Warriors and wusses
January 24, 2006
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 sure I'd like the troops. They seem gutsy, young and up for anything. If you're wandering into a recruiter's office and signing up for eight years of unknown danger, I want to hang with you in Vegas.
And I've got no problem with other people the ones who were for the Iraq war supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.
But 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. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.
Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."
The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.
I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.
After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.
I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.
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.
And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany.
I know this is all easy to say for a guy who grew up with money, did well in school and hasn't so much as served on jury duty for his country. But it's really not that easy to say because anyone remotely affiliated with the military could easily beat me up, and I'm listed in the phone book.
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.
Seriously, the traffic is insufferable.
First thing: "The spitting on the returning soldiers, from Vietnam thing", is pretty much an urban myth. If it happened at all, it was a few incidents, for which I am eternally grateful I wasn't present. Had I been, I would have done time for assault, because as anti-war as I was, I would have had a fit if I had seen some numb-skull spit on anyone returning from the hell-hole of Vietnam.
It seems to me that the best way to honor the troops, who make it home, is to make sure that they get the services they need. That sure as hell won't happen as long as Bush is in the White House.
Most of the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, for whatever reason they originally signed up (I would be willing to bet it wasn't for Bush's and Cheney's eternal war on an emotion) are there now because they have little choice. Some see it as a matter of honor, to do one's duty, even when one disagrees with the over-all politics of it. Others would rather do what they have to do, pray they survive it, and get home to their wife and kids, instead of being a long-time resident of a brig, somewhere, for refusing to go.
Oh, yes, there are always the "eternal soldiers:" Every country has them.
Some just need the discipline in their lives. They do not like to have to think a lot. It confuses them. They feel safe in tribal cultures. They like knowing "who is us" and " who is them."
Then there are the sociopaths who genuinely like killing other people. If smart enough, they would make great Mafia hit-men.
Then, there will be those who will be so changed by the war, and what went on over there, that they will never fit in at home anymore.
Many were tricked and have now been betrayed.
I won't be attending any parades, but I will try to do all in my power to help them get back on their feet, mentally.
But, first, we have to get them home.