Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why Do We Support the Troops? A Meditation and a Challenge to Those Who Are Against the Iraq War

I originally conceived of this essay back at the American Historical Association convention in January, when Marilyn Young pointed out that one of the "lessons" learned from the Vietnam war was that even if you don't support the war, you must support the troops who are fighting that war if you want to be perceived as an ethical person whose voice deserves to be heard. Indeed, supporting the troops has been a crucial legacy of Vietnam for the Iraq war, since it essentially means we are not allowed to oppose war funding, and those funds hide their purpose -- the murder of Iraqi freedom fighters and civilians, as well as the inevitable death and maiming of U.S. soldiers -- behind the lie that those funds are only being appropriated to "protect" Americans in a war zone. Hence, one of the reasons the United States is able to keep fighting the war is that those in Congress who claim to oppose the war continue to vote for appropriations -- not to support the war, mind you, but to "support the troops." Hence, when we support the troops (and this was Marilyn's point) we support the prosecution of an illegal and immoral war, and we pretend that we have no other choice as responsible citizens.

This is nonsense and it is a lie. Let me start with a little historical context.

What is being called on here is some version of several famous, and false, narratives. The first is the "stab in the back theory:" i.e., that Imperial Germany would have won the Great War in 1918 had Jews and Communists not undermined the war effort on the German home front. It was a lie, of course, a lie told in the service of nationalism. But the stab in the back theory, in turn, later became a narrative engine that justified, not just the rise of Fascism, but the suppression and extermination of Jews and Communists more generally in the interwar period.

The second is related to the stab in the back theory, and comes in two parts. Part one -- repeated in classrooms everywhere -- is the shameful scenario of soldiers returning from Vietnam who were spat upon by ignorant and angry Americans, unwilling to acknowledge veterans' sacrifice, desirous of degrading their honorable military service, and desecrating the memory of fallen comrades. But Jerry Lembcke, a Vietnam veteran and sociologist at Holy Cross argues in The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam that these stories cannot be documented. Except for a few incidents that he did verify, of Veterans of Foreign Wars members spitting on veterans who demonstrated with antiwar protesters upon their return, Lembcke argues that veterans were not, in fact, spat upon, either as a general phenomenon, or even once in a while by the occasional, hair-brained anti-war loony. You can read a short account of Lembcke's research here in a little piece he did for The Veteran, an online newsletter hosted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Part Two of this late twentieth century stab in the back theory continues to circulate among those who believe -- without proof and against all evidence that Vietnamese guerillas were willing to fight another hundred years or so if necessary -- that had politicians on both sides of the aisle possessed the courage to continue to pour American lives, money and bombs into Vietnam, or maybe used a well-placed nuclear weapon or two, that the United States would have actually won that war. Since it didn't happen, it is hard to know what "won" would have meant. What victory would have most likely meant was, as Barry Goldwater is said to have once remarked in his support for the nuclear option, was turning all of Vietnam into an uninhabited "parking lot." But -- and here's where we get back to supporting the troops -- this would have supported American troops by providing the "victory" that, in turn, would have proven to all that those who died did not die in vain. Ergo, political cowardice caused fallen veterans to be metaphorically "stabbed in the back," or, in other words, caused them to be robbed of the victory that would have made them happy to be dead.

So when those of us who are against the war in Iraq talk about how we wish to end the war while still supporting the troops, I think that is, as we used to say in the 'sixties, really fucked up (this phrase was how we indicated the failure of critical analysis to truly address the issue in all its details.) But let me rephrase that in the language respectable college professors use: supporting the troops while ending the war is a problem. I think it is a problem for a couple of reasons that need to be woven into anti-war strategies so that we can help support "Americans" in not becoming "troops" in the first place. That, I think, should be the goal and here are a few of my ideas.

We must go on the offensive to actively persuade people not to join the military. This means camping out in front of recruiting stations as the anti-abortion people camp out in front of women's clinics and holding daily teach-ins to persuade potential recruits not to sign up. One huge difference from Vietnam is that there is no draft. You have to actively enlist to get into the military. And while no one is more sympathetic than I to the ways in which education and job training have been linked to military service for the poor, you have to return from Iraq alive and unharmed to use those benefits. And even if you do -- is it moral to purchase those benefits at the cost of Iraqi lives? In fact, taking a leaf out of the book of those right-wing protesters, why not stand outside recruiting centers with large pictures of hideously wounded people who are now battling the government for some kind of benefit so that they don't become homeless? Or a picture of one of those guys who lost three out of the four limbs he was born with, but is only eligible for two prostheses, like the twenty-year old vet I met while on vacation last year?

We must work to get military recruiters out of our public schools. The government is not entitled to proselytize violence in our schools, turn our children into soldiers and kill them. Our efforts in this direction should include protesting the presence of military color guards at athletic events, rejecting military sponsorship of all youth activities, and lobbying local media outlets and movie theaters to turn away military advertising. In fact, like drug dealers, porn parlors and sex offenders, military recruiting stations should, through the judicious use of local zoning ordinances, not be permitted within a mile of any youth facility. The military is far more of a danger to these children than sexual predators or pornographers are, since one out of every five soldiers who actually returns from Iraq does so with a brain injury.

We must organize to get military recruiters off college campuses when they are there against our will and contrary to non-discrimination clauses in our bylaws. I thought of this last week when the information went out over our peace network at Zenith that the Connecticut National Guard might be coming to recruit on campus. Zenith explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of many things, including sexual preference and gender identity, and the United States military discriminates. Hence, they should not use our campus to recruit. But by federal law, we must allow them to do so, or risk losing federal funding, including federal financial aid. But we do not have to allow them to recruit unopposed. We can surround them, we can chant, we can sing, and we can challenge the lies that they use to recruit people into a war where they will be killed, maimed and likely to commit acts of criminal violence.

Gay, lesbian, bi and trans people should organize against the military rather than insisting on their right to become part of it. Support our queer youth. Let them live.

But, you might ask, what about those who are already in the service? Should we not support them? And my question is -- what do you mean by this? I cannot support their presence in Iraq, in an illegal war, where many of them are committing acts of criminal violence against innocent people. I really can't. I can support them exactly one way:

By bringing them home. Now.

Not another penny for this war, unless that penny goes to bring our troops home or to help those damaged by this war, in the United States and in Iraq, rebuild their lives. This is what we must work for: war spending bills that are dedicated only to the return of our soldiers, their reintegration into society and the dismantling of the war state.

41 comments:

lifexhistory said...

Thank you for this post and for articulating what I've felt for a long time, but have never really been able to say eloquently or fully. Particularly the last point about not being able to support the troops' presence there.

Belle said...

I too laud your post. I am a veteran, and profoundly against this war. I don't know that adopting the tactics of the anti-choice loonies is the way to go, but I support the troops by wanting them out of harm's way.

Anonymous said...

I, too, want the troops out of harm's way and have opposed the war since its start. But what of the Iraqi people whom the US has put in harm's way because they have cooperated/collaborated with us since the beginning of the war? I don't think it's such an easy answer.

BTW, "illegal war" strikes me as a rather silly formulation. Many people consider all wars illegal.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear anonymous,

Many peopel were in harm;s way in Saddam;s Iraq too -- and frankly, is protecting collaborators a reason for an indefinite occupation? That's a real question.

Many people would be wrong that all wars are illegal. There are international laws that define legal and illegal wars, sime of which are invested in the UN. "Many people" would consider all wars immoral, but they wouldn't always be right, either.

TR

Ahistoricality said...

Mixed feelings, I gotta tell you. The general outlines of the argument are good, but there's two big things missing, it seems to me.

First is in the recruiting discussion: the military is already having trouble with recruitment, such that it's lowering standards and taking on members of gangs, white supremacists, criminals and dropouts whose military training is going to pay us evil dividends for a generation or more. If people of good conscience abjure the military categorically, the military just gets worse, or we get a draft. Moreover, recruiting/training slowdowns produce even worse results for existing service members and Guard members, whose "stop loss" and re-activation constitutes nearly perpetual conscription. Finally, keeping recruiters off primary, secondary and tertiary campuses would require substantial changes to federal law -- or educational funding -- which presently sets military recruitment as a condition of accepting federal funds.

Second is in the "stabbed in the back" defense: I just got finished reading the latest edition of Historically Speaking which includes a forum on Moyar's Triumph Forsaken (v.1, God Help Us). I was struck, first and foremost, by how pointless the argument is -- hardly any of the participants could avoid making parallels to our present situation, none of which were in the slightest bit helpful or soundly historical -- because we don't have the slightest bit of distance from this history and it is therefore highly impressionistic (no matter how many footnotes) and results-driven. This makes it hard for historians -- or liberals generally, who are equally fact-driven -- to defuse the "stab in the back" arguments, however much we need to.

Sorry, I could be clearer about this, but I'm feeling like my argument's about to take me right off a cliff into "culture war" territory....

philosoraptor said...

Who are the "Iraqi freedom fighters" who are being "murdered"?

Also: pointing out that "awful things happened during Hussein's regime, too", struck me as a very problematic and hardhearted response by anti-war activists before the war, and it strikes me that way now (especially if the implicit accusation is that someone like Anonymous didn't care about those things then, so why should he/she care about them now?). IF -- and it's a big "if" -- we had good reason to believe that the immediate departure of US forces and agents would return Iraq only to its pre-war levels of awfulness, then maybe the "US out of Iraq now!" demand wouldn't strike me as quite as hardhearted as it often does to me. But it seems at least equally likely to me that the immediate departure of US forces etc. would lead to a far higher level of awfulness, for a while, than existed before. Other than making the well-taken point that the last several decades have been generally awful for Iraqis, do you have a more, um, nuanced response to the sort of worry that Anonymous raises?

wayne fontes said...

Lembcke's research has already been debunked. Anti-war demonstrators did spit on returning vets. I do think the way returning Vietnam vets were treated has influenced how politicians have handled the current war. citing a writer who in the course of a book denied what others easily found hardly helps your argument.

Who exactly is invoking the stab in the back theory in regards to Germany. The US withdrew from Vietnam because the cost was too high not because we were defeated. What segment of the population was persecuted during the inter-war years? None that I can think of.

Ahistoricality said...

Pro-war protesters also spat on anti-war activists, especially veterans: lots of spittin' goin' on back then, apparently.

The current "stab in the back" discourse is part of what Dave Neiwert calls "pseudo-fascism" (though I think "pre-fascism" or "proto-fascism" would be closer) and is coupled with what he refers to as "eliminationist" or "traitorous" rhetoric; in other words, someone is laying the groundwork for the argument that liberals are not a "loyal opposition" but a treasonous cancer on the republic to be dealt with by "any means necessary."

neophyte said...

Claire, I'm with you on almost every point here. Or rather, I would be.

You are addressing an American political reality, while entirely failing to address an Iraqi or regional Middle Eastern one. In order to develop a radical ethic of responsibility, as you suggest is necessary in order to prevent those who feel they have little other choice from joining the military, we must extend that ethic beyond a nationalistic concern for "Americans" to a transnational concern for what a different set of "Americans" have done to the world.

Iraq is a factionalized, burnt, brittle mess with almost no effectual official political structure. "Freedom fighters" there come in all political and many religious stripes. Millions of Iraqi refugees swarm the surrounding nations, who have neither the desire nor the resources to deal with them. The Turks are bristling at the idea of a consolidating Kurdistan; the Syrians are looking forward to potential consolidation Shi'a political power in the region, and on and on. The tableau of military, political, national, international, and sectarian realities is a deeply complicated one, and to ignore those complications is to recapitulate the simplistic "us vs. them" mentality of Bush administration propaganda. "Supporting" or "resisting the war" and "supporting the troops" are language deployed by both sides to cover up the inescapable - and horrifically challenging - fact that we have simply got to deal with the Iraqi situation that exists, that our government brought into existence, instead of wishing it away by turning our eyes exhaustedly homeward.

Our political reality and that of the region surrounding Iraq are inextricably stitched together, for better or for worse. No radicalism can fail to address that.

Tenured Radical said...

I am thrilled that so many of you have chimed in. A few comments:

ahistoricality: I don't buy the argument that if good people don't join the military then bad people will, and the behavior of our troops abroad will disintegrate further. Having people not sign up is a pointed way of not supporting a war. A draft might finally trigger mass resistance to the war, which is why Charles Rangel (D-NY) tried to pass a bill calling for a draft. And training for war turns good people who think for themselves into bad people who are trained to tolerate the infliction of pain and suffering on others. How can a gang banger be worse than the Ivy League grad I know who had been fully trained, at great taxpayer expense, to keep people alive while they are being tortured? Let's hear it for the liberal arts education! Furthermore, good people are transformed in the theater of war even further, to the extent that they do very bad things indeed that they would never otherwise do -- both in the theater of war and upon their return.

philosoraptor: the point about Iraqi freedom fighters is that one person's freedom fighter is another person's terrorist. Iraqis have a right to want the occupation of their country to end, and to respond to violence with violence, sad as that might be. I just don;t think we have any proof that an ongoing US occupation will resolve anything -- look at the West Bank! -- except to keep a regime that is oppositional to US interests in the region from asserting itself in the aftermath of our departure.

Wayne: thanks for the link, but it doesn't "debunk" the book --it makes the conversation about the book more complex since Lembcke's work has created a sound basis for a discussion of the cultural importance of the "spitting image" that did not exist before he wrote it. The discussion both supports his argument - that spitting on veterans was not the universal experience the right wing wants to claim it was - and that spitting did happen in a way that places it across the political spectrum. I would say that why Americans obsess over a few veterans being spat upon rather than the millions of innocent people we have killed in imperialist aggression around the globe points to a kind of political and cultural narcissism that deserves even more attention than it gets.

Which leads me to neophyte: all I can say is, Right f***ing on. Great contribution. Yes, I was speaking in a nationalist frame -- the stab in the back theory in all its incarnations is, perforce, nationalist, although the referent is international (Jews & communist & antiwar protesters disrupting and undermining the national body politic) -- but your points are excellent.

TR

Ahistoricality said...

TR: you may or may not "buy" my argument about recruiting, but there's considerable evidence that this is precisely what's happening; check out the research SPLC has done on extremists in the military, or recent reports on the HS-grad v. dropout retention issues. You may not "buy" my argument about the importance of having people of good faith and moral character in the military, but I've known plenty who came out of it without being vicious killers, plenty who blew the whistle on atrocities, plenty who resisted deployment or redeployment (checked desertion figures lately?), plenty who criticize the politics and practice of the war from within the ranks; I can't imagine what our military will be like when it's mostly staffed by Dominionists and sociopaths, but we won't be safe from it in our own country.

And I know the "spread the misery" draft arguments, and I can't imagine a tactic more divisive and more likely to produce anti-liberal backlash, totalitarianism, internal suppression of dissent, and gross misery.

Anonymous said...

TR, If I understand you correctly, you are denigrating people who cooperate with the US troops--for whatever reason--in Iraq as collaborators. If they are "collaborators," against what are they "collaborating"?

Odd. Very odd.

And, no, those who consider any war "illegal" aren't incorrect. You may disagree with them, but wrong they are not.

Tenured Radical said...

anonymous:

Well, you are clearly not a long-term reader of this blog or you would *know* not to use the word denigrate. I, of course, forgive you. But my students would not. So beware.

"Collaborator" is merely descriptive -- there are Iraqis who work for the Americans, and they are collaborating in the occupation. I am not advocating that their heads be shaved -- merely saying that protecting them is not a good reason for an occupation without end in Iraq. Hell, bring 'em over here. I don't care. But let's get the f**k out of Iraq.

And not to be quarrelsome, sweet pea, but have you read the Constitution? And any of the subsequent pieces of legislation passed after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that define the President of the USA's legal power to wage war -- with and without the assent of Congress? As to God's law, there is a long ecclesiastical tradition of defining just and unjust caused that make war legal or illegal. And as for international law, the UN can authorize a legal intervention, particularly in the case of unprovoked aggression against another country (Gulf I, for example.)

Are any wars moral? Now *that's an interesting question. But not the same thing.

And as to you ahistoricality, well, we must agree to disagree. Of course I know that what you describe is happening -- forget criminals, they are even taking queers now, just like they did in the final years of Vietnam and the first years of WWII. Imagine. What I'm saying is I don't think the Iraq war will work out better if we send the senior class from Zenith into basic training in June, as opposed to those who didn't get picked up in the latest raid on the Gambino family. I think there is plenty of time, after this war ends, to reconstruct the military. Right now, we need to prevent all enlistments. All of them. No more blood for oil.

TR

Anonymous said...

Do you think that calling the people who are shooting at our troops "Iraqi freedom fighters" is not stabbing our troops in the back?

Why not just be honest and admit your true beliefs?

You can call it the "opposition," but when the country is at war, others will call it "treason."

It was interesting to see so many people demand surrender to the Iraqi freedom fighters just a few months ago. Now that the political state of Iraq is poised to become a democracy in the Middle East, I thought this silly talk had ended.

This post is 6 months too late.

Tenured Radical said...

Well, anonymous 4:21 got axed for vituperative name calling. Check the blogger ethic against your comment if you don't know why, you ornery lurker.

And as for 4:18 -- I thought accusing folks of treason for expressing their beliefs went out with Richard Nixon. Guess not! I hope you won't be disappointed when Iraq doesn't come together as a democracy any time soon.

TR

John said...

Disclosure: I’m a Zenith senior who’s been sporadically involved with Students for Ending the War in Iraq (SEWI).

Confronting elements of the war machine and circulating anti-war polemics and information is all righteous, needed work, but I submit that the anti-war movement can’t make much headway toward ending the war until we figure out how to make what seems obvious to us – that the U.S. military is doing more harm than good in Iraq and therefore should depart – dawn on well-meaning and concerned people who don’t find that obvious already. We need better rhetorical and intellectual strategies for winning that argument, because we aren’t winning it now. My hope is that if I can pinpoint why I think the argument for withdrawal is hard to win, even when it shouldn’t be, others can help fill in the argumentation we need.

Let me cut right to the most vexing questions. Why is withdrawal such a hard sell to people who (in retrospect at least) think invading Iraq was a mistake, and who are generally aware that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a catastrophe for virtually everyone involved (excepting the profiteers), and who may even deign to deplore specifics like the scores of thousands of innocent civilians killed, the boost given to terrorist networks, the participation in and escalation of a civil war that is tearing apart Iraqi society, or other of the occupation’s most notable accomplishments? Whence cometh this faith that although the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a terrible idea in its inception and execution, it will be beneficial if it continues? What sustains the fucked-up (TR, please note the usage is current, not a relic of the 60s), non-falsifiable dogma that more war solves the problems war created?

Now, I’m obviously waxing derisive in my phrasing of those questions, but they are not rhetorical. I actually want to know their answers, and indeed, I think the anti-war movement can’t succeed without finding them. So here’s my attempt. The arguments for withdrawal aren’t overwhelmingly convincing because making them so would require knowledge that, for various reasons, we can't get or don't have. One kind of ungetable knowledge is counter-factual: If the U.S. had started withdrawing troops last December, instead of enacting the surge, would things be better or worse in Iraq today? Without access to counter-factual knowledge, we can’t know for sure, and hence can’t conclusively refute claims that staying is the least-bad option. Another kind results from factors like distance, language and cultural barriers, information filters, but also of insufficient research effort and imagination by anti-war activists, which together make it difficult to present a clear enough picture of the plight of Iraqis at the hands of the U.S. occupiers. All too often we fall into habits of echo-chambering anti-war cliches, or of limiting critique to a response to the latest headlines. Even if we can, at any given moment, refute the perpetual narrative of the last four or five years that we are just on the cusp of a turning point, refutation alone cannot suffice. I believe this is a case where you can’t beat something with nothing. So what is our narrative and how can we get it across to a broad audience?

That’s all I’ve got, and it’s very little, but I believe I’ve framed a problem the solution to which is a prerequisite for the anti-war movement’s success. I’d welcome thoughts from anyone on how to overcome the difficulties in being persuasive—not merely righteous, or even right—in issuing the demand “Bring them home. Now.”

Tenured Radical said...

Wow. Nice work John.

TR

PMG said...

I have a fond memory of a visit by military recruiters to Zenith while I was a student there. At the time Queer Alliance maintained a roster of drag queens (or at least drag queens for-the-day) who could be called into a action at a moment's notice. The call was made, and the recruiters spent the whole day surrounded by a circle of drag queens, fending off mock advances.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, if we give money to the "Iraqi freedom fighters" is that "opposition" or "treason"?

If we support the cause of the "Iraqi freedom fighters" by posting our support on the web is that "opposition" or "treason"?

If we put sugar in the gas tanks of the jeeps and Humvees is that "opposition" or "treason"?

If we do everything we can to ensure that the Army, in a time of war (with no draft), does not get soldiers is that "opposition" or "treason"?

Fine line there.

Ahistoricality said...

Here's one military policy worth opposing: the Bush administration wants to reduce GI-Bill educational benefits because good retirement benefits might reduce reenlistment rates. I think we can all get behind a push to weaken reenlistment rates by promoting higher education for veterans!

cantdance said...

for john, and TR:
I DON'T think more war will fix the problems we have caused in Iraq. Given that, what do you think the US should do? Just pull out and that's the end of it? Or do you think there is anything we can do to work towards fixing ongoing problems there, including those we've created? Also, is there anything we can do? I am often overwhelmed by the belief that we have stirred up sh**t we can't fix, that is bound to come back and make life worse for us, Iraq and other nations long into the future.

cantdance said...

oops, meant to say "is there anything we should do." And then is there anything we can do.

Anonymous said...

The characterization of the main violent players in Iraq as "freedom fighters" speaks to me of cultural projection. It seems to me that in most cases freedom is not the issue but rather power , dominance and control - who will make who obey whom and who will get the money to enforce his will through oil revenues. Please don't anyone respond that that is just what the US is doing....just please don't call them freedom fighters.

Justin L. said...

I found this article in the New York Times, about Berkeley's backtracking on opposing military recruitment in the city, to be particularly relevant to your post.

Alan Allport said...

one person's freedom fighter is another person's terrorist

The Sunni insurgents in Iraq, amongst other charming tactics, recently began using mentally handicapped victims as suicide bombers. If this desiccated who-am-I-to-judge? line is more than an affectation, you really ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear alan & all who are horrified by my use of the term "freedom fighters": War sucks. People are bad. But for all the commenters who find it impossible to imagine that there are ethical and moral differences among Iraqis, or that there is any legitimate reason why Iraqis want an American occupational force out of their country, you need to rethink this notion and the American colonial mentality it comes from. Who, and what, gave the United States a monopoly on the idea of freedom?

TR

Alan Allport said...

But for all the commenters who find it impossible to imagine that there are ethical and moral differences among Iraqis ...

Ahem ... if anyone is eliding the ethical and moral differences in Iraq, it's yourself. So the 'resistance' deliberately murder a few children and handicapped people? Hey dude, war sucks. People are bad. But don't get all judgmental about it. After all, one person's freedom fighter ... (and insert other placeholders for thought here).

John said...

Cantdance, you are almost undoubtedly right that we have stirred up shit we can’t fix in Iraq and that it will come back to haunt us. I share your concern with fixing ongoing problems, and as to whether we should try, I’d say yes. There is a long discussion to be had about how, and I won’t insult your intelligence by acting like I have all the answers and can lay them out in a blog comment. But one proposal I find compelling is granting U.S. asylum en masse to Iraqi refugees fleeing the strife in their country that the occupation has stirred up. If we feel responsible and want to help those driven to desperation and ruin by our foreign policy, why not allow them refuge here, rather than effectively telling them to suck it up, and try not to worry, because our troops are staying. I’d also argue we owe significant reparations for the damage we’ve done to Iraq. How and when they should be paid I’m not sure, but I would caution that it’s imperative to avoid handing out suitcases of money to the politicians we find accommodating, in the time-honored CIA-style.

However, that entire discussion only takes place after we have recognized that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a mistake is a failure. Let’s not confuse the responsibility we feel to solve problems we’ve caused with an a priori belief that we have the ability to solve those problems. This war was conceived and sold by ideologues who thought they could perfect the world, and I believe that a reluctance to admit that we cannot remake the world in accordance to our will is part of what sustains support for the military strategy. Iraq has become a terrorist beehive comparable only to Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation of the 80s (where the CIA-funded Osama bin Laden got his start). So it seems very likely that, as you say, we have stirred up shit we can’t fix. But perhaps with imagination, courage, and humility we can find ways to mitigate the blowback. Prior to that effort we must stop pretending that we can make friends at the barrel of a gun.

I was hoping to get more of a response to the problem I posed about how to frame the withdrawal argument more convincingly. I know there are lots of smart, experienced, left-leaning folks who hang out on this blog. Can anyone help?

Debrah said...

Such little masters of war on this page!

No one on the far left or the far right will ever win this argument.

However, both sides enjoy planting their sizable posteriors atop the fertile fields of this country cultivated by the blood of those who sacrificed everything.....

.......so those who "detest war" may even have the freedom to debate the issue.

expat said...

My original objection to the use of the words freedom fighters was very specific. Obviously, many people who murder others do so from a sense of ethics or religious or political beliefs or whatever motivates human beings. What I was pointing out is that in this case freedom is not one of those values-an objection to personal freedom is basic to their
belief structure . These fighters are about revenge, power, money,
purity,racist beliefs, sectarian religious struggles job control
resentment jealousy God children women sex battles that were lost 1200 years ago your brother decadence and a host of other things-but they are not fighting for freedom. But then there's the old pickle-is someone a freedom fighter if they are fighting to impose tyranny?

Debrah said...

"We will not die so that the world will think well of us."

Golda Meir

Tenured Radical said...

Expat:

I don't disagree with you -- although because what is wrong with Iraq is itself so much a part of several centuries of colonialism in the region, fixing it by imposing a solution that serves US interests seems wrong from the get-go. My memory is that you *are* living in the region -- I invite you to expand on your perspective as a guest blogger if you like. You have my email -- let me know.

And Alan -- I dunno, maybe we are both doing it -- but do you really think all the people dying over there at the hands of the US army are terrorists? The whole thing is a mess -- but no, I do not doubt that some people who are opposing the US occupation are doing so on grounds that many of us in the United States might find legibly ethical. Were the French Resistance, the Minutemen and the ANC *only* terrorists?

John -- I think you are doing a great job all on your own.

best,

TR

expat said...

The fighting in Iraq has much much deeper roots than European Colonialism which showed up long after battle lines had been drawn. Oil revenues have funded a violent replay of these original arguments and struggles in addition to a reactionary response to the inevitable encroachment of the modern world which challenges old beliefs and power structures- for example ,what we would call a priest class in Christianity.
I'm sorry, I had to make lunch for some children and I lost my train of thought but I'm posting this anyway.Like Mother's bridge where anyone gets to get up at anytime to change a diaper, stop a fight, drive a kid somewhere, fight with a husband or whatever and no questions asked.
signing off have fun

Alan Allport said...

Do you really think all the people dying over there at the hands of the US army are terrorists? The whole thing is a mess

I don't think that any faction in Iraq can claim to have clean hands, but I do think it's commonsensical to see that some factions (e.g. the Iraqi government in Baghdad), however imperfect (to put it mildly), are vastly preferable victors in this struggle than others. Throwing up your hands and saying 'it's such a big mess!' isn't an argument, it's a cop-out (and romanticizing the 'resistance' is worse than that: it's grotesque). The 'it's a mess' argument is the same BS excuse that Clinton used in the 1990s to excuse his lack of involvement in the Bosnian Wars, when it was plain that one side was more deserving of sympathy and support than the other. It may be clever-clever to argue about language here, but if you're so obsessed with your high-mindedness that you can't see that many of the people the US is fighting in Iraq are wicked and dangerous - well, I pity you.

adjunct whore said...

what are we as occupiers, Alan? spreading democracy throughout the world? bombing Iraqui civilians? and who exactly is the "Iraqui government"--who is in charge over there do you think?

i think your language of "shame" on you and "high-mindedness" seriously undermines discussion of a complex situation. if you can't critique the US occupation of Iraq, if you can't recognize the level of destruction we've brought in the name (and name only) of democracy for the benefit of, hmm, let's see, oh yeah, "us" (meaning oil executives and their companies), then maybe you should pull yourself out of your nationalist position and look through another lens.

i also think if you start trotting out a laundry list of deplorable things iraqui resistance resorts to in order to be heard, you should look also at US military and political strategy. we've got some pretty dirty laundry. and your position smacks of Hawk.

Anonymous said...

I can see that you are fishing for rationalizations for actions you wish to take.

[STEP 1] Let's stop military recruiting in our area.

[STEP 2] Let's think up a reason to stop military recruiting in our area.

Seems to me that "thought" usually precedes "action," and that if it is so onerous to think of a justification, the acts are unworthy.

There have been examples stated above, but how is it "supporting the troops" to deny them reinforcements of volunteer soldiers? We have seen a rough correlation between the number of troops and the amount of violence in the region.

How is it "supporting the troops" to make them stay longer in Iraq or endure additional tours of duty because of the lack of new volunteer recruits? It appears to me that the actions you suggest are only supporting a particular worldview.

Anonymous said...

Where I live, one day,some freedom fighters dressed in fake police uniforms. They drove down the main street to the Oil and Petroleum Building and shot up the people entering the building. Then they grabbed a 55 year old man-a geological engineer who happened to run the local offices of the British oil company and earns about $200,000 a year-tied his body to the back of their jeep, dragged him through the town and then threw him off a bridge.
Next stop was a compound of houses
where "infidels" live which they were unable to enter because the gates were locked so they shot up and set fire to a school bus across the street.The bus caught on fire and many children of different faiths and nationalities died. An Egyptian woman listened to her only child screaming as he burned to death. Chased by the real police
they hit another unlocked compound
and murdered the gatemen.They began running around a residential compound with automatic weapons shooting anyone they saw and going house to house shouting "bring out the infidels" who were murdered if found.They didn't shoot foreign muslims. They then ran into a large apartment building on the premises , took all the foreign workers hostage and wired the building threatening to kill everyone and blow up the adjacant hospital.The Indian chef and laborers were hogtied for nine hours of a stand-off with the police and tried to escape so their
throats were cut ,they were beheaded ,and their heads were placed on the iron fence posts around the houses.This is because they were Hindu and defiled the land.Then these guys escaped.
I guess you think that US bombs are worse and this is nothing in comparison or they were just trying to make themselves heard-I don't know.But it made me think again.

Anonymous said...

Do you live in New Jersey?

Anonymous said...

That was very funny.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, that was very funny. Whenever I'm haunted by those events in the future I will think of your question and I will laugh and the gloom will be dispelled a little.

Anonymous said...

There are those on the right who condider today's troops 'mercenaries' who join not out of real American patriotism, but to prostitute their service in exchange for lavish pay and benefits and a 'free' education.

Then there are those on the left who consider ALL of today's troops 'war criminals.'

It is amazing how truly clueless Americans of today are.