One of the biggest obstacles of the anti-war movement is overcoming jingoism (patriotism + militarism). It permeates through so many aspects of our lives. From video games to television and radio shows to clothing fashions.
Malcolm X once said, "You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it."
Perhaps I am being too harsh or confrontational, but I feel it needs to be said.
I DO NOT “support our troops.”
How can I?
Why should I?
How does it even make sense to assert that we can oppose the war but still support the troops (unless it is by bringing them home now)?
Is this some kind of polemical obfuscation designed to appease the right and left wing of American politics? (I think so.)
If I were to say I support a rapist but not the rape I would immediately, and rightfully, be dismissed as a looney, an apologist, an absolute moron.
How can the two be separated?
Without the rapist there could be no rape!
Without the thief there could be no robbery!
Without the murderer there could be no murder!
Without the drug dealer there could be no drug trafficking!
Without the criminal there could be no crime!
We get this. This is easy to digest. It is understandable. And it doesn’t challenge the internalized sense of jingoism that prevails through much of American society.
So, can we really separate the war from the soldiers, especially when we have a volunteer army and existing laws that say they are only bound to lawful orders? No. A thousand times NO!
Who carries out the rape? The rapist.
Who carries out the war? The soldier.
If following unlawful orders were a legitimate excuse to get off the hook then the Manson Girls would have gotten off scott free.
To offend, or not to offend, that is the question.
Noam Chomsky once said “if you are not offending those who ought to be offended, you’re doing something wrong.”
But at the same time Chomsky has also brought us profound wisdom with this statement:
“We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.”
So is offending the jingoist tendencies worth the consequences of reflexive rejection to such offenses?
These tendencies come in many shades. Some are outright belligerent and some are less so. Some feel that while they oppose the war we should still support the troops until the “finish the job.”
But that just opens up another question. Should we be allowed to continue our aggression? Would we have tolerated Saddam Hussein to finish his job in Kuwait? Should his troops have been “supported”? Putting our actions in context of similar actions by officially designated enemies might help sober us.
I don’t pretend to speak for others and willfully admit that my own views are subject to change, but at the moment I feel we should speak directly and clearly.
I do not support the troops. Now this doesn’t mean I do not support them as human beings. It does not mean that I do not want to reach them and their sense of reason and decency. Because I most certainly do. However, I do feel the polemical obfuscations of claiming one supports the actor but not the act is self-defeating; an exercise in futility. The two cannot be separated and as such we must conclude that if the act is undesirable then supporting the actor is undesirable too.
In closing I want to return to Chomsky again:
"We have to ask ourselves whether what is needed in the United States is dissent – or denazification. The question is a debatable one. Reasonable people may differ. The fact that the question is even debatable is a terrifying thing. To me it seems that what is needed is a kind of denazification."
PS: I am not sure if Noam would agree with how and what I am using his quotes for, but I do find them relevant.