It is some soldiers from Fort Lewis saying that supporting the troops means more than lipservice and it's imperative that Americans back home support the mission even if they don't support specific policy. In other words, you have to want us to win to support the troops. OK?
Along comes William Arkin, activist turned writer for the WaPo who writes:
I'm all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army. But I also hope that military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn't for them to disapprove of the American people.
The condesention of that made my mouth drop open and I just about left the article there. It's not for them to disapprove?! Last I looked these soldiers were citizens too Mr. Arkin, not subjugated lackeys who dare not have a differing opinion without reprisals.
These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.
Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.
Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don't see very many "baby killer" epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.
Oh yes, how lucky you are that you are not being spit on. Instead you get death threats while you are recovering in the hospital or spat at by idiots spraying graffiti on the Capital Building.
I could go on but I am too angry. Instead I will let the inestimable Lileks answer for me because he is not going to decend into profanity the way I want to. Arkin is italicized.
So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?
As for the obscene amenities, I recall putting together that package to send to the troops a month ago. Foot and hand warmers were requested. I realize now they were just stockpiling those things in case the fancy propane-fired boots run low, and the fur-lined Gucci gloves get swiped by the locals. Fine. I heard the other day that some bases have fast-food outlets. They have a Subway stand. And you can just walk to it. Me, I have to drive. And find a parking place. And they don’t give stamps anymore. I suspect the Subway stand in Iraq gives stamps. Right now I’d imagine there’s some guy who’s paid a decent wage whose family back home in a nice house with freshly painted cinder block walls is sitting in his bunk (with a blanket he got for free, no doubt) licking the stamps that bring him ever closer to a free six incher. With meatballs. And he has the nerve to have an opinion about other people’s opinions.
No, that’s not fair; he’s entitled to his opinion. But it’s another thing to express it. It’s almost as if the actual troops think they have some sort of absolute moral authority to have an opinion, and this gives them the right to express themselves without considering the impact that might have on people who disagree. They do have a moral authority, but only when they’re killed, and it transfers immediately to the closest relative who disagreed with the mission.
Yeah as for the obcene amenities being enjoyed by my brother in law right now? An extra footlocker. Extra two feet of storage and a single beer on a sqad mate's birthday. Watchout! They might demand cake next. A little bit later:
The coup de gracelessness occurs in the next paragraph:
But it is the United States and instead this NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.
Oops, indeed. That just slipped out. He temporarily forgot the patriotism that motivates many, and provides a definitional difference between mercs and volunteer soldiers, but thank God he caught himself in time. As for that dirty work, it is best understood in terms of soiled linen, which wives are ALWAYS complaining about. We don’t do the laundry, we don’t do it right, we mix the bloody clothes with the silk shirts, et cetera:
The notion of dirty work is that, like laundry, it is something that has to be done but no one else wants to do it. But Iraq is not dirty work: it is not some necessary endeavor; the people just don't believe that anymore.
I'll accept that the soldiers, in order to soldier on, have to believe that they are manning the parapet, and that's where their frustrations come in. I'll accept as well that they are young and naïve and are frustrated with their own lack of progress and the never changing situation in Iraq. Cut off from society and constantly told that everyone supports them, no wonder the debate back home confuses them.
Dear lambs, confused by Robust Debate, thinking that the big package of letters from the elementary school back home means more than last Tuesday’s editorial in the Times.