Troops Suck Up to Bush, Ask for Support
By Ted Rall
-- -- COLUMBUS, OHIO--Over a year ago, in March 2006, the
military newspaper Stars and Stripes published the results of a
Zogby poll of troops serving in Iraq. 72 percent said U.S.
forces should withdraw within a year. Twenty-five percent
thought we should pull out right away. But 85 percent said a
major reason they were there was "to retaliate for Saddam's role
in the September 11 attacks." These people are confused, to say
Even more confusing is the persistent flow of complaints by Iraq
War veterans that Americans on the home front are partying like
it's 2009 while their comrades back in Vichy Mesopotamia are
getting blown up.
Army infantry officer Will Bardenwerper gave voice to this
oft-stated sentiment in an October 20th New York Times op/ed.
"As I began my 13-month deployment (in Tal Afar, Iraq)," wrote a
dispirited Bardenwerper, "I imagined an American public
following our progress with the same concern as my family and
friends. But since returning home, I have seen that America has
changed the channel." He was struck by "the disparity between
the lives of the few who are fighting and being killed, and the
many who have been asked for nothing more than to continue
Typical suggestions for fairer distribution of sacrifice and a
military draft--the latter to obtain additional manpower and
inspire antiwar marchers to fill the streets like they did
during Vietnam--follow. At least he left out the usual calls for
victory gardens and gas rationing.
The war sucks. On that point, the millions of Americans who were
against it from the start (and the many millions more who've
come around to agreeing with us) agree with the soldiers serving
in it. Forced reenlistment through the "stop-loss" loophole is
placing thousands of lives in suspended animation, destroying
marriages and small businesses. Troops aren't getting enough
It's also true that Americans have stopped paying attention. I'm
a news junkie. And even I flip the page past the same old "2
Dead, 7 Wounded in IED Blast" headline.
But hey, soldier, you volunteered. If not for you, there
wouldn't be a war in the first place.
"Supporting the troops means supporting their mission." That's
been the mantra of the pro-war right. It's been hard for those
of us who oppose the war to argue with them because so many of
the troops have repeatedly allowed themselves to be used as
propaganda shills for Bush Administration officials and the
Republican Party in general.
It's bad enough that a majority of soldiers voted for Bush in
2004. Over and over since the war began, American troops have
been seen on television applauding Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and
others whose cynical recklessness have sent their buddies to
their graves. Sailors cheered wildly when Bush staged his
notorious "Mission Accomplished" photo op on an aircraft
carrier. They swooned when he joined them for Thanksgiving
dinner in Baghdad.
"The shocked and elated soldiers jumped to their feet, pumped
their fists in the air, roared with delight, and grabbed their
cameras to snap photographs," reported CNN about Bush's visit. A
"standing ovation" followed. "It gave us a little extra oomph,"
said a member of the 1st Armored Division. "It really boosted my
morale," said another. No one heckled or booed the imposter
president. No one threw tomatoes. No one told him where he could
stick his plastic turkey.
Even after soldiers get killed, their parents promote the war so
their dead kids won't be lonely in heaven. At Fort Benning,
Georgia met Deb Tainsh, whose son was killed by a roadside bomb
near the Baghdad Airport. She presented Bush with more than 100
e-mails from parents of soldiers who have died or are presently
serving in Iraq. "Every one of these letters says, 'Mr.
President, we support you,'" she said. "The consensus is that
they...want him to do everything he can to win this war and that
our prayers are with him."
"Bush, 61, has so far met with more than 1,500 relatives of the
4,255 American troops who have lost their lives in Iraq and
Afghanistan," the Bloomberg News wire service reported last
week. "In most of the meetings, [Bush's] aides say, he hears
support for his policies, hardening his resolve to stay the
course in Afghanistan and Iraq." Few Gold Star mothers tell him
off. Those who do are polite to the man who murdered their
children as surely and as viciously as if he'd shot them
himself. Why don't they spit at him?
Four years after the WMDs and liberation flora failed to turn
up, people still enlist. After soldiers die, their parents
insist that theirs was a noble sacrifice. Tell me again: Why
should I care about the war? Why shouldn't I go shopping?
Soldiers who want antiwar Americans to march to demand that they
be brought home should take a cue from Vietnam veterans. They
marched with peace protesters and threw their medals at the
Capitol. Soldiers serving on the front refused orders. Some
fragged their officers. Vietnam Veterans Against the War claimed
more than 50,000 members by 1971. That year saw numerous
dramatic acts of dissent by U.S. troops, including 50 veterans
who marched to the Pentagon and demanded that they be arrested
as war criminals. Fifteen vets took over and barricaded the
Statue of Liberty for two days. These acts swayed opinions and
helped convince lawmakers it was time to withdraw.
Some soldiers in Iraq have offered resistance. After being
denied conscientious objector status, Petty Officer Third Class
Pablo Paredes went AWOL in 2004. He was sentenced to two months
in the brig and three months hard labor. Army First Lieutenant
Ehren Watada refused to be sent to Iraq in 2006, telling the
media that the war's illegality would make him a party to war
crimes. Army Specialist Darrell Anderson, faced with a second
tour of duty after being wounded by a roadside bomb, deserted
and fled to Canada. "I went to Iraq willingly," said Anderson.
"I wanted to die for my country. I thought I was going to go
there and protect my family back home. All I was doing was
killing other families there." The Army decided not to prosecute
him. Several other deserters have applied for political asylum
in Canada, but they're only a fraction of the thousands who went
there during the 1960s and 1970s.
When Bill Clinton was president, Republicans said he should be
afraid to speak at military bases. That should go double for
Bush. The next he shows up to use you as a TV prop, soldiers and
fellow Americans, boo the crap out of him. What's the worst he
can do? Kill you?
Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is
Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and
graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy
challenge. Visit his website http://www.rall.com/
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