Monday, September 03, 2007

I Do Not Support the Troops

A few weeks ago I watched Oprah stage her input into the plight of the American soldier in Iraq and Afghansitan. She assembled the families of returning troops in her studio without them knowing that the actual soldiers were there too.

Classic set-up emotionalism so typical of Oprah, and American television in general.

Somewhere in between watching emotional scenes of reunions, children hanging onto fathers and mothers who have been away, and loving embraces between loved ones, I felt a certain resentment.

My resentment was first directed at Oprah. I thought "damn why is she making a nationalistic statement about troops and their families?"

Well I knew the answer almost immediately. It sells. And Oprah is a salesperson first. She is playing to the glossed-over majority mindset in America that mostly excuses the troops from their vicious role. The "I Support our Troops" and their families so bring them home from that war 'over there' mentality is profitable in these terms.

The troops in this sense are not held responsible for their actions. They are rather seen as victims of what is now an unpopular war. If there is brutality to be recognized, well then the excuse is that they are merely carrying out orders.

It is here that my greater sense of resentment was directed. I could barely watch the service men and women embrace their families without thinking about the mass terror and murders their voluntary service has enabled.

Brown, Black, and white troops. Poor and patriotic. I needed to be careful about throwing all these into one bucket of resentment. But I found myself not caring anyway.

Who speaks for the suffering of Iraqi's and Afghans? The senseless murder of innocents. The rape and prostitution forced on a people in the name of democracy.

Well not Oprah, of course. Not one word was spoken, not one tear was shed, for the millions who cannot reunite with their families or loved ones on Oprah's stage.

The humanity of the slaughtered was ignored. Erased. The troops are heroes. Oprah said so. And every dumb f*ck who proclaims this evil war in the name of democracy while holding a sign or a one dimensional piece of cloth s/he is supposedly willing to die for.

Iraqis and Afghans will remain nameless. And Oprah, the richest woman in the world, and the most liked Black woman ever, is selling that brutality. She is part of the empire that cares more about its self-involved navel than about the lives it destroys and snuffs out daily.

And so when I hear some around me talk about the troops as if they are just a benign extension of the evil mongers in DC, I am more than just skeptical. I am downright resentful.

They are not benign. They are not my person of the year. Any year.

For this reason I want to post the following paragraphs written by Phil Rockstroh on "the troops" for us to chew on. He says more than I can, better than I can, and he is an American.
" ... this puerile glorification of American servicemen and women is a view of human nature that is every bit as naive as the hash-pipe dreams of Sixties idealists involving peace, love and flower power — and one that can’t be blamed on a communal use of L.S.D. Excuse me, but why should the military establishment and its foot soldiers hold a position of being beyond scrutiny or even reproach? The last I looked, “our troops” were being used as mindless instruments of our country’s imperialist aggression. Moreover, the perpetually pimp-slapped and habitually on-their-knees before Bush’s macho-narcissistic bluster congressional Democrats, who gained a legislative majority on the strength of the anti-war vote, are up to their lickspittle lips in the legalized mass murder being perpetrated in the name of our nation. It is time to see through and reject the right-wing propaganda and liberal paternalism of viewing the soldiers of the US military as victims … Oh cry me a river of Iraqi blood … When the truth is: We are a nation of people possessed of Bronze Age minds, who are armed with 21st Century weapons. Ergo, our soldiers are the delivery system of said weaponry.

This is the reason the American military machine exists on such a massive scale: Our leaders wish to establish, by force, if necessary, global hegemony. Accordingly, what do platitudes such as, “I support the troops” translate to when those troops are engaged in an illegal and immoral occupation of a foreign land, invaded under false pretenses? Where is the line to be drawn between having empathy for an army comprised to a large degree of economic conscripts and giving tacit approval to the war crimes they commit? Since the enacting of the Nuremberg Laws, the claim of “I was only following orders” has been ruled an inadmissible defense. Shouldn’t the plea of “I couldn’t get a good job after high school, so I joined the military, was shipped off to Iraq, where I grew so scared, frustrated and angry that every once in a while, I lit-up a few Haji civilians with my M16, turning them into twitching jellyfish” be regarded as equally inadmissible?

To bestow unquestioning and unilateral support for the soldiers of a ruthless empire’s immoral invasion of a sovereign nation is a recipe for war crimes and atrocities. Soldiers represent a cross-section of a nation’s population, evincing a mix of human traits and characteristics, some admirable and worthy of support and others reprehensible and deserving of condemnation and contempt. Accordingly, many soldiers are not heroes and all heroes need not be soldiers. Resistance and the refusal to fight immoral wars constitutes bravery as well."
I am aware that some soldiers have chosen not to be instruments of this imperial war on the innocents. How many others refused to enlist out of principle we will never know. My wish is that there were more. Thousands more. Humans who would stand for the dignity of humanity and the sacredness of life.

I expect that some will be offended by my audacity here. There may even be the usual "go live in your own country" directive. After 23 plus years of living in America, occupied as it is, I have heard and seen it all.

But I won't bow. Ever.

I will never support the murdering machine that is the US military and all its government appendages. This includes the troops and their sympathizers.

I do so as a Muslim who upholds the principle of universal humanity. A Muslim who will not reduce my religion, and my political principles, to appear moderate or fearful of watching and revengeful eyes.

Nor will I apologize to anyone for what happened on 9/11. I am only a Muslim. Just like the millions of innocent Iraqis and Afghans under American occupation, I had nothing to do with the war between elites in the Bush and Bin Laden families.

My religion is not at war with America. But America is at war with humanity.



Cero said...

Good post. I wanted to leave this antiwar protest I went to last week - organized by - because it turned out they were calling the soldiers "Our Warriors," lauding their "heroism," etc., saying they had been "abused" by Bush and therefore should get to come home.

I'm for the pullout and I do in fact think Bush abused/abuses the military. Still and all ... I teach a lot of veterans. I am quite sure each one has a longer record of rape and murder than most of the prisoners I work with. And no, I do not think they were "just following orders," and even if they were, I think it is a lame excuse.

Ridwan said...

That sounds like Prof Zero.

I get their mailings almost daily. Their 'blind eye' in this matter is just stunning ... and stupid too.

You are absolutely right that Bush abused the military. He abused the American people, the constitution, etc.

Still, I am with you on holding the troops responsible. America, after all, upholds the myth of the individual, and its agency.

What happened to that myth? Where is the right-thinking, moral, and ethical individual?

Ooooooh I had a really terse argument with a couple of friends about this issue tonight.

Both want to believe that the American people would not allow the war to continue if they knew the intimate details of brutality.


Is this not like excusing the troops for their acts of brutality?

Why are the American people so shielded? What is needed to see that many just went along as expected?

This happened with Jim Crow, and the internment of the Japanese, among others.

The Japanese internment looks a lot like the paranoia that follows Muslims now.

There are so many layers hey?

Still, you are absolutely right ... "its a lame excuse."

Be well.


Rent Party said...

"Both want to believe that the American people would not allow the war to continue if they knew the intimate details of brutality."

But they do know - the information _is_ available. Even if it were not it is easily deduced, but it is available.

Ridwan said...

Thank you Rent Party!

I was about to bust a vein tonight ... the whole world knows the details. And we have so much access to reports ... all kinds.

They also argued that most Americans would not discriminate against Muslims. Most? As if we need most to qualify that Muslims, and people who look like they could be Arab/Muslim, face discrimination and even death in the US.

But the faith in the system they were trying to front is supposedly about knowing that there will be relief, eventually.

These are merely cyclical instances that do not uniquely discriminate against Muslims. Others, catholics or Jews for example, have overcome in much the same way that Muslims will, eventually.

I can't, as they say, wrap my head around these assertions.

And they are assertions hey. That Muslims should have faith in a system that is merely working out the kinks as we speak is just ridiculous.

So we should expect that in the end Muslims and Iraqi's and Iranians will all be understood, and immersed in the good naturedness of American benevolence.

The present moment is, therefore, and aberration. One that fair Americans, the majority apparently, will remove from the body politic and the greater society.

This incremental liberalism makes me ... well sick.

It allows these two folks to hide the ugliness. The inhumanity.

And when I pointed to specific cases of brutality against Muslims, the Jenna Six, for example, the responsed again that fair minded Americans do not support these brutalities.

So I guess in their world America is now in the grips of a minority of unfair minded Americans.

They will not win.

Damn. What nonsense.

Are they in denial? Have you experienced this or should I choose my dinner guests more carefully?

Should I be worried that both are self-declared democrats and social scientists with college students who look up to them?

I wonder what Prof Zero may say too.

Nevertheless, I need an aspirin ;o)

Be well Rent Party. I appreciate your voice here.


Robert Salaam said...

I don't know what to say. You served a very big pill for even me to swallow. I as you know, am a veteran, and I must admit I never truly analyzed it this way. Your provacative candor is a must read and if you don't mind will surely be spread by me either on my blog or radio show.

Thank you,

As Salaam Alaikum

Ridwan said...

As SalaamuAlaikum Robert. Wow it has been a minute since we last talked here.

I was in South Africa reading your informative blog.

I know that you are a veteran. I also know that you do not support the war in Iraq.

Thank you for reading me here. And I look forward to hearing more.

Peace and struggle,

Cero said...

Catholics have finally become marginally OK but remember JFK was the first Catholic elected President and that was a big deal. And they have the advantage of at least being Christian, among those who like to say we are a Christian nation [we were founded to be secular, folks, and many the founding fathers were actually deists].

Jews only seem to have become OK after WWII and I do not trust it. It is good for our national mythology to say we saved them from the camps and we love them now but I do not think we would if it were not strategically advantageous. And why should you have to suffer in a camp and be rescued to finally get a seal of approval, anyway?

There is so much cultural grist for the anti-Muslim mill, it goes back to the Crusades. It is *very* hard to cut through.

"Are they in denial? Have you experienced this or should I choose my dinner guests more carefully?

Should I be worried that both are self-declared democrats and social scientists with college students who look up to them?"

Yes, they are in denial. Yes, I have experienced this. Almost all dinner guests believe these things.
This is why I do not have more dinners. I went to a dinner last night where these things were believed and could not concentrate on actual work very well after I got home because I was so disoriented, largely because these were not out and out right wingers.

Yes, you could be worried that they are Democrats and college professors, etc., it is in fact worrisome, but there is not a whole lot to do about it since the ideological system really does reproduce itself - that is the downside of school.

Social scientists in my experience are actually some of the worst - unless they are official radicals, they tend to really believe in the American system. They also tend to have studied in a completely U.S. context and not to know many foreigners. And they believe they are scientists and objective, which helps them go deeper into denial about their ideological blind spots.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for explaining this Prof Zero. I was feeling a little out there and alone.

And it has carried into today. My head is still spinning.

The duplicity. The denial. Living hidden in the US.

Yet pontificating as if there is a rational answer for all that is wrong in Iraq, etc.

What arrogance.

I agree with you about social scientists. You are spot on.

OK, so I wil; start eating alone ... ;o)


Rent Party said...

You can still have dinner partners, you just have to follow Emily Post's and my mother's rules about conversation - religion and politics are not good topics except in trusted company in the billiard room or somewhere like that. It sounds terrible but it is actually a good exercise - saves you from unnecessary grief and I am constantly amazed at how much *can* be discussed anyway.

Particularly with actual conservatives. The shocker is when liberals come up with this stuff. Like that issue of Dissent in 2001/2002 with all the liberal hawks doing the let's invade Iraq drumbeat. [I wrote a brilliantly cogent and diplomatic letter of dissent to them, one of my Best, and they would not publish it - posted it to their web forum or something.]

Ridwan said...

That's funny Rent Party :)

Post and your mom are probably right. My sister used to prohibit me from talking politics at table. She would say:"Can't you see I am trying to eat."

For her eating and politics did not mix.

I think I will have to just learn to eat and grin at these events. Maybe talk about 'safe' topics. Sport and Britney/Lindsay ... ouch who am I kidding hey.

I cannot believe that Dissent would not publish your letter. And now you won't find one among 'em who was pro-war.

What duplicity. Just fuels my suspicion about liberals even more.

Thanks for looking in ... and for your advice :0)


Eugene said...

I sat on the fence about Oprah but was pushed over the edge when I read of her support of Condeleeza Rice as a role model and a successful black woman. Around that same time, a Black woman I worked with said that Oprah is whitey's black woman. Not a whole lotta black folks like Oprah, according to her.

I had a buddy, a Vietnam vet, who wrote down some of his numerous crimes against the Vietnamese and showed them to his wife...who came close to immediately leaveing him.

I used to support the troops not killing for empire and coming home, now I don't even do that. I used to vigil in front of the recruiting station on Broadway but have stopped. I used to think those guys are future Darrell Anderson's or many of the various deserters. But there was this black recruiter bragging about the fact that he was going to go back to Iraq and kill more darkies for whitey (my paraphrase). He is proud to kill for the nation that stole his fellow black soldiers votes in the last alleged presidential elections. He is proud to kill for the nation that is going to turn his fellow black folks homes into golf courses in New Orleans. He is proud to murder darkies for the same whities that lynched his fellow blacks and the government that still allows these cases to go unprosecuted.

The troops are calling the Iraqi darkies Hajis, sand niggers, rag heads, towel heads, camel jockeys, etc. They are torturing. They are raping women EVEN THEIR OWN [numerous female soldiers have died for fear of taking in liquids and having to use the bathroom where they can get raped]!

There is also the Nuremberg Demand which states if a soldier knows they or their superiors or the government they represent are committing crimes, they not only have an obligation but are DEMANDED to fight against these crimes. Law Schmaw, they're gonna get to kill some darkies for Empire that will toss them aside when they get back...but at least they will have to go to kill some darkies for the empire that will toss them away once they get back...but at least...

Ridwan said...

Are those morons at war with "Haji" even aware of the Nuremberg Demand my brother?

I hear you on Oprah. For a long time it was hard to call her on her shit. Not so anymore.

She has made her 'color' clear.

I think the work she does with 'schools for girls' in SA is disruptive interference.

It is also manipulative and a misunderstanding of the challenges faced by all kids in SAfrica.

Building a school for Black girls only is not a vision our post-apartheid country is built upon.

It is an apartheid era seclusion.

And, it is showboating for an outside audience.

But Oprah would not know this by the company she keeps in SAfrica.

She is, in part, led to believe that she has a relevant place of entry into the developmental challenges that face us.

She is courted for her money and fame.

It is an old story among us Africans. We will kiss the ass of anyone from the West if they will just take notice.

Oprah should have given the money to overall development in schools.

The last thing we need is a two tiered system that creates phony upper-middle class values in SAfrica.

As for Condi, well I only hate W. more than her. She is a buffoon ... and a white-ass-kissing sellout.

It would take an eternity to wash all that blood from her hands.

She like all the Black/brown soldiers who serve with pride in W's empire, are dead to me.