It’s a tired old phrase, but we still hear it each time the US government attempts another ill-fated intervention overseas. Even if we’re anti-war, they tell us, we should still support the troops. I say that’s wrong. The following example will illustrate what I mean.
Let’s consider one of the most contentious issues in America today – abortion. Assume that your best friend has decided to move to Washington, DC and become a full-time campaigner on that issue. And your friend’s stand is 180 degrees opposed to yours.
Let’s say you’re pro-life and she’s pro-choice. Would you say, “I support you”? Of course not. Her cause condones the killing of unborn babies.
That goes the other way, too. You’re adamantly in favor of the right of a woman to choose and she’s against it. What she’s doing will set women’s rights back 50 years.
In neither case do you wish her any ill will. You don’t want her plane to crash on the way to DC, nor should she be killed by some deranged fanatic who takes the cause much too seriously.
You speak to your friend, and she admits that she’s having second thoughts, but it’s too late. She’s already signed a contract to serve as director of NARAL or National Right To Life. Do you urge her to see through her commitment? Or do you hope she’ll resign, even if it causes her and her family financial hardship?
The latter, of course. This issue is more important than your friend’s economic well-being. You offer to help her out financially, anything you can do to change her mind.
This is exactly how I feel about the troops. I care about what happens to them. I know they joined the military with the best of intentions. But they’ve made a mistake.
I’m not saying that no one ought to defend this country against a genuine threat. But Washington’s imperial interventions have nothing to do with national defense, and everything to do with projecting power overseas and generating obscene corporate profits. Even if the enemy is as vile as ISIS, there is no way you can fight them without taking innocent lives. What’s worse, your presence as the representative of a nation which local people on both sides despise for its ham-handed interference, will damage the cause you purport to be helping.
This is my message to the troops: call it quits and come home, as soon as possible. If there is any legal or non-felonious way out, take it. Instead of feeling obligated to stick it out with your comrades, urge them to do the same. If you can get out by claiming mental hardship, do it. Chances are, if you’ve seen any sort of combat, you’ve already been traumatized in some way.
If you have to take a dishonorable discharge, do it. If you were counting on the GI bill to get your education, make that sacrifice, even if you’re the sole supporter of your family. I and my fellow anti-war activists will support charities such as Courage to Resist and the War Resisters Support Campaign to help you out. If you need to go to Canada, do it, though be warned – the right-wing pro-war Harper government has been denying war immigration status to American war resisters.
Furthermore, I call on all pro-peace businesses to give preferential hiring to veterans whose records have been blemished by acts of conscience.
To all my fellow Americans, I say: Support means approval. Don’t give approval to evil, even unwitting, unintentional evil. Support those who do the right thing and leave the military.