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On supporting the troops

Filed in: Iraq, personal, politics, vent, Mon, May 19 2008 13:57 PT

I have a sister who’s 18. She’s studying nursing at Northern Arizona University, and I’m really proud of her. Occasionally, though, she sends me chain letters, and I just got one from her today. It consists of couplets contrasting our relative comfort against the struggle of our soldiers in the Middle East:

You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls.
He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

You’re angry because your class ran 5 minutes over.
He’s told he will be held over an extra 2 months.

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything.
He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

And so on. It ends:

If you support your troops, send this to 7 people.
If you don’t support your troops well, then don’t send this out.
You won’t die in 7 days, your love life won’t be affected, and you won’t have the worst day ever.
You don’t have to email this. It’s not like you know the men and women that are dying to preserve your rights.

And that was enough to set me off.

The classic subtext in the “support the troops” argument is that those who oppose the administration’s objectives in prosecuting the war are somehow “against” the troops. Which is like saying you hate your favorite sports team simply because you think the owner or general manager is a bum. Actually, it’s far worse than that: it is to suggest that you therefore hate each player to the extent that you don’t care if they die.

During the first Gulf War, I was proud to wear a yellow ribbon because I was proud of the individuals that make up the military, if not the proverbial owners and general managers. That’s still true today, individual crimes and misdemeanors notwithstanding. But the yellow ribbon is now driven by that quiet dual meaning, and I won’t wear one because it’s more important for me to be clear about my divided opinions of the management versus the rank and file.

What really got to me about this letter was that it reminded me of a story from my past, and since my sister was so young, I thought it best to relay it to her:

So, you probably don’t remember this, since you were 2 at the time. But during the first Gulf War, there was a billboard on the railroad between Santa Fe and Butler (in Flagstaff, Arizona) that had a “We Support The Troops” sign. One night, someone went up and papered over the words “the troops” with “Death and Destruction”. The next day, my friend David and I climbed up 20 feet onto the billboard to scrape it off. And I’d do it again.

So if you ever meet whoever started this chain letter, tell them I said if they think I don’t support the troops because I won’t forward their preachy, jingoist message, they can FUCK RIGHT OFF. For real.

Nothing personal. I still love you. It just pisses me off like nothing else when people confuse being against the war with being against soldiers. I care a lot about the soldiers, and I’m willing to do a hell of a lot more than start a chain letter if it would help make them safe, strong and free.


Gunter Grass: America’s moral decline

Filed in: Iraq, quotes, Sat, Apr 12 2003 02:45 PT

Gunter Grass

“There are many Americans who love their country too, people who are horrified by the betrayal of their founding values and by the hubris of those holding the power. I stand with them. By their side, I declare myself pro-American. I protest with them against the brutalities brought about by the injustice of the mighty, against all restrictions of the freedom of expression, against information control reminiscent of the practices of totalitarian states and against the cynical equations that make the deaths of so many innocents acceptable so long as economic and political interests are protected.”

Nobel laureate Gunter Grass, in an editorial on America’s moral decline

Eulogy for Lori

Filed in: Iraq, Fri, Apr 11 2003 03:43 PT

Lori Piestewa

The London Guardian has an article on Lori Piestewa, the 23-year-old Hopi woman who died in combat in Iraq. As I mentioned earlier, she went to the same high school in Tuba City, Arizona that I did, and was in the same Marine Corps Junior ROTC. As much as it upsets me to hear about the death of a soldier off in a foreign land, this article brought home a sickening American cycle: using the children of those who have been exploited for resources over the centuries to exploit another people for its resources.

The article describes the crushing poverty in the Navajo and Hopi nations (and among native Americans), and the fact that it does draw a number of poor minorities to join the military as a way out. This is common practice in the military, whether they’re picking them off the rez or from the inner city.

What the article misses is this: The native American governments, whether you call them nations or reservations or whatever, are exemplary of what happens when the United States government “partners” with a country that has resources it can use. Just south of Tuba City, and elsewhere in the area, are coal mines. Peabody Coal has run them for several decades, abusing native land for big profits (and to fuel Los Angeles and Las Vegas), wasting billions of gallons of water annually for a coal slurry, giving their employees black lung, and leaving the detritus as Superfund sites. Billions of dollars were plundered from this region over the years, and for their trouble, the people of the Navajo and Hopi nations have almost nothing to show for it.

The cycle begins again in Iraq.

What? The Iraqis don’t all love us?

Filed in: Iraq, quotes, Thu, Apr 10 2003 16:11 PT

An American marine in front of a torn-down portrait of Saddam Hussein

“I’m going to exercise my right of free speech for the first time in my life – we want you out of here as soon as possible.”

An Iraqi civilian to an American marine, quoted in a BBC article, 10 April 2003

“Trigger-Happy” Marines in Nasiriya

Filed in: Iraq, quotes, Fri, Apr 4 2003 03:47 PT

“The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,” said Corporal Ryan Dupre. “I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin’ Iraqi. No, I won’t get hold of one. I’ll just kill him.” … Suddenly, some of the young men who had crossed into Iraq with me reminded me now of their fathers’ generation, the trigger-happy grunts of Vietnam. Covered in the mud from the violent storms, they were drained and dangerously aggressive.

Mark Franchetti of the Times of London, Slaughter at the Bridge of Death, 31 Mar 2003

These are the soldiers who will be walking our city streets when they come home. It’s that nasty little side effect of living by the sword.

Fight the Power

Filed in: Iraq, Thu, Apr 3 2003 01:57 PT

poster for Seattle anti-war protest on 15 February

Today, two spins on antiwar activism. Ryan Hastings recounts (in great detail) his arrest in Austin, Texas for civil disobedience in front of CSC, whose subsidiary is a war supplier.

And, the first American conscientious objector is Stephen Eagle Funk, from Seattle.

Russians: US death toll at 100

Filed in: Iraq, Web, Tue, Apr 1 2003 18:51 PT

Based on the radio intercepts and internal information networks of the US field hospitals as of this morning the coalition losses include no less than 100 killed US servicemen and at least 35 dead British soldiers. Additionally, some 22 American and 11 British soldiers are officially considered to be missing in action and the whereabouts of another 400 servicemen are being established. The number of wounded has exceeded 480 people. […] Russian military analysts believe that the critical for the US duration of the war would be over 90 days provided that during that time the coalition will sustain over 1,000 killed. Under such circumstances a serious political crisis in the US and in the world will be unavoidable.

From a Russian intelligence report on the war in Iraq, 31 Mar 2003

Google: “9/11 showed…”

Filed in: Iraq, lists, Fri, Mar 28 2003 19:56 PT

One of my least favorite lines of argument in recent times is “September 11th showed…”. It sounds to me like a trump card when it’s used, a shallow attempt at co-opting the meaning of the events of that day, a boatload of fallacies (bandwagon, appeal to consequences, post hoc, hasty generalization, wishful thinking) wrapped up in an easy-to-carry bundle. I found it most recently in a treatise advocating American aggression in hawk-friendly Foreign Policy magazine.

So I wanted to see how many people have tried this approach, and the top 4 permutations total over 3600 hits on Google, or just under seven new things 9/11 has shown us per day. If you throw in what 9/11 “taught” us, the figure jumps to over 5000, or around nine lessons per day. And you pesky foreign types say we Americans never learn stuff!

  • “September 11th showed”: 545 hits
  • “September 11th taught”: 332 hits
  • “September 11 showed”: 1810 hits
  • “September 11 taught”: 635 hits
  • “9/11 showed”: 805 hits
  • “9/11 taught”: 390 hits
  • “11 September showed”: 478 hits
  • “11 September taught”: 48 hits

Wolff on useless press briefings

Filed in: Iraq, media, Thu, Mar 27 2003 23:59 PT

“I mean no disrespect by this question, but I want to ask about the value proposition of these briefings. We’re no longer being briefed by senior-most officers. To the extent that we get information, it’s largely information already released by the Pentagon. You may know that ABC has sent its senior correspondent home. So I guess my question is, why should we stay? What’s the value to us for what we learn at this million-dollar press center?”

Michael Wolff of New York magazine, questioning Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at the US press center in Doha, Qatar, 27 Mar 2003

War euphemism: funding the war

Filed in: Iraq, 14:25 PT

Funding the war: Filling one’s tank with gasoline, ex:

“Are we ready to go to the mall?”

“Almost. We have to stop at the gas station first and fund the war.”

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