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Can we talk about "supporting the troops"?

vastleft's picture

Arthur explains why he doesn't support the troops.

Before you vilify him for having a forbidden opinion (and for failing to request permission to speak freely), read the whole, thought-provoking piece.

We'd have a better world if we didn't treat certain topics or people as sacred. The troops are not sacred, they are people. When we objectify them with this hushed, unquestioned "support," we ensure that those in power can misuse and abuse them.

Maybe we need some new bumper stickers: "I hope our troops aren't sent to kill and die for bad reasons" or "I empathize with our troops. They're only human." or "War is Hell. Why are you telling our troops to go there?"

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Submitted by lambert on

Joe Galloway:

This Memorial Day, 2009, America is mired in two wars. The one in Iraq is supposed to begin winding down this summer, even as the other, in Afghanistan, is building toward a new crescendo.

We have a new President, Barack Obama, who was elected on a promise of change. For those few who wear the uniform of our country, however, nothing has changed. They continue to serve and sacrifice in wars in distant lands whose purpose and goals and eventual end are as fuzzy now as they were when they began in the dawn of this new century.

However you celebrate Memorial Day this year — however happy or solemn the occasion — spare a thought and a moment of silence in memory of all those who purchased your freedom with their lives, and of all those who defend it still.

If you are given to prayer, pray that one day our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will know true peace somewhere short of the grave.

Except, if the mission is "fuzzy," then the mission probably isn't as clearcut as "defending our country" let alone "purchasing our freedom." Total contradiction, but even Galloway can't say it, perhaps because it cannot be said.

Dare I suggest that those in authority who use the lives of our troops to plant themselves firmly in the seats of their own power are the ones who are not "supporting" the troops?

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

The wars up until recently have been about taking resources or enforcing extraordinarily lop-sided economic arrangements on weaker countries. Then the U.S. upper class, rather than maintaining the value-adding economic processes in their native land, discovered they could profit more by dismantling the economy, which they have proceeded to do.

So now, how will the rich and powerful make money in competition with foreign elites? The same way poor princelings made money in the early modern era -- by selling mercenaries. Think Hessians in the Revolutionary War. But instead of just soldiers, our elites will rent out a whole war machine. It worked well in Gulf War I with Kuwait and the coalition. Not only will our troops not be "defending our freedom"; they'll be the workers in the factory of violence fulfilling a contract for the bosses. Look for more bayoneted baby stories. Meanwhile, as Steve Earle notes, it's "just another poor boy off to fight a rich man's war."

Submitted by lambert on

here:

There is the hegemony US, and there is the domestic US. Many critics of Iraq predicted that there would be a collapse of the US empire, and that we would go back to being a neo-Jeffersonian subsistence Republic. This view, prevalent on what might be called "the disaffected right," has been exactly wrong. The reason is simple: the rest of the world wants American security and financial hegemony, albeit with greater controls, but it does not care about American consumerism beyond the level needed to keep their own domestic economies supplied with dollars.

One can see this dynamic playing out in the recent G20 summit: where France and Germany wanted financial regulation, but were not interested in stimulating domestic consumption. One can see this in the debt markets: the treasury auctions in the United States have gone off, where as the UK auctions have stuttered. The libertarian illusion was that good old Americans were pulling their weight in the world, and that this imperial scheme was dropped on top of it. The reality was that the imperial scheme is profitable in the eyes of the rest of the world, whereas American suburbia and exurbia are the designated losers of the economic world. They aren't willing to loan us money to buy their goods any more, but they will loan us money to bomb the Taliban, kill pirates, and prop up the global financial order.

So that is what is going on: the bail out, as everyone admits, is socialism for Wall Street. However the other side is that the United States is now on shock therapy, and most of the economy is on the outside looking in. Taking out the defense and financial sectors, and the unemployment rate in the United States isn't the headline 8.5%, but is, in fact, closer to 15% and marching upwards. There is no domestic economy for all practical purposes at this point, other than what is needed to extract every loose dime from the American public to pay off debts. The American Empire is alive and well, as the Roman Empire was alive and well, even as its public was crushed under the weight of debts.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"...the sacred trust that America has with all who wear –- and all who have worn -– the proud uniform of our country.”

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Any uniform will do. Firefighter. Coast guard. Merchant marine.
Police department, sheriff's office, other local law enforcement agency.
Public health.
Nursing.
Search and rescue.
EMT.

Hard to explain what it means to know you delivered when you were called upon to stand and do so for someone who's never heard that call.

If you regard war as an export, if you regard national reputation as hegemony, if you regard alliances as profitmakers and commitments as calumny, I don't know what to say to you.


We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

1 John 4:18

Submitted by hipparchia on

got my lowest level groundpounder certification some years ago, with this as my eventual goal. my first, and only, callout [before health issues put a stop to a lot of my activities] was a cadaver search and i'm really thankful nobody found anything that time [she's still missing unfortunately].

but yeah, war is a much bigger part of our economy, and our world presence, than it ought to be.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and I mean that with all my heart and all my soul.

I am still a big advocate of CERT teams. I could do search and rescue (have done, in the past). It's the "finding" that worries me.

are you in any way a supporter of the folks who do horseback searches? Equus, maybe, is the .org name?


We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

1 John 4:18

Submitted by hipparchia on

i've got friends from my sar days who do this. good skills to have anywhere, but certainly useful here in hurricane alley. i've sometimes felt guilty for not getting more involved in this, but i went through incident command training a long time ago [now folded into nims] and keep up with my cpr certification, so i figure i'm doing my part.

equus.org looks like it's a sanctuary that rescues horses [i've got a friend from my dog rescue days who also rescues horses]. i've met [only briefly] a few people who do mounted sar, but i've never had the chance to get involved in it. horses are even more expensive pets than cats and dogs.

i was hoping, back in the day, to get into canine sar with my present dog. he's an excellent tracker and does air scenting too, and is very agile and a good size. unfortunately it took a long time to get him over his various phobias [they were more deep-seated than i realized when he first came to live with me] so we never got around to that. he's been a wonderful pet, friend, and companion and i wouldn't trade him for all the sar dogs in the world. just as well, i suspect, since like you, i'm not so sure about that 'finding' part.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

busted, I can deal with. Bleeding (well, if not clearly catastrophic) likewise. It's the burns that bother me.


We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

1 John 4:18

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

A son, brother, father, and husband. I grew up while my country sent my slightly older peers to kill and die for no goddamn good reason in Vietnam. And now my country is sending a volunteer army to kill and die for no goddamn good reason in Iraq, and with convoluted reasons in Afghanistan. And soon to be Pakistan and Iran, if no one will stand up and stop the madness, and stop the ban on rational thinking about how we misuse our men and women in uniform.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

used (and/or abused, which is one of my issues) at least as much as with them.

Y'know, there's a damn good reason *kids* enlist.

They're broke, and they're told they can't get a decent job with no experience. They want to do the right thing (and/or be heroes, and/or stand up against what happened on 9-11-01). Or maybe they just want to get the hell out of the town / hood where high school has made them miserable and the future doesn't look too great either.

It's a good thing I'm not The Decider. I'd change a lot of rules around enlistments, recruiting, deployments, and some other military rules (DADT would go, for starters; the toughest chick I ever met who didn't look back out of my mirror was straight, but the guy we both busted knuckles and heads and booze bottles saving from a Bossier City barfight one night -- the night I learnt not to go first thru a plate glass window -- maybe, maybe not. Damn beautiful, physically and soul-wise, too. Not the world's greatest at avoiding getting beaten into a bloody puddle in the floor, but that's what God invented having SP/LE friends for ...). Amongst other things, I'd be damn sure if the Congress didn't vote out a declaration of war, we didn't send troops over anybody's borders.


We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

1 John 4:18

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

From the original post:

We'd have a better world if we didn't treat certain topics or people as sacred. The troops are not sacred, they are people. When we objectify them with this hushed, unquestioned "support," we ensure that those in power can misuse and abuse them.

Maybe we need some new bumper stickers: "I hope our troops aren't sent to kill and die for bad reasons" or "I empathize with our troops. They're only human." or "War is Hell. Why are you telling our troops to go there?"

But the magic of "support our troops" and other thought-stopping trump cards is that there is a sacred law against demanding nuanced discussion of that subject, so I get you bullying me with a litmus-test question about whether I've spent One Day in Uniform and a hint that I'd best make clear what I already did make crystal clear.

Submitted by lambert on

... is what Sarah also says:

They're broke, and they're told they can't get a decent job with no experience.

A country that plans to make its way selling the rest of the world mercenary services will find it helpful to keep the populace desperate....

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

My post is about the misuse and abuse of those in uniform, not how they got there.

Making, and doubling-down on, the obvious and wholly-unrelated-to-my-post role that limited economic choice plays in recruitment is to introduce a red herring soaked in the unearned implication of a lack of empathy on my part.

Look up and down this thread -- I haven't made a single unflattering reference whatsoever to the troops or their decision to serve (unless being called "human" and "not sacred" is unflattering) -- because that is not my intent. OK, I did say one thing about motives: that I'm quite sure that the aspirations of protecting and defending are a significant part of the motivation to sign up.

If the introduction and repetition of this topic is directed not at me and my post, but at Arthur and his, then I suggest reading or re-reading this section:

I am painfully aware that, for many people, there appear to be no other avenues for education and advancement (economic and otherwise), a terrible truth that has broader application as the U.S. economy collapses. (Do you think it is a coincidence that government and military service become one of the last remaining secure areas of employment? I encourage you to consider the issue again. I am not suggesting that the ruling class has engineered widespread economic collapse to drive people into government service, military or of other kinds, but I do not suggest that primarily because I don't think any group, no matter how powerful, could control the huge number of variables involved, although they might believe they could. Hubris and narcissism usually go together. But I certainly do suggest that the government and the ruling class is more than willing to take full advantage of this calamitous state of affairs.)

So, I ask, is there some legitimate reason to rub my or his nose in this point?

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

How about what most all liberals I know have been saying forever, now, and that is that we support getting our troops back home? I think Silber, in all of his wordiness, gives a rather revisionist history or reality of the left that, somehow, most of the left uses the term "support the troops" in the very same meaning, or even that most use it, at all. That simply hasn't been my experience, nor do I personally use the term.

But, we've always been at war with Eastasia...

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"Wordiness" seems a rather unearned slam.

If the left isn't the biggest promoter of the "support our troops" meme, few on the left dare risk the slings and arrows by publicly questioning the eggshell-walking sacredness implicit in that ubiquitous phrase.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

If I have any complaint with Arthur, and this goes for more than just him, it's that I'm not convinced that his writing style genuinely reflects how he'd express himself in other mediums or even on other blogs. At times, the length and the vocabulary feels put-upon, insisting on itself, pretentiously calculated and the humility/modesty he often dabbles in seems disingenuous. It's just my opinion and how I feel about his writing. I still read him, despite all of that, though, because I think he has something important to say, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes you feel as if you have to dig to get to it.

Anyway, I can mostly agree with your second paragraph. Not enough (though, I'm not willing to say it's 'few') on the left do take the risk of directly taking on the meme. However, in believing that there ae many ways to take thoughtless memes and ideas, I'm not sure if it's fair to malign (if even subtley) all of those who don't take a frontal assault, guns blazing approach to disconstructing zombie memes.

Arthur's tone, here, is something self-dramatic as if he's the only one fighting the good fight. His point about being more open is well taken; but, I could do without the feigned humility and then the subsequent subtle arrogance about seemingly having to do this alone.

But, we've always been at war with Eastasia...

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Election 2008, I would expect that you're well aware how badly outnumbered one feels in the inconvenient-truth business.

I have a hard time seeing how Arthur could be called "disingenuous." Seems to me he "puts it out there" with more rigorous thought and emotional verve than most anyone using this medium. As for his style being fitted to the medium (and uniquely so, I'd add), that ain't a bug, it's a feature.

De gustibus on aesthetic issues, of course. But IMHO, his approach makes for a bracing challenge to confront some vitally important complacency issues.

Submitted by lambert on

Damon writes:

I'm not convinced that his writing style genuinely reflects how he'd express himself in other mediums or even on other blogs.

1. Style can be regarded as artifice, not genuine at all, and the more artificial when seeming genuine. In that case, what's to convince?

2. Blogging is one medium among others. Why should one's writing in a blog "genuinely reflect"* how one would write in a letter or in a screenplay or in a poem?

3. Blogs are different. If Arthur were writing a food blog or a gadget blog, why should what he writes in one "genuinely reflect"* what he writes in the other? Unless he wishes to turn himself into a brand, that is.

NOTE * And what on earth is the test for being "convinced"??

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

The dramatic "What on earth" is my test for being convinced of anything is neither here-nor-there in this discussion. I find that his writing borders on being (thoughtfully) pretentious more often than I'd like. It sounds and feel's like he's playing a character, but without acknowledging that he is, if he is. That's all. It doesn't mean that I'll stop reading him, but, I'm one of those individuals that finds near equal value in how something is said just as much as what is said. I'm more engaged with those I feel (or they tell me/us) are as real on the web as they are in real life.

Yes, to each his own; it can be no other way, I hope.

But, we've always been at war with Eastasia...

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

I also think the CnC who started the war in Iraq ought to be hanged as a traitor, but then I have an old grudge on that score. You can't get enough rope to deal with the horrors the Bush/Cheney maladministrative cabal unleashed on the world.


We can admit that we’re killers … but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes! ~ Captain James T. Kirk, Stardate 3193.0

1 John 4:18