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On supporting the troops

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I got this via email today:

They may be the ones facing danger on the battlefield, but US soldiers in Iraq are being asked to pray for President George W Bush.
Thousands of marines have been given a pamphlet called “A Christian’s Duty,” a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush.
“I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult. May God’s peace be your guide,” says the pledge, according to a journalist embedded with coalition forces.
The pamphlet, produced by a group called In Touch Ministries, offers a daily prayer to be made for the US president, a born-again Christian who likes to invoke his God in speeches.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but aren’t the troops the ones doing the actually dirty and dangerous work in Iraq? Aren’t they the ones in direct danger of suicide bombers and Iraqi “civilians”? (And aren’t some of them still in danger from each other as well?) If I believed in the efficacy of prayer I know who I’d sooner be praying for.

Odd, but just today I’ve seen a couple of things about supporting the troops. One of them was the item that pretty much spurred me to write this, namely the story on the cover of today’s Daily Telegraph headed “Please don’t hate our dads” (full credit as always to the Murdoch press for being tactful and avoiding the sentimentalised grabber):

The families of our troops serving in Iraq want Australians to do just one thing – back their loved ones.
More than 350 gathered yesterday at Admiralty House to be thanked by Prime Minister John Howard, Governor-General Peter Hollingworth and Premier Bob Carr, for being the strength behind those serving.
They used the day to issue a rallying cry, saying word of anti-war sentiment and protest rallies at home risked sapping the morale of those in battle.
As the Iraqi conflict took a sinister turn with suicide bombers targeting coalition troops, relatives of our forces implored all Australians to give our troops their backing.
Billy, for example, thinks his dad David, aboard HMAS Darwin, is a hero. His mum Josephine, 44, from Normanhurst hopes that the rest of the country thinks so, too. “We’re tremendously proud of my husband and his shipmates and all the men and women representing Australia and I hope they come home safe – and soon,” she said. “I just wish everybody would bring out their flags like they did at the Olympics and support them.”

Then there was something in the latest email from John Chuckman. I’ve no idea how I got onto his mailing list, but for whatever reason there I am and I continue to receive the things he sends out via email. In today’s missive were these paragraphs:

Even on progressive and liberal Internet sites in the United States, one finds ritualized deference to “our brave boys.” Well, this just makes me wonder whose boys aren’t brave? Like most human qualities, I imagine bravery is pretty evenly distributed across the human population. In other words, the expression can only be propaganda or uttered out of fear.
Further, I have to say that professional American soldiers, exceedingly well paid and rewarded by world standards, are in fact doing their jobs.

Over at Australian Libertarians, meanwhile, 24601 was pondering whether or not one should support the troops while being opposed to the war:

In a country where we do not have conscription and people are free to quit the defence force – people should be held responsible for their decision to join the defence force and fight in a war. If you support the war, then you should support their actions as noble and appropriate. If you support the war then these people are making a sacrifice for the greater good and deserve credit. However, if you oppose the war you must oppose their actions as inappropriate and wrong. If you oppose the war then you should believe that defence personal are involved in the killing of people who should not be killed. This is wrong and peace-mongers should be under no obligation to pretend otherwise for the sake of soft-minded warnicks.

I dispute that, to some extent. I’m not in favour of this war for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I distrust the motives of G.W. Bush in organising it. Still, though I agree with 24601 that the soldiers currently fighting in Iraq are there of their own free will, at least to the extent that they chose to join the armed forces knowing (hoping?) that a situation like this could arise, I still support their efforts, because they’re making them.

It’s interesting that of the countries supplying actual troops in this fight (as opposed to other members of the so-called Coalition of the Willing who may only be supplying good vibes and nothing else), W. is the only one who I can find any mention of having done any actual military service. A check of the official sites for John Howard, Tony Blair, Anders Rasmussen and Aleksander Kwasniewski (respective leaders of Australia, Britain, Denmark and Poland, all of whom have combat troops in Iraq at the moment) reveals no reference to any of them having done time with their armed forces. Which is not to say that they didn’t—frankly I don’t know whether or not they did—just that their official biographies make no reference to them doing so, and I imagine the biographies would make the reference if they had served. W. is the only one who appears to have done the time, and even then the official story of what exactly he did is apparently questionable.

24601 ended his post with these words: “But don’t tell me that defence personnel should escape criticism. They shouldn’t.” And I agree entirely; if defence personnel do something to disgrace themselves then obviously they need to be punished for it. Until then, though, despite not being pro-war, I’m still supporting the troops because, unlike some people we could name, they’re making the effort. They’re in the line of fire. And Chuckman’s right, it is their job and they get paid for it, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Shit, the job I’m hoping to get at my local library is a job too… what’s the worst danger I’m likely to face, some disgruntled client who refuses to return books on time or look after library materials, then bitches when you fine them for doing so? Books with the odd page falling out? Not like I’m in danger of suicide borrowers or anything like that…

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About James Russell

  • At a time when we have $80-200 billion to spend on a war of choice, and plenty of government money to give away in a special tax cut for the wealthiest 2% of the nation, the House of Representatives voted to cut $25 billion (TWENTY FIVE BILLION DOLLARS) from veterans’ services.


    The reaction from the pro-warriors who claim to support the troops will be:

    a) To take to the streets to protest this vote.

    b) Not to take to the streets to protest this vote, but to continue to criticize peace demonstrators for “not supporting the troops.”

    And before any pro-warrirors ask–Yeah, we peace demostrators did take to the streets today to protest this vote. It was a major theme of many signs during the Los Angeles march today, including the main sign in front of the demonstration stage. We did our best to publicize the hell out of this gross distortion of our national priorities. Many speakers mentioned the vote and encouraged those present to apply pressure to their representatives via phone, fax, email and letter. (You know, democracy.)

    Re: The troops chose this job. At the rally today, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg expressed strong support for the troops (as did all of the speakers). She noted that many of the troops–who are disproportionately of color–are victims of a “poverty draft.” In other words, among all of the other dismal choices before them, the military’s promise of three square meals a day and a college education was simply the best they had.

    Most of the troops didn’t have the choices of young George W. Bush during the Vietnam War. Since our Commander in Chief desperately used family connections to get out of serving his country in combat, I find it hard to criticize those who are there simply because they had no other choice.

    Oh, and that George W. Bush used family connections to leap past a 500-person waiting list and get assigned to the Texas Air National Guard, and then mysteriously disappeared for as much as a year or more of his “service,” is not really in question. The evidence is there, and he’s never offered a substantive denial to my knowledge. The American people simply looked past it, not knowing that this would be the man who would enthusiatically jump into an elective war.

    (Al Gore said he served in Vietnam because he knew somebody else from his hometown would have to go in his place if he didn’t go. I wonder if GWB ever did the research to find out who went in his place. There would be a certain moral clarity in that.)

    It’s not just Bush. Virtually all of the men who rushed us into this elective war are chicken hawks


  • Rob

    good article