Thursday, April 01, 2004

I was in a convenience store today and noticed a flyer for a “Support the Troops” party in a nearby town. I was a little surprised that they didn’t use the more patriotically correct “Support OUR Troops” title, but so be it.

According to the rhetoric, these rallies are designed to thank the men and women in uniform who are defending our freedom at home and abroad.

I don’t have any inherent problem with such parties as such. My best friend from college, an Army lieutenant, is “in the Baghdad area” right now. One of my best friends from high school, also in the Army, just got back from that part of the world. So my concern for what happens to troops over there is slightly more than theoretical.

But one thing I’ve noticed is that these rallies only seem to occur during wars popular with the right. There were many of them during the 1st Gulf War, some during Afghanistan and a ton since the Iraq invasion. But I don’t remember any being held during Somalia or Haiti or Bosnia or Kosovo. We “support our troops” during patriotically correct wars when we kick the crap out of little countries with unfriendly regimes. But when the intervention is something less macho, with less chest thumping (like stopping genocide or feeding starving people), general apathy prevails.

If you accept the questionable premise that the military is actually deployed in order to defend our freedoms, then weren’t they doing so in 1999? Why did people wait until 2002 to hold marches and wear little ribbons?

In my town, there were a few anti-war protests on Saturday mornings. And then suddenly after three or four, a “support our troops” rally on another part of the same intersection started occurring every week at the same time as the anti-war rallies. In reality, these marches were more like pro- and anti-Bush marches. From “drop Bush, not bombs” chants on one side to “support our troops and our president” signs on the other. This is why I attended only one anti-war rally and stopped once I realized what it really was.

There’s a retired lieutenant colonel who stands every day at a local intersection with a giant “If you love your freedoms, thank a vet” sign. When interviewed by the paper, he got angry that us evil peaceniks assumed he was pro-war (even though his statements suggested that the peaceniks were anti-soldier).

Yet, I never saw him at that intersection with that until the debate over Iraq started raging; I never saw him there until after the anti-war demonstrations started. If he’d been out there in 2000 or 2001, his indignant outrage might’ve been more plausible. In fairness, he’s still out there with his sign even though the larger pro- and anti-war/Bush rallies have stopped so I do give him a some credit.

Nevertheless, this is why I’m dubious about these support the troops rallies. Especially considering the demagogic intermingling of “support our troops and our president.” For a long while, there was a pervasive mentality that criticizing the president’s actions was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And although some, like “Democratic” Sen. Zell Miller (who speaks of "warriors and wimps" while dodging bullets and mortars at the US Capitol), still push this garbage, such bullying mentality is thankfully becoming less and less potent as people start thinking critically.

If you want to support the troops, then don’t send them into harm’s way just because some two-bit banana republic dictator said the president’s momma wears combat boots. If such patriotically incorrect thoughts mean I don’t get invited to the party, then so be it.

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