Support the Troops

Some posts this evening have brought tears to my eyes. Courtney’s and the Hobgoblin’s deeply moving posts about their fathers damaged in Vietnam brought real echoes of my own father, damaged though less obviously so, in another far eastern jungle 30 years earlier.

Hobgoblin has asked those who read his blog to consider and blog about what is meant by “Support the Troops”, and I fell over his plea on Charlotte’s blog, so it works, this viral blogging. In turn, I ask each of you to continue the conversation that Hobgoblin has started, and blog just one post on the subject of “support the troops”.

Why is it so difficult for the hawks to accept that it is possible to support the troops and oppose the war?

I guess it is all part of the dumbing down and monochroming of language. The phrase, 6 years ago, which presaged all of this was “if you are not with us, you are against us”. No. Sorry. It was then perfectly possible to be critically supportive – to share the outrage but deplore the reaction. This is wicked in itself, this deliberate use of language to polarise the debate. First nuance is drained away, then thought itself. It is possible to support the troops and oppose the war, just as it was possible for me to buy both the white peace poppy and the red British Legion poppy each November.

A colleague of mine is an Assyrian, an Iraqui Christian whose family left Iraq when he was 10 or so because of the real dangers to the adults in the family from the regime of Saddam Hussain. He was strongly pro-war when it started. Now he’s not. A friend of my partner is an Iraqui Muslim with a very similar story. She was strongly pro-war in 2003. Now she isn’t.

Oddly, having opposed it actively and vehemently at the time, I now have no clear opinion about whether or not the US and the UK should pull out of Iraq. You see, the wound we have opened up and infected there will fester and suppurate for generations. Just look at Ireland and Israel. That’s how it works. Violence is easy to start and hard to stop. Leaving now will not make the situation any better and cutting and running from a situation so greatly of our making is morally suspect, it is a despicable act of cowardice. But….

But… I believe that the wound will never heal while the blade is still in it, so I think that keeping troops there is, just marginally, the worse of two great evils.

However, staying or going is not what the Hobgoblin wanted the debate to be about. He is rightly outraged by the way that veterans are treated once they get home. I don’t have anything wise or sensible to add to the debate, other than to echo what has already been said. How can we sleep in our beds at nights, knowing that the men we sent out to kill on our behalfs are being treated in these despicable ways when they come home? At least the British government is not giving below-inflation pay “rises” to the armed forces, as they are to other public employees. It is odd, just the once, to be saying the name “Blair” and not prefacing it internally with the word “c**t”.

There is nothing new under the sun, so I had been going to quote something written 117 years ago, the poem Tommy Atkins by Rudyard Kipling. (The “widow” in the poem was Queen Victoria).

However when I looked for the text, I found that Kipling’s comments have been updated by the current generation in Afghanistan and Basra. This puts its finger with military precision on just the political reason why veterans are treated so badly.

Kipling talked o’ better food for ‘im, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all
the last time ‘e wuz in Kabul, but them stories they wuz tall.
And nothing changed in all those years, cept more of ’em ‘as died
In the two world wars you think of and those countless ones besides

Yes it’s Tommy this an’ Tommy that and pat ‘im on the back
When ‘e goes to face your enemies and put in the attack.
But its sorry Mr Atkins when it’s time to pay ‘im back
Army ‘ospitals yer closing to save pennies on yer tax.

And so, back to the Hobgoblin:

So, here is my plea. I want to start people talking more and more and more about supporting the troops. I want people to think more about how we treat the people who have made the sacrifices for our country. I want people to think about how cynically politicians exploit the troops for their own ends. I want people to think about how a drunken frat boy draft dodger can be seen as a hero and biggest supporter of our troops, and I want people to think about just what this absolute and complete collapse of meaning says about our country. Please, write something about this. Spread the word. Talk about how we need to support our troops in real, tangible, material ways–starting with bringing them home from this evil, stupid, stupid war. Reference me or not, link to me or not, but talk about it. Ask everyone who reads your blog to write about it–just one post–until everyone in the blogosphere is talking about it. Create a chain blog, an enormous pyramid of entries. It may mean nothing–probably will mean nothing–but things only start to happen when people talk and agitate.

Please consider yourself tagged. Join in this coversation. Debate this issue. Support the troops, bring the poor bastards home, and then continue to help them, as they have helped us.


10 responses to “Support the Troops

  1. Have posted on Hobgoblin’s Bbog – and am preparing another small brick for the pyramid on my own blog.

  2. Thank you Teuchter. Hobgoblin is right, this is an important issue, both from the philosophical “no man is an island” point of view, and – more up close and personally – because my neighbour’s son is in Afghanistan right now, as is my godmother’s son. My best friend’s son is volunteering. I am sure everyone here has similar links at no more than two degrees of separation.


  3. I wonder whether our troops really know why they are in Afghanistan, or Iraq for that matter.

  4. To the same extent as any of us do, I’d have thought, Jose. They aren’t stupid, soldiers.

    It’s fairly obvious that they are well aware of the British involvement in Afghanistan 100 or so years ago, and in Iraq (then called Mesopotamia) during WWI.


  5. This is so elegantly put – a commanding plea for this conversation to continue. It will be interesting to see where it ends up.

  6. Pingback: On supporting the troops. « Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.

  7. Great post Aphra, I went from you to healinghands to hobgoblin back to you. Tag, you’re it.
    My ‘a run to remember’ from back in the fall. The word is spreading like wild fire.

  8. Thank you Sol, hmh and 1loneranger for taking the challenge. 1lr, I have ambled over to yours and picked up the debate with you there.


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