Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

'Support our Troops.'

This Veterans Day - as we thank those who've served our country in wars past and present - I think it's important to take a moment to reconsider what 'support Our Troops' actually means. After all, it's emblazoned on the bumpers of millions of American cars and trucks.

Following 9-11, and during the past two presidential campaigns, 'Support our Troops' has been a slogan adopted by the right wing. 'Supporting our Troops' implied more than just supporting the brave men and women putting their lives on the line in the service of our country. It implied an unspoken approval of the two military operations they were embroiled in.

Criticize the military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, as many left-wing pundits did, and you were accused of 'betraying the troops' and your patriotism was challenged.

But 'supporting the troops' doesn't have to involve supporting foreign wars. In fact, to use another bumper-sticker slogan, many consider the best way to 'Support Our Troops' is to 'Bring Them Home.'

Every week, we read about more servicemen and women killed and crippled in Iraq and Afghanistan and no matter what your political position, you have to wonder how effectively we 'support' these heroes when we place them directly in harm's way.

How many politicians who cry 'Support Our Troops' voted to send them to Iraq or Afghanistan? You'd be surprised (or not) at the answer.

In fact, the hypocrisy of the people crying 'Support Our Troops' goes further than that. 'Supporting our Troops' is all well and good when they're off in the desert, dodging bullets and IEDs. But what about when they come home again? What about the troops who served our country in Iraq the first time around? Or in Kosovo, or even Vietnam?

Sadly, some of the people who proclaim 'Support Our Troops' have shameful records of actually 'supporting' soldiers and veterans.

Take John McCain, for example. Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America gave the former presidential candidate a failing 'D' grade for his voting record concerning veterans. McCain voted against funding to give serving soldiers additional body armor in the field (writing it off as 'pork barrel') and similarly voted to curb funding to treat victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury when they got home from the battlefield.

Similarly, McCain voted against increasing the funding for veteran's Health Care four times in the last six years - despite claiming that this was his 'number one priority' during his presidential campaign. He toured Veteran's Hospitals that had been declared dirty, unsanitary and unsafe - yet voted against funding to restore them.

Similarly, 'patriotic' Republican Joe Wilson - the man who yelled 'you lie' at President Obama - claims to 'Support Our Troops,' but has voted no less than eleven times against Health Care for veterans - even cutting their health care funding by $14 million in 2003.

It seems completely disingenuous to parade our patriotism one day a year if we turn our backs on veterans for the rest of the time. This Veterans Day, instead of just muttering platitudes, why don't we really think about the incredible bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers - and how we can truly show our gratitude for it?

I think this starts by examining what it is we actually ask of them. Our soldiers serve out of duty and honor - so we should honor them by remembering our duty not to put them in harm's way unless the safety of this country truly depends on it. Is that the case in Iraq or Afghanistan? I can't say - but I have my doubts.

Secondly, we have to give them all the support we can while they're in the line of fire. Withholding funding for the wars - as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton attempted to do a year or so ago - puts lives at risk for the sake of winning a few political points. Curbing 'pork barrel' spending, as McCain did, isn't helpful when that spending puts an extra layer of armor between our soldiers and the enemy's bullets.

And lastly, we have to remember to give our veterans the gratitude and support they deserve when they come back home. As my friend Michael Knight (not the one who drives KITT) tweeted today: "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." Let's give those vets suffering debilitating injuries, or post traumatic stress disorder, the treatment they deserve and get them healthy and well as quickly as possible.

The fact is, in a modern democracy, we all play our part in the giant game of international chess - in which the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are the pieces. Because we're all culpable for the risk we put them under, we're all equally responsible for the results.

So lets remember our responsibility to our soldiers and veterans. If there's a 'message' or 'moral' behind Veteran's Day, I truly believe it's that.

Men and women in uniform? Thanks for everything.


Occasional Professor Tom said...

You do realize that IAVA is a democratic PAC, right?

Roland Hulme said...

Well, I tried to keep this blog post under 500 words and if I'd included the names of all the Democrats who'd voted against veteran's affairs, it would resemble 'War and Peace!'

Yeah, I've been a bit political with my two choices. I tried to balance it out by complaining about Pelosi and Clinton playing such silly buggers with the Iraq war funding the other year. In any event, I think it's fair to say that the point of this post is bipartisan.

ck said...

You just don't get it. Talk to a large majority of our soldiers and ask which seems more supportive to them...

Bring them home, or support our troops.

Most people in Iraq and Afghanistan want to be there. Because if you think about long we have been at war, ALL of the soldiers over there either re-enlisted or enlisted for the first time while we were STILL AT WAR.

Why don't you just let Pelosi write your blog from now on.

Roland Hulme said...

Hey CK! Nice to see you!

If you ask a US soldier if he's happy serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, I think they'd say 'yes' for two reasons.

Firstly, they're soldiers. They're proud to serve. America called them to duty and that's a duty they selflessly and bravely fulfill. I think the fact that the soldiers are proud and enthusiastic about fulfilling the role they've been asked to doesn't mean that we, as in the voters and government, haven't made the wrong decision about sending them there in the first place.

And secondly, I think you'd be hard pressed to suggest that our troops haven't done good work in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's not like they've been twiddling their thumbs over there. They've toppled a dictator and smashed the Taliban. I think the soldiers have every right to be justifiably proud of all they've achieved.

But that still doesn't negate the question of whether or not it was America's job to go to the middle east to do this. Not too long ago, America had a non-interventionist foreign policy and you have to ask whether we have the right, or should bear the burden, of people the world's police - especially in Iraq, which posed no threat to us.

Our troops are magnificent, and serve selflessly without thought of themselves. Because they are so willing to risk their lives for us, we have to ask ourselves in their lives are worth whatever it is we'll achieve from sending them into harm's way.

Afghanistan? Possibly so. Iraq? It's increasingly doubtful.

Rod said...

ck wrote "...smashed the Taliban."

Man, they're blowing themselves up left and right, and taking innocents with them, still. That place is decrepit hellhole, and the Taliban are rats in the walls.