Support the Troops?
Outpost of Freedom
March 24, 1999
Just about a decade ago, I sat, one evening, in a sports bar across the street from my office. We had talked the proprietor into leaving the news on the television above the booth we were seated in. CNN was broadcasting, live, from Baghdad. Soon, the anticipated word and video began feeding over the airwaves. Cruise missiles were detonating on impact, and another undeclared war had begun.
My position on Desert Storm had remained unchanged, in the months proceeding that evening. My willingness to speak out, however, was curtailed, drastically, once the people began to die. My reasoning, I felt at the time, was quite sound.
Being a Vietnam Veteran, I am fully aware of the consequences of lack of support from those at home. In retrospect, however, I now realize that while ‘in country’, I could care less what those at home were saying or doing. In fact, you could say that the anti-war people actually helped to raise our spirits. They were the brunt of our jokes and became the source for many stories and claims of what we were going to do when we returned to "the land of the round eyed women."
Taking the position that it was wrong to condemn an action – once troops were committed to battle -- was an easy way out. I’m sure that Hitler used the same argument in maintaining support throughout World War II.
Of course, with the exception of Korea, Vietnam was a staging ground for a concept that has become known as "peacemaking." So, whether it is my age (maturity?) or just plain getting used to the deceit, I can no longer abide to the conditions that imposed silence upon me as we entered Iraq.
Perhaps a greater good is served by being outspoken about the improper use of United States military forces as policemen for the world. After all, it was as support for the anti-war movement grew, in the sixties, that Richard Nixon began backing away (with honor?) from the decade of conflict that couldn’t be won. Fifty-eight thousand Americans dead and the war was finally coming to an end. Would it have done so had the actions of the anti-war crowd been silenced by this self-imposed obligation to ‘hush up"?
Once I was able to cast off the dogma of silence, I began to think even more of consequences of our youth’s willingness to enter harm’s way to force others into compliance with American dictates. I remember speaking to Michael New months before the fateful day arrived when he had to put up, or shut up. He had told me that nearly all of the troops in his unit had supported him in his position, but refused, for one of two reasons, to support him openly, or take similar steps. First were the career types, not wanting to loose what they had invested in. Their retirement package would be severely jeopardized. The other reason was the job security, and guaranteed education that would provide upon completion of the contractual enlistment.
Are these reasons worthy of our concept of Freedom and Liberty? I’m sure that the German soldiers were equally intimidated into obedience. Likewise, the American soldiers who fought World War II, unwilling to stand, outspokenly, against American involvement in foreign affairs.
There was a song that was popular in parts of the United States, back in the mid-sixties, which was banned from military installations throughout the world. "Universal Soldier", written by Buffie Sainte-Marie and performed by "Donovan" Forte (I’ll be happy to post the lyrics to that song, if enough request it. opf) The song, rather hauntingly, reminds us that wars cannot be fought without soldiers. Had I refused to go to Vietnam, as did many that I met in the years to follow, along with tens of thousands of others, the war would have terminated years before it did.
Today, I can honestly say that I believe that if we take a strong position against offensive wars, especially those in which our ‘national interest’ is nebulous, at best, we can save thousands of American’s lives, and, perhaps, millions of other peoples lives.
To achieve the state of mind necessary to hold the mental doctrine just described, it is also necessary to go one step further, or, perhaps, two. The first is to harden oneself into accepting that those "universal soldiers" who are willing to fight without a sense of moral obligation, are also willing to die. And, so be it. I can have no compulsion to fear for them. I must take my position with a greater sense of good than comes from hoping that a murderer is not punished for his crime.
The second state of mind has an historical legal principal. The legal principal is Mens Rea (criminal intent), which principal also includes committing a crime to prevent a greater crime from being committed. Examples of this principal might include those who were charged with harboring a fugitive in helping ‘draft dodgers’ (Not Clinton, the sincere ones) flee to Canada during Vietnam. It might also include, should the fortunes of this country return to moral goodness, those who do WHATEVER is necessary to discourage American involvement in unjustified foreign interventions. Would that include shooting a congressman who supports the murdering of citizens of a foreign, sovereign nation? Probably as much as shooting the guy getting ready to shoot your neighbor!
Those with a strong sense of morality, however, need not be tempted with the promise of possible legal salvation. The moral salvation that comes from doing right, even if the act to achieve the right is wrong, should be sufficient to move many in a course that just might restore our country to the Godliness it once enjoyed.
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