January 25, 2006

"I Don't Support Our Troops"

When the LA Times controversially dumped excellent anti-war columnist Robert Sheer, he was replaced by a hip kid with a more marketable "attitude", Joel Stein. Today, Stein sets off an important debate by opening his column with the shocking words "I don't support our troops":
I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else...

Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops... The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war...
Fair enough. So who's to blame for this debacle?
After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying.
I agree that the soldiers on the ground should be held personally responsible for their actions. To say "I was only following orders" is an unforgiveable cop-out. If you are going to kill somebody on somebody else's orders, you better make damn sure you understand exactly what you are doing and why. If you are in Iraq, you should know exactly why you are there (and there are plenty of blogs like this to give you an education if you need it). Soldiers tend to strut their manhood all over the place, but if you haven't got the balls to take responsibility for your own actions, what sort of man are you?

So, yes, soldiers should bear personal responsibility for their actions. But you can hardly blame them for mis-leading the USA into war. And it's here that Stein reveals he is no Robert Sheer.

Stein says we can't blame Bush ("too easy"), Congress or the Senate ("deceived by false intelligence") or even the ignorant fools (including Stein, I assume) who voted for a war "we barely understood." So he blames the soldiers. But that, really, is the "too easy" solution.

The harsh truth is that all of these people are to blame: Bush, Congress, the Senate, the voters, the soldiers, all of them. All must bear some burden of guilt for the tens of thousands of murdered Iraqis, the maimed and the homeless, the chaos and corruption. But the real architects of the war are the ideologues (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Ledeen, Feith, Wolfowitz, and more) who knew the intelligence was wrong because they themselves manipulated it.

If Stein doesn't know about the Downing Street Memo and the Office Of Special Plans and the PNAC, he'd better inform himself before he writes another column.

And if Stein doesn't want to blame Bush for mis-leading the USA into war, he should certainly blame him for covering up the truth and failing to hold these lying warmongers to account.

UPDATE: This related story just in:
Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

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