cross posted from DailyKos diary of Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 06:58:43 PM EST
Wouldn’t have posted two in a row on my first day here except it was myself I pushed down the line of diaries-:)
“Do you support the troops?” I thought it was a simple yes-or-no question when I asked it in a DKos open thread. The first five responders said yes, and a couple of them seemed baffled as to how I could even ask this and added, “Of course!” Then I got the following comment.
What do you mean by support? Do we value their lives, and believe those lives should not be lost in a futile and unjustified war? Sure, of course. But “support” – what do you mean? It’s such a right-wing talking point, who does or does not “support the troops.” Too many right-wingers believe that they “support” the troops by supporting the agenda of the war – as if, per the Tinker bell [sic] theory, if only every American believed in the Iraq war, then we would certainly win it and the troops could come home. I also quibble with whether “support the troops” is supposed equate [sic] with “support the acts and conduct” of the troops in Iraq.
Thus, here we are with a diary in which I can explain my “simple” question. I’ll explain, based on the thoughts of current and former Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers, and on my military experience (non-combat) from 1979 to 1982, what soldiers and veterans themselves think “supporting the troops” really means.
This diary is primarily for these readers: 1) those who would say “Of course!” without really analyzing what this means, 2) those who feel the same as the individual quoted above, 3) anyone who is not sure of their support for the troops, and 4) anyone who does not support the troops but feels open-minded on the subject.
Look for the poll at the end that reflects these points of view.
For the record, I am against the war in Iraq. I believe Bushco’s decision to invade Iraq will be seen by future generations as one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our nation. I want the troops out of Iraq ASAP. I do not believe it is possible to win the war in Iraq. I denounce any torture. I believe Guantanamo should be closed. I believe what happened at Abu Ghraib was an atrocity, including the fact that the lower ranking individuals were too harshly punished and the higher-ups who ordered those types of torture–specifically outlined in selectively disseminated manuals–should have been punished. I loathe Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rove. I will vote only for whoever is the Democratic nominee for POTUS in 2008.
That said–“Do You Really Support the Troops?
We can empathize, and imagine being in another’s shoes. We believe we know how we’d react in theoretical circumstances. But in reality it is impossible to know what we would do until we are actually confronted with the specific situation. Some deep, emotional, life-changing and unique experiences of any “group” absolutely can not be fully understood without having lived their experiences.
I am not African American so it is impossible for me to fully understand what it is like to be African American, and the prejudices, social, economic or life experiences of being African American. I am a recovering alcoholic (22 years sober on January 1, 2007). If you are not an alcoholic, it is impossible for you to fully understand this aspect of me. I am not gay, so it is impossible for me to fully understand what it is like to be gay, and the prejudices, social, economic or life experiences of being gay. I suffer from TBI (traumatic brain injury) and if you do not have this issue, it is impossible for you to fully understand what it is like for me. I am not a woman so it is impossible for me to fully understand what it is like to be a woman and vice versus.
You get my point. These are all multi-faceted issues. No matter how we think we would handle our lives, if we don’t have those experiences there is absolutely no way for any of us to truly know how we would react, behave, or perceive life. We do not know what decisions we would or would not make as a result.
I have one more. If you have never been in the military, it is impossible for you to fully understand those of us who have. If you have not been in a war, in combat, it is impossible for you to fully understand what it is like for those who have. Although I understand so much of military life, I was not in combat; I accept my inability to truly understand that experience.
Now here are thoughts and feelings of a man who is currently serving our nation in Iraq.
It is my belief that a great deal of the American public believe that ALL military personnel WANT to be over here doing what we are doing. What they don’t understand is the old saying that “no one hates a war as much as a Soldier hates a war”. We are sent to do the dirty work for someone that is not willing to do it those selves. We didn’t ask for it, and never got a vote in it but we made a commitment to do it. Unfortunately the U.S. military is the only one at war. The rest of the government, and the country for that matter, are not really involved and that is the greatest shame of it all.
When I asked if I could use his comment; here is his revealing response.
Sir, please feel free to use my post if it will help get the true message out about how we feel over here and using my ID is fine as well if you need to. And please include the fact that the “overwhelming” majority of Captains and Majors I work around and with are of the same mind. I am not sure who the Congressmen speak to when they visit here but they would be surprised if they actually talked to someone that was not “handpicked” to give them the party line.
I could have done without the “Sir.” I worked for a living! 🙂 This is an old service joke; “Sir” is how we refer to commissioned officers; I was a sergeant, an NCO.
I sincerely appreciate this soldier’s honesty. He goes a long way in clarifying why service members join the military; there are purely personal reasons but for most there is an overriding sense of duty and loyalty to our country and to the Constitution. After 9/11 many enlistments were out of patriotism, a desire to protect our nation–you and I–from terrorists.
Whether or not you believe that terrorism is a threat to our nation, many of those who joined the military in the years after 9/11 believed with all their heart and soul that it was. Call them fools, call them naive, call them conned–the fact is they believed and therefore they truly had the most honorable, heroic, patriotic and noble of intentions. I believe were we all as willing to put our life on the line for our beliefs our nation would be far better off.
Now, try to imagine you believed as they did and you enlisted in the year or two after 9/11. You are in Iraq for a year and you realize this is a war we never should have started, a war we cannot win. We are in the middle of an Iraqi civil war. The Iraqi police, military and politicians are not stepping up to the plate. Here’s an assessment from a soldier in a position to know.
The “democratically” elected government of Iraq (GOI) is doing FAR more than dragging ass . . . this is as close as I can get to the truth of it.
There is a problem
GOI asks us to fix the problem
We tell them to fix it themselves, here is the money
Problem remains unfixed
We say we will fix the problem, give us the money back
They give us 1/3 of the money back and say the rest was used
to think of a way to fix the problem
We fix the problem with [more of] our own money
There is a problem
Starting to get the picture? Things like this make me a real fan of “Baptism by Fire” for this “democratically” elected government. As long as we keep doing for them, they have no reason to do it themselves.
The vast majority of your own nation is against this war. American politicians are using you for political gain on each side of the aisle. What do you do?
If you have not ever been in the military and you really believe you can answer this question without a doubt, you are simply fooling yourself. If you want to try to walk a mile in their boots, I will attempt to help you do so. You might learn what kind of boots they are wearing. . If you are open- minded, you might be able to discern the make of the boot. I myself haven’t had the experience, so you still won’t know the exact model boot. That is as close as my words can get you to “walking a mile in their boots”.
Remember, you raised your right hand to God and you swore this oath:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Remember, you went through seven weeks to 12 weeks of basic training. You were brainwashed. You were broken down and rebuilt. The beliefs (patriotism, national security, defend our people) you already held, were driven deeper and deeper.
Remember, you have become like a brother, a sister, a father to ten, twenty, thirty or more men and women who have saved your life on several occasions, and you theirs.
Remember, you have shared with these brothers- and sisters-in-arms the deaths of others in your “family.” You saw some of your “family” blown into pieces by an explosion. You put their body parts in body bags. You put a tourniquet on your friend’s stump when his leg was blown off. You started her I.V. and tried initial life saving techniques. You sat next to him as he squeezed your hand and screamed in horrendous pain; you told her she was going to be all right even though you were not sure.
One night you had a few beers with one of your “best friends”, someone you knew you would keep in touch with the rest of your life, if you both survived this debacle! You laughed and joked and exchanged stories about stupid things you did at home when you were drunk. The next morning you were together in a Humvee making a routine patrol when you heard gunfire closer than usual. You turned to check your buddy, as always. You saw that most of his head had disappeared, like JFK’s in those final frames of Zapruder’s film.
Remember all that you have read since I asked that question, unanswerable for a non-combat veteran. What do you do? Consider your limited options. Still think you know for sure what you would do?
This, from the person who asked me what I meant by “support the troops,” sticks with me.
I also quibble with whether “support the troops” is supposed [sic] equate with “support the acts and conduct” of the troops in Iraq.
I wonder if this person believes that what he or she thinks his or her conduct would be in circumstances unimaginable in the worst nightmares. If this person is sure of that hypothetical conduct, if anyone is, that person is a fool.