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1/25/2006

Support the troops? Meh

Chronology:

-Joel Stein writes a column that begins, "I don't support our troops."

-Predictable wingnut outrage ensues.

-More surprisingly, there is outrage from the left as well.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what the fuss is about ...

Click here to continue reading this post.Here's a representative excerpt of Stein's column:
I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car. Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on.

...I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else...

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq ... But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

...I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.
I edited out a bunch of lame jokes, but the substance remains.

Steve Gilliard's response (linked to above):
Why would you support the troops? Because, for many of us, they are our families. They didn't choose to go to Iraq and no one asked them about Afghanistan. The deserve our support, because like firemen and police officers, they do a job for the rest of us we ask them to do. It is our collective fault when they are misused. You cannot assign away your responsibility all that easily.

Second, they don't just fight for the people who supported the war. If Mr. Stein wasn't a smug fuck, he'd read Stars and Stripes and see American soldiers, in Iraq, oppose this war. They serve because they have to, but they didn't stop thinking.

What Mr. Stein doesn't seem to care about is that the vast majority of soldiers enlist for one reason: money for college. Not part of any imperial exercise, not any sort of plan, just the chance at a college education which Stein's parents wrote a check for.

...A parade is the least we can do for them, to know that regardless of how we felt about the politics, they are not the people to blame. A parade is a sign of respect, not only for the participants, but for those who did not come back.
Ron Brynaert (also linked above):
Joel Stein of the LA Times is just as stupid as William Blum.

The first line of his essay, Warriors and wusses: "I don't support our troops."

And it gets even worse after that.

...Asked if he had regrets, he said: "No, because I'm against the war. (I have no regrets) if this helps us get out of that war and bring our troops home safely."

Yeah. That's gonna happen.

Any day now the troops are going to come back home because of an essay that Joel Stein wrote.

In reality, it's the kind of stupidity displayed by (supposedly) liberals like Joel Stein and William Blum (who cackled and crowed about making Osama's first book club recommendation) that will - most definitely - not help "us get out of that war."
And Brynaert links to NewsHog:
Joel Stein is, as they say in the auld country, a blethering gobshite - and it's a socialist saying this. That socialist is me.

Today Stein tried...I'm not sure what. It's almost as if any attempt at understanding the issues was deliberately avoided in preference for sensationalist shitstirring ... Is this guy being paid by Karl Rove to give the wingnuts hardons?

He has a couple of valid points - mostly about yellow car sticker ribbons not aising the troops, only some Chinese entrepreneurs - but he's totally unglued on this whole thing about if your against the war you can't be for the troops. Of course, that's the bit the wingnuts have honed in on, saying all liberals secretly feel that way, and the bit that means this column should've been used to wipe his ass with instead of being submitted for publication.

...I can support the troops, both British and American, while not supporting the war in Iraq and anyone who says otherwise is a blethering gobshite.
I don't know what a blethering gobshite is, but I don't think I want to be one, so I won't tell him he can't support the troops while not supporting the war. What I'm unclear on, though, is what exactly that would mean.

This whole debate is therefore confusing to me. First, let me say that if all these guys are arguing is that it was stupid for Stein to offer fodder to the right-wing for their "anti-war = unpatriotic" meme by being gratuitously provocative, that I can understand, and I won't take issue with. But it seems like there is more to it than that.

In what sense should those of us who oppose the war "support the troops"? Are we supposed to simply hope that as few of them are killed/injured as possible? Check. But are we supposed to support their "mission"? Are we supposed to wish them success in carrying out the aims of the war? These propositions seem much more problematic. There seems to be a tension, if not an outright contradiction, in holding the war to be an immoral endeavor while simultaneously hoping for the endeavor to succeed.

And why, exactly, do "the troops" need our "support" so badly, anyway? Are they such delicate creatures that if I don't pledge my "support" for them, they will curl up in a little ball and cry themselves to sleep? I doubt it. Yet whether or not we all "support the troops" is treated as a matter of the utmost significance.

I'm not suggesting that we should have any ill will toward members of the US military, and Gilliard demonstrates why we have reason to sympathize with them. I'm just asking: (a) why do I owe them my "support"; and (b) what the hell does that entail, anyway?

Once more, please don't get me wrong: I understand that Stein's rhetoric was probably ill-advised. I'm fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on how you look at it) to be able to speak my mind without having to worry about the consequences, a luxury not afforded to those writing for the L.A. Times (often, the same substantive point can be made in different ways, some wise, some not). But the prudence, or lack thereof, of Stein's article is an issue that is separate from the validity (or lack thereof) of the thoughts expressed in it. I understand the criticism of Stein based on the former; I don't quite understand the criticism with respect to the latter.

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