Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies and Supporting the Troops

Going around the blog world, I have been unable to escape a continuing theme which continues to fall under a specious "nuanced" concept of "supporting the troops, but not the war". I believe that some folks have a genuine desire to support the troops, but argue over the need for war or the tactics used. I believe this is an extremely difficult, if not impossible line to walk. I believe that the difficulty of this concept is why those who make contrary and even abusive commentary are also so defensive about their positions, yelling about allegedly being called "unpatriotic" and "un-American" for espousing certain ideas. While most people have refrained from actually using those words against dissenters, I believe it is becoming more common, at least in the blog world, to start calling a spade a spade.

The discourse is particularly strident over several issues. From the one position, the claim is that the attacks are on the administration itself and its policies. From the other is the claim that such attacks are actually damaging the morale of the troops and actually amount to attacks on the soldiers themselves, therefore, the claim of "supporting the troops but not the war" is a false position. I believe that conscientious people from the "attack the administration" group know that they are, if not pushing the line, actually crossing it, but, from the need to have a clear conscience, deny it to themselves and others. They know that the American populace will not stand for Vietnam Veteran "baby killer" attacks full fledged or redux. It is a sure way to lose the general population.

From my perspective, these attacks do amount to attacks on the troops directly, whatever the "nuanced" intentions of the commenters and certainly, from an alleged veteran service member, the claims by Moulitsas at Daily Kos, who must surely know how the military works, cannot even pretend to such claims.

Take the latest claim that troops used white phospherous against civilian targets, that it was used as an incendiary anti-personnel weapon or that it is a chemical weapon. Recent comments have included not only these claims, but the weapon is contravened by the Geneva Conventions and that the Artillery Field Manual states that it is to be used against specific types of targets, but not as an anti-personnel weapon.

All of these things have been debunked many times. The reality is, in order to maintain that WP was used "illegally", you not only have to ignore any facts that preclude it as classified as a chemical weapon or ignore your own eyes when you see the video or pictures of what appears to be illumination rounds or WP applied as smoke (see above) or helicopter counter measures against heat seeking missiles exploding 100 to 200 ft above ground or even ignore the actual combat that took place, you would also have to believe that many, many soldiers were either complicit in the delivery of this weapon of their own free will. Or, that the soldiers were too stupid to know the rules and reasons why these weapons are used or not used. Or, that the soldiers are so cowed and/or brainwashed by the command structure that they "might" have recognized it as an illegal order, but could not exercise their own judgement and disobey an illegal order.

From the perspective of the would be "dissenter" from the war, this is not an attack on the soldiers. Some how the soldiers are absolved from all guilt or participation in these acts. They say that they are attacking the administration because the Pentagon, part of the administration, would have approved the attack on Fallujah in the first place, which is true enough, but, having already proven to be ignorant of weapons and their uses, they would also have to believe all of the things I listed above and believe that the Pentagon then gave specific orders or directives to use illegal weapons and that the Pentagon gave these orders regarding every target that WP was used against. That individual soldiers, squad, platoon and company commanders do not exercise their own initiative, but are in fact automatons that just march down the road firing at targets without making any tactical decisions, protecting themselves, other soldiers in the area or civilians that they encounter and know to be civilians. Which means, these same folks making the claims would be completely ignorant of battlefield tactics, how orders are relayed, and how specific weapons are selected to use against a target.

Let's face it, during the battle of Fallujah, it's not Don Rumsfield or some other Pentagon underling who is giving the direct order to fire on any specific target with any specific weapon and munitions to one of 20 or so officers in charge of artillary or even mortar fire teams. It just doesn't happen that way. It's the men on the ground who are identifying targets, relaying coordinates and asking for weapons and munitions to be deployed based on their assessment at the time. Soldiers and marines. It is soldiers who are loading the munition into the mortar tube or artillary piece to fire. It is soldiers who are pulling the trigger to deliver the weapon.

In order to absolve a soldier from complicity in these acts, one would have to be willing to believe they are ignorant or cowed. One would have to enact the "Nuremburg" defense and claim that these men were simply following orders. A defense which has long been proven as specious on its face because we have already determined that soldiers should and could exercise their own morality and judgement and disobey "illegal" orders. Even if that soldier feared retribution such as being placed in the stockade or tried for insubordination, we as a society have already determined that it is better to suffer such fate than to participate in "illegal" acts. The military actually spends quite some time on building the moral character of their soldiers by discussing ethics, illegal orders, the right to disobey them and proper actions to take. This occurs at boot camp and throughout other training. Officers in particular, during OCS, are provided additional training. So, it is not that any soldier does not know his responsibility.

But, it appears that very few, if any, soldiers did not disobey their orders. In fact, for the WP argument to be true, tens of thousands of soldiers, from the grunt on the front line to the artillary units to the command support units, to communications to the supply and logistics forces delivering the weapons and ammunition to the line untis, to the mess units that provide food and water, and on and on and on, would have to have been complicit in the act.

The argument that the "support the troops, but not the war" folks make claims that troops are absolved from guilt because they could not disobey orders and the conditions were set by the administration by ordering the prosecution of the war and, specifically, by giving permission or the order to attack Fallujah in the first place as is evinced by this article in the Guardian and stated in other op-eds in the United States, protesters and around the blog world.

The point is, you can't claim to "support the troops but not the war" and then claim that illegal acts occured without casting guilt on the soldiers or painting them as stupid automatons. Either way, it's an insult and an offense.

What's extremely hilarious is that many of these same groups will refer to the President and his administration as fascist Nazis, but are willing to, not only accept, but actively provide the "Nuremburg" defense of "just following orders" for the military because they know that they must provide some cover for themselves in the arena of public opinion.

Either the troops are guilty along with the administration or neither is guilty.

Thus, spreading lies and damn lies, knowingly or unknowingly (largely knowingly I would argue), is not just an attack on the administration, but does constitute an attack on the military in general and all soldiers specifically involved in the action.

Let's call a spade a spade. You can be a liar, a damn liar, or, you can support the troops.

hat tip Mudville Gazette

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