Sunday, February 18, 2007

If the War Doesn't Serve the Cause, Then Supporting the Troops Means Opposing the War

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Jeff Jacoby's column in the Boston Globe today is a masterpiece of inconsistent, illogical cant:

What does it mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?

No loyal Colts fan rooted for Indianapolis to lose the Super Bowl. No investor buys 100 shares of Google in the hope that Google's stock will tank. No one who applauds firefighters for their courage and education wants a four-alarm blaze to burn out of control.

Yet there is no end of Americans who insist they "support" US troops in Iraq but want the war those troops are fighting to end in defeat. The two positions are irreconcilable. You cannot logically or honorably curse the war as an immoral neocon disaster or a Halliburton oil grab or "a fraud . . . cooked up in Texas," yet bless the troops who are waging it.

Nonsense, says Barbara O'Brien:

It is not at all irreconcilable to oppose the Iraq War but wish to support the troops fighting the war. “Supporting the troops” means seeing to it they have whatever they need to stay as safe and healthy as possible, both while at war and after. It means providing state-of-the-art body armor now, not three years from now, maybe. If they are wounded, it means providing first-class medical care, not parking them in moldy, roach-infested hospital.

About Pres. Bush's escalation of the war, Jacoby writes:

But logic and honor haven't stopped members of Congress from trying to square that circle. The nonbinding resolution they debated last week was a flagrant attempt to have it both ways. One of its two clauses professed to "support and protect" the forces serving "bravely and honorably" in Iraq. The other declared that Congress "disapproves" the surge in troops now underway -- a surge that General David Petraeus , the new military commander in Iraq, considers essential.

It was a disgraceful and dishonest resolution, and it must have done wonders for the insurgents' morale. Democrats hardly bothered to disguise that when they say they "support and protect" the troops, what they really intend is to undermine and endanger their mission. The Politico, a new Washington news site, reported Thursday that the strategy of "top House Democrats, working in concert with anti war groups," is to "pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options." If they had the courage of their convictions, they would forthrightly defund the war, bring the troops home, and brave the political consequences. Instead they plan a more agonizing and drawn-out defeat -- slowly choking off the war by denying reinforcements, eventually leaving no alternative but retreat.

If Jacoby thinks a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase "undermines and endangers their mission," one wonders what he would think about sending more troops to Iraq before they have had a chance to learn how to fire their guns:

Soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division had so little time between deployments to Iraq they had to cram more than a year's worth of training into four months.

Some had only a few days to learn how to fire their new rifles before they deployed to Iraq -- for the third time -- last month. They had no access to the heavily armored vehicles they will be using in Iraq, so they trained on a handful of old military trucks instead. And some soldiers were assigned to the brigade so late that they had no time to train in the United States at all. Instead of the yearlong training recommended prior to deployment, they prepared for war during the two weeks they spent in Kuwait, en route to Anbar, Iraq's deadliest province.

As the Pentagon prepares to boost troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 people, such logistical and training hurdles are emblematic of the struggles besieging a military strained by unexpectedly long and grueling commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's happening just about to all the units now," said Lawrence Korb, who oversaw military manpower and logistics as assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. "No unit is completely combat ready."

Lawmakers consider the situation so serious that they plan to question Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about troop readiness on Wednesday, when the officials are scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee, said a spokeswoman for one of its influential members, Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas.

The lack of overall preparedness, in terms of both training and key equipment, is underscored by a recent Pentagon survey, statements by military leaders and interviews with defense experts.

"A typical soldier shows up in Iraq without the knowledge of the language, without the knowledge of the people," said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a centrist think tank in Arlington, Va. "If he also isn't experienced with his unit or with his weapon, that maximizes the potential for disaster."

Does Jeff Jacoby support sending green troops into combat? Apparently so, since he says nothing about unpreparedness in his column.

And what is that cause that our troops are fighting for? Maha again:

If the cause is making the United States safer from terrorism, then it is perfectly logical to support the cause and oppose the war. The war is counterproductive to that cause. This was the conclusion of a National Intelligence Estimate of April 2006 portions of which were declassified and released in September 2006.

Then again, who knows what the cause is? Weapons of mass destruction? Connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? Spreading democracy throughout the Middle East? Fighting the terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here? Keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons and arming terrorists who kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq? Is it that "we can't abandon 27 million Iraqis to 10,000 terrorists"? Is it because withdrawing from Iraq would make the United States look bad?

If Jacoby wants Americans to "support the cause our soldiers fight for," he needs to define the cause and tell us how more war would achieve it. While he's at it, he might want to tell the troops why they're there and why they should stay there.

Jacoby's reasoning is nowhere easy to fathom; but his last paragraph is the most puzzling of all:

America is a free country, but it is not the Michael Moores or the ROTC-banners or the senatorial loudmouths who keep it free. They merely enjoy the freedom that others are prepared to defend with their lives. It is the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform to whom we owe our liberty. Surely they deserve better than pious claims of "support" from those who are working for their defeat.

What is the connection between Iraq and my freedom? I don't get it. Are Iraqis spying on my telephone calls, or telling librarians to show them what books I borrowed in the past five years? Are Sunni insurgents or Shiite paramilitaries telling the U.S. Congress that opposing the war is treasonous? Are they making up quotes from revered former presidents to suggest that lawmakers who argue against more troops for Iraq should be exiled or hung? Are they trying to get me to disavow my religious tradition and convert to theirs? I've read a lot in the past few years (and currently, as I read Chris Hedges' American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America) about Christian Dominionists and Reconstructionists who want to replace our current secular, democratic, pluralistic form of government with a Christian theocratic state in which all laws and public policies would be in line with a literalist, inerrant view of biblical scripture. But I have no idea what Iraq has to do with any of this.

Do read Maha's lengthy, link-rich post for more on all this. I have relied on it for some of what I wrote above, but there is much more, including a helpful list of See Also's.

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