Monday, June 19, 2006

Support the troops

More than once during last week’s stinging rhetorical exchanges about Iraq and Afghanistan in both the House and Senate were these three words hurled – one could almost say “fired” – like weapons across the proverbial partisan aisle.

Considering the frequency and almost reverential tone in which it is invoked, “support the troops” is a curiously ill-defined phrase. It seems to arise, like the phoenix from the self-immolating fire, from the ashes of failed policy – in this case wars that unexpectedly last longer than the politicians who committed U.S. lives, treasure, and prestige thought the shooting and the dying would continue.

The underlying psychology of those who insist that others “support the troops” is the hope that the country “will win” if the public would only give the administration in power a little more time, a little more money, and a little more unity. The implication –falsely drawn – is that anyone who breaks ranks by raising objections to the funding, the fighting, or even suggests forward planning to end involvement of armed forces is “providing aid and comfort to the enemy.” And under President Bush’s division of the world into those “with us or against us,” anyone who objects to the conduct of events falls under suspicion of being in the “against “camp.

Concealed under the shrill pleas for more time, resources, and unity is a fourth, largely unvoiced condition that the public is asked to accept or – more minimally – to quietly condone. This is to acquiesce in more lives lost, more blood spilled, more pain and suffering endured by those who are sent to do the fighting.

One wonders: were the public ever to have laid out explicitly all the elements that are subsumed by “support the troops,” would it make any difference?

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