WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
By Sharon Smith | March 21, 2003 | Page 7
"SUPPORT OUR troops" is the slogan of warmongers, designed to sow confusion by equating opposition to the war with betraying U.S. troops. War apologists from the Democratic Party are already parroting this slogan, on the assumption that opposition to war should disappear the moment it actually starts.
As Democratic presidential hopeful and prior war critic Sen. John Kerry put it, "When the war begins I support the troops and I support the United States of America winning as rapidly as possible."
A rapid U.S. victory happens also to be George W. Bush's goal. After the United Nations (UN) Security Council fiasco, the Bush administration desperately needs to distract the public from the fact that all the heads of state from its "coalition of the willing" could fit comfortably into a phone booth.
Perhaps Bush hopes that impassioned pleas to "support our troops" will help Americans overlook the fact that much of the Bush administration, including Bush and Cheney, managed to avoid ever risking their own lives in Vietnam. As Cheney explained, he "had other priorities than military service," as he received deferment after deferment during the Vietnam War.
The troops now fighting in Iraq are overwhelmingly from the working class--many reservists who joined up for a college education and now find themselves fighting their second war in a year. Racial minorities--mainly Blacks and Latinos--make up 45 percent of the Army, the largest branch of the U.S. military.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay lectured recently, "You can't say on the one hand you support the troops, and on the other hand, plant the seed of doubt in their minds as to why they may be putting themselves at risk." (DeLay, for the record, explains his own lack of military service, which he avoided to start an exterminating business, this way: "So many minority youths had volunteered that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like myself." Hmm.)
But DeLay needn't worry about planting seeds of doubt among soldiers. As the New York Daily News reported on March 16 from Kuwait, "Doubts about going to war can be heard openly in conversations among the troops gathered in tents at night."
Even the Wall Street Journal commented, after interviewing troops in Kuwait--many deployed from bases in Germany--on the "pacifist" sympathies many expressed for Germany's opposition to the war.
Arab News last week described the unenthusiastic mood among U.S. troops headed for the Gulf in a jammed military transport plane: "They do not want [war], and they're not happy with President Bush's--as one GI put it--'cowboy gung-ho attitude.'" And a Catholic Chaplain told the New York Daily News of a fighter pilot who sought counsel "not just about his personal fears, but about the prospect of killing innocent civilians."
U.S. military pilots should be tormented at the prospect of dropping 800 cruise missiles on Iraq in the first 48 hours of war--more than twice the number used during the entire 1991 Gulf War, which killed as many as 200,000 Iraqis.
"[Gen.] Tommy Franks has loaded up this plan with so much air power that the U.S. Army wouldn't even have to show up and we would still win," said an analyst from the Lexington Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
What DeLay really fears is soldiers' doubts growing into a full-scale rebellion, as happened during Vietnam. By the late 1970s, there were roughly 70 antiwar newspapers in circulation among U.S. troops in Vietnam. And discontent among the troops led them to organize, refuse to follow orders--and ultimately, turn on their commanding officers.
DeLay's "support" for U.S. troops would quickly evaporate in these circumstances. "Support our troops" is a slogan dripping with hypocrisy--coming from those who send working-class troops to fight for U.S. interests and then turn their backs on them when their bodies are ravaged by war-related illnesses such as Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome.
U.S. troops have no more interest in waging this war than the Iraqi civilians they are meant to slaughter.