“Support our troops” – apologism for the crimes of war

In the wake of the more recent developments in the Afghanistan war, which I’ve commented on at length in Truth, Reason & Liberty, I received – for a second time – a spam email that has been circulating about the military and the supposed need to “support our troops.” It reads like this:

You stay up for 16 hours.
He stays up for days on end.

You take a warm shower to help you wake up.
He goes days or weeks without running water.

You complain of a “headache”, and call in sick.
He gets shot at as others are hit, and keeps moving forward.
You put on your anti war/don’t support the troops shirt, and go meet up with your friends.
He still fights for your right to wear that shirt.

You talk trash about your “buddies” that aren’t with you.
He knows he may not see some of his buddies again.

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

You complain about how hot it is.
He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow.

You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong.
He doesn’t get to eat today.

Your maid makes your bed and washes your clothes.
He wears the same things for weeks, but makes sure his weapons are clean.

You go to the mall and get your hair redone.
He doesn’t have time to brush his teeth today.

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

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight.
He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do everyday.
He holds his letter close and smells his love’s perfume.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries.
He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they’ll ever meet.

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.

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him.
He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

You see only what the media wants you to see.
He sees the broken bodies lying around him.

You are asked to go to the store by your parents. You don’t.
He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger.

You stay at home and watch TV.
He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable.
He tries to sleep but get woken up by mortars and helicopters all night long.

You sit there and judge them, saying the world is probably a worse place because of people like him
If only there were more people like him

There is obvious propaganda value in such an email, emphasising the intense hardships that soldiers have to go through whilst playing on a ridiculous stereotype of those opposed to war as Middle Class college kids with maids. More than ridiculous, the very premise behind it is patronising beyond belief. I also baulk at the idea that the military “fights for your right” to do anything when, as I’ve previously discussed, it is working class militancy and direct action against the state to which I owe my freedoms.

The reason I wanted to draw attention to it, however, is that it emphasises the point I made in a previous article – the folly of Patriotism – that “the whole mantra of “respect our troops” or “back our boys” is nothing more than dogma meant to inspire an almost religious fervour for war.”

Noam Chomsky made a similar point in an interview ;

Anything that’s totally vacuous and diverts, after all what does it mean to be in favor of .. suppose somebody asks, do you support the people in Iowa, can you say I support them or no I don’t support them. It’s not even a question it doesn’t even mean anything. And that’s the point of public relations slogans like support our troops is that they don’t mean anything, they mean as much as whether you support the people in Iowa.

Of course there was an Issue — the issue was do you support our policy but you don’t want people to think about the issue that’s the whole point of good propaganda, you want to create a slogan that nobody is gonna be against and I suppose everybody will be for because nobody knows what it means because it doesn’t mean anything, but it’s crucial value is it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something. Do you support our policy and that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.

There is also the point that, if we are to take the logic adopted by the anonymous author of the propaganda email, one can make a very similar argument against the war and the military. Without going through the rigmarole of rewriting the vaccuous drivel I recieved in an anti-war format, one might compare the sheltered lives of the Senators and MPs who supported and still support the war to the civilians who suffer the horror and death of the civil war between the ousted Islamist fanatics whom we fostered in the 1980s and the incumbent ultra-conservative Muslims and militant fighters who we mobilised and installed for the purposes of this war.

I will refrain from going into more specifics, as this comment applies to wars of aggression generally, not just Afghanistan. When the official pretexts fall apart, the state always falls back on the patriotic fervour stoked up by the issue of the troops fighting that war. They have family and loved ones at home and it is not hard to stoke such sentiments.

But we need to see them for what they are – a product of the propaganda system. The more hysterical amongst them are all but apologists for war crime, warding off criticism by using the corpses of soldiers as a grotesque totem. Writing those very words makes me – by their logic – a traitor who hates soldiers and supports terrorists. (Each word, “soldier” and “terrorist” redefined by doctrine so that the former is “ours” and the latter “the enemy.”)

Such hysteria will pertain as long as the propaganda system does, and we must not be too afraid of accusations of “treason” (or similar nonsense) to challenge these empty non-sequiturs and the dogma they promote.

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