Lately I've been hearing the "support the troops" mantra coming from different directions, and I'm sure we'll be hearing more of it in the weeks ahead. Most recently, Bob Novak (I think that's his name) from "Crossfire" asked, in an effort to divert opposition, an anti-war representative if he "supports the troops". It's a dastardly thing to say. Although I never felt comfortable with the phrase, the deviousness of it came to my attention while reading part of a Noam Chomsky book the other day. He argues (rightly so, I think) that "support the troops" is a meaningless phrase intended on drumming up support for a policy which is likely hard to agree with. The implication is that if you don't somehow support the military, you're an anti-American who wishes death to those brave soldiers. Supporting the troops is not really an issue -- the issue is the policy. But you can't agree with the policy and agree with what the soldiers are ordered to do.
Here's where I might be criticized. See, I don't "support the troops" because I know that we have an all-volunteer military, and I just don't buy the idea that those in the military are simply following orders. If someone in the Army was strongly against this war, he could lay down his weapon and refuse to fight. Of course, he'd probably go to jail as a result, but if his will is strong enough, he'd do it. You don't join the military if you don't "support" murder. Why is that hard to understand? With the possible exception of medics, even if your finger is not directly on the trigger, you are helping to kill other people -- many of them innocent. Someone could make the case that the military helps save American lives, but that places a higher value on American lives than innocent foreign lives. And that argument leads down a slippery slope.
So, let me say that I hope no American soldier dies in this inevitable war. But with no hesitation do I say that I hope no American soldier kills an innocent Iraqi. Oh, and what about the Iraqi military? Unlike our military, the Iraqis are conscripted to serve. If anyone is simply following orders, they are. And since they live in a dictatorship, the punishment for desertion is likely much worse than jail.
Isn't it weird that the United States (supposedly a peaceful nation) has 1.5 million people volunteering to be trained as killing machines? You could say that I'm being negative, or you could try to downplay the "killing machines" part, but it's true that soldiers are trained in such a way as to minimize any hesitation to kill the "enemy". It's unfortunate that so many people actually want to be involved with that behavior.
Anyway, my unrealistic and maybe controversial hope is for our troops to stay in the barracks and refuse to fight (and be thrown in jail) -- refuse to kill innocent people in the crossfire in this unjust, immoral war. As much as I disagree with the military, I don't hope that they die. I would hope that we could solve problems without jumping to war before "giving peace a chance." And I'm not cynical enough to say that it is impossible. Although I think that this country has a lot of problems (particularly in the government), I believe they can be solved. I guess that's the difference between being idealistic and cynical.