by Richard Hugus
October 27, 2005
Politics seems always to be a matter of saying one thing in order to get another. During the Vietnam War the antiwar movement had two approaches to the question of how active US soldiers were to be treated. One side said that allying with soldiers would cause dissension in the ranks and weaken the war machine from within – the war couldn't be fought without soldiers, so making them a part of the antiwar movement and building a campaign to bring them home was the most effective way to end the war. The other side said that soldiers who went to Vietnam were killers who didn't deserve our respect. When they came home they were shown contempt. Those still in battle saw this and eventually realized that what they were involved in was not supported and not honorable, and this led, properly, to their demoralization.
Those trying to end the war by stealth, siding with the troops for strategic reasons, were playing politics. Those who simply expressed the disrespect they felt were not making political calculations – they were direct, honest, and probably more effective in undermining support for the war. On a human level the soldier cares very much about how he is seen and whether the cause he is fighting for is deemed worthy. It makes a big difference if his family and friends and lover look at him as a willing accomplice in genocide, a dupe, and not a hero.
The attainment of political ends by stealth is Bush's way of doing things. He sold us a war for Israel on the lie, that he was fighting for our security and Iraq's democracy. Why would we want to use the same tactics as Bush?
It is painful to say, but mothers who have lost their sons to the Iraq war, and active duty soldiers who have made a courageous stand in speaking against it, should not be put in front of a movement to end that war. This is simply another way of saying that the soldiers are more important than the ones they have, afterall, been killing. It's the same with recent candlelight vigils marking the 2000th US soldier killed in Iraq. The people we should be supporting are the Iraqis under Uncle Sam's hobnail boot, not the poor fools involved in carrying out Uncle Sam’s crimes. The number of Iraqis murdered in their own land by the US over the last 14 years numbers almost two million. If that number were only 200 the Iraqis would still deserve our primary attention because it was the US government who attacked them, not the other way around.
The war machine, from recruiters, to people "in the service", to local bases in our communities, deserve our active and vocal disrespect. Conscientious objectors and mourning mothers do not bother the Pentagon. What bothers the Pentagon is when significant numbers of the home population renounce any shred of support for what they do, when we honor the Iraqi dead and injured, when we put on our protest stages the mothers of Iraqi martyrs, when we say we support those who are fighting US invaders in Iraq, and when we take action in our own country to undermine the war machine at its source, as it is our responsibility to do.
We don't support the troops. Why would we want to support or "bring home" people who have volunteered for murder? We support the Iraqi resistance. If it were possible for decent people in the US to do so, we would fight alongside them.