbon" on one's bumper or a box full of butterscotch candies and paperback books.

Is this another case where "love the sinner, hate the sin" applies? I don't know. What I do know is that while it is possible to support the troops and to support the war, it is not possible to do both simultaneously. The war is a fundamentally un-American endeavor,support for it is a fundamentally anti-American sentiment ... and there is a point beyond which ignorance of these facts ceases to serve as a plausible excuse.

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