Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, March 18, 2007

  Supporting the troops passive-aggressively

Sickening spectacle this weekend as apologists for George Bush seek to excuse the unprovoked invasion of Iraq four years ago—by putting his critics on the defensive. It appears to me that the news media, ever eager to distract from its own culpability, has played along by pretending that the nation is divided about the Iraq War.

The problem though is that Americans have turned against the war decisively. So how do you smear the majority of the public? Now that wrapping oneself in the flag has lost its cachet, and only a few fools continue to believe that we are "winning" the civil war, cheerleaders have to resort to increasingly desperate ploys.

The favorite mind game is to bitch and moan that critics are careless of the troops and their families. A shred of human decency, it's implied, and they'd know enough to keep their mouths shut. But all recklessly, Bush's critics are undermining troop morale.

That's a self-actuating justification, wouldn't you know. Criticism becomes more intense the more Bush's war falls apart, which thus validates the charge that war critics are to blame by not "supporting the troops".


How often do journalists, rather than parroting that nonsense, instead point out that none of the cheerleaders' assumptions makes the slightest sense?

  • That they can't claim to know what affects troop morale in Iraq

  • That the insecurity in Iraq is due to the administration's own policies, not to criticisms of Bush

  • That the fiasco came to fruition in a period in which public criticism of Bush's policies was muted and oversight by the Republican Congress virtually non-existent

  • That there are several ways in which the Bush administration demonstrably has failed to "support" the troops, and that these are specific rather than vaguely defined failures

  • That critics would scarcely endure years of demonization from Bush's supporters for speaking out, if they did not care about the troops' welfare

Obvious points all, but you won't see many journalists raising them. For who wants to take responsibility for demolishing the last refuge of Republican partisans? Even-handedness, it seems, requires the media to permit fantasists their fantasies.


And with reality threatening every day to intrude upon the cherished fantasy, Bush's supporters have turned to the tools of passive-aggression. A classic of this type was printed today as an op-ed in the Morning Call, written by the aunt of a Pennsylvania Marine killed last month in Iraq. I'll grant you that grief affects people in unpredictable ways. Yet this is truly an obnoxious, and characteristic, attack upon the war's critics:

I am writing because I need to let the citizens of the United States know that I support our troops over in Iraq. Whether or not we agree with this war, let it be known, that our troops are fighting for the freedoms that we take for granted.

Twin themes, both of them false—that war critics don't "support" our troops, and that the troops are fighting in Iraq for our freedom.

They are feeling that we in America are not behind them, and I agree with them. We have people who talk against the war and do not realize our soldiers take this personally, and feel it is directed at them. If you do not agree with the war, that is your right. However, you have this right to disagree or protest because of soldiers who are fighting for that right, just as our forefathers fought for freedom.

I'm astounded to learn that my right to protest was ever in question, and even more that I have the right because of the invasion of Iraq. The only possible reason for making such absurd claims is to set up the Republican talking-point that the only acceptable way to exercise the right to criticize the government is by not exercising it.

There are Marines in Iraq that feel this way. We need to stand behind our military and put aside our feelings on this because we are lowering the morale of the soldiers. They feel alone and that no one cares. But, our soldiers do have people here who care and are willing to stand up with them and for them. Most of them do not question why they are there.

A series of wild assertions, or I should say, thinly veiled accusations. I particularly enjoy the notion that troops we've sent into the midst of a civil war are not in any way troubled by that, but regularly sit on their bunks sobbing because people back home are expressing divergent opinions about the war. It's not the death and mayhem in Iraq, the deteriorating conditions, the administration lies, or the receding horizons, that shake up our soldiers and sailors. It's the pointed op-eds back home that really crush morale.


I suppose in 21st century America it's considered gauche to ask that people inform themselves of some relevant history before delivering their pronouncements about, say, attitudes toward civilians among veterans of long wars. You wouldn't have to look back very far, however, to find evidence that soldiers can grow deeply cynical after years of war. Alienation from the citizens back home becomes especially likely when, as happened during the First World War, civilians mindlessly accept the government's propaganda about how well the war is going and how gung-ho the soldiers are. European troops felt this alienation more profoundly than Americans because of the limited duration of our involvement in that war. But the fact is that a generation of young survivors felt contempt for the civilians back home with their fantasies about the "Great War".

In other words, if Americans choose to buy all the happy-talk from Bush & Co., we'll virtually guarantee that large numbers of returning vets will feel unable to re-integrate fully into society. Is that what the Republican talking-points aim for? An infantilized population that can't or won't seriously face up to the implications of warfare?

If this op-ed is any indication, that's what the propaganda has achieved. For after complaining about those who criticize the Bush administration's conduct of the war, the author concludes by complaining that troops in Iraq are poorly equipped.

Doesn't anyone out there really care what happens to these men and women who put their lives on the line everyday?

Has the author given the slightest thought to who has been trying to force Bush & Co. to remedy the equipment shortages and failures? Does she imagine it is the Tinkerbell wing ('clap-louder') of the Republican Party? Or could it possibly be the critics she accuses of undermining morale by ignoring all those schools being built in Iraq? The ones who insist, you know, on criticizing the administration's screw ups?


The early 1970s witnessed plenty of unprincipled attacks upon public figures who had had the bad taste to warn against the Vietnam fiasco early and often. Those who were most complicit in the war were desperate to paint the war critics as dangerous fools, at a minimum, if not cowardly and unpatriotic. The same cycle has already begun to repeat itself.

If there ever was any doubt that the war's critics would come in for sustained and ruthless attacks, in an effort to distract from the real responsibility for the mess in Iraq, then the letter printed today by Dear Abby ought to put those doubts to rest.

The author, a certain "Katrina" from Fayetteville NC, complains that somebody posted a rude comment about military wives on My Space, and from this she generalizes that all military wives are under attack by war critics.

Lately, more and more people are openly speaking out against the war in Iraq, as is their right.

Once again the self-congratulatory willingness to permit people to speak their minds...even openly...turns out to be a prelude to whacking them down for being heartless or cruel.

However, people are also speaking out against soldiers, and now, even their wives.

Which people? The author claims to know of only a single commenter on line, and yet Jeanne Phillips can't even be bothered to verify the truth of that one alleged incident. The letter concludes:

Our men fight for the rights some people take for granted. Please keep that in mind.

And again, the ridiculous insinuation that the war in Iraq is being fought to guarantee the right of free speech, a right that war critics abuse. Phillips falls all over herself endorsing the author's views:

I am pleased to help you get the message across. But please do not stop with me. Spread the word on any site you feel the need to...

It can't be long before Dear Abby begins running apocryphal stories about returning Iraq vets being spit upon at anti-war rallies. Democrats in Congress, we'll also be told, kicked the crutches out from under their arms. And I shudder to think what bloggers will be exposed for having done to the orphans and widows of vets. As the war-supporters feel themselves most vulnerable, you can be sure the propaganda will become ever nastier.


A note in closing for Journalists: The American public for a long time has been in no doubt that invading Iraq was foolish and destructive. The nation is not divided against itself, much less against its military.

It's the GOP that is divided about whether to face up to reality. When you report on war cheerleaders, please tell us where they stand inside the fractured Republican Party. Because their positions are about partisan politics, not about patriotism or any concern about "supporting the troops".

crossposted from Unbossed

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