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On Supporting Our Troops
Without Tokenism

By Emily Spence

02 December, 2007

Recently a friend of mine passed along the following blurb, which was sent to her by another acquaintance: "Say thanks to troops with the help of Xerox
With it, my associate included the remark, "Although it's a nice thought, the sentiments made me sick!"

Typically annoyed by such emotionally manipulative, fawning fare, I snapped back, "I do not want to thank the troops. Instead, I feel sorry that they got taken in by slick government created propaganda hyping the military and have to pay for being duped by possibly getting psychologically injured, physically maimed or killed, as well as by doing the same damage to others. Indeed, they, despite whatever they might believe to the contrary, are not making me, nor any other Americans, 'free and safe.' They are not making Iraq's, nor any other peoples, 'free and safe' in their own countries. Instead they are helping to ensure that these others are ruled by puppet governments kowtowing to American leaders' aims to have indirect control over their regions and their resources. Instead, they get to watch as huge tracts of land get systematically torn apart and be the instigators of that process. (What support of democratic principles exists in that?)

"In addition, they are indirectly responsible for making more people throughout the world hate America and turn into terrorists as a backlash to our country's policies. Because of the actions and choices made by troops, indirectly so -- our country is in high fiscal debt while both natural and manmade environments are ruined across the globe. In addition, they are destroying many people and other life forms in myriad diverse ways. Similarly, they are using up oil in their relentless wars in order to get more oil to create more wars (as a self-perpetuating loop). Likewise, they are striving to create the means for utter domination over a vast store of fossil fuels and/or other regional reserves by vested US governmental and business interests.

Of course, I am sorry that the troops perhaps made naive choices that got them into this condition that they, willingly, chose -- to be lackeys to our awful Bush Co. and imperialist aims. Let us remember, though, that no one forced the decision upon them to systematically and deliberately pursue carnage abroad. Meanwhile, it is our duty to speak truth to justice about their wrongful course. Besides, let's face it. All that we have in today's military, for the most part, consists of a bunch of state sanctioned, well disciplined murderers roving in gangs across various lands where they have no lawful, nor moral, justification to be."

In response, the original sender of the link remarked that she, emphatically, doesn't agree with my sentiments as she had met enough wounded soldiers ("children actually"), who enlisted because of what happened in this country on 9/11. As such, she would never be anything but grateful to them, and for me to withhold gratitude was unbelievable. She, also, went on to state that, if these young men and women hadn't elected to join our armed services, our children would be drafted. So, they shouldn't be penalized for using the military as a means to get immediate jobs that could, eventually, help them receive college degrees and skills to obtain well paying work in the future. Likewise, they shouldn't be condemned for wanting to protect our country from assailants while voters, themselves, are responsible for the soldiers' brutal invasions of other nations. This is because, she reasoned, the voters, in the first place, elected the policy makers who, then in turn, got us into the calculated criminal assaults advanced on foreign soil.

To this comment, I responded that we all, as individuals, are responsible for our own choices and actions. No one, unless we're out of our minds, can ever force us to do whatever we opt to avoid. Therefore, I will not blame voters, nor nominated officials, for the singular actions carried out by each troop, although the others, certainly, ARE accountable for other related wrongs.

At the same time, the whistle blowers at My Lai [1] prove only too well that individuals, absolutely, are capable of acting independently and it is our undeniable duty to act with conscience regardless of any depraved orders handed down from authority figures. In addition, we need to recall that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, as didn't Afghanistan. Yet, these countries are the locations in which many of the troops, with no protest on their parts, wind up again and again in the mistaken notion that somehow they are helping the USA by attacking, when commanded to do so, others who, rightfully, are defending their resource rich lands from US marauders, who have no right, legal or otherwise, to be there. Then, while there, the troops still (as they were deliberately brainwashed to do) obey orders regardless of their obvious wrongfulness.

For example, I know one Marine, who concludes that he was acting patriotic to indiscriminately fire in the direction that he was demanded to shoot while in Iraq. At the same time, he doesn't know who he might have killed, which could have been women, men, children, "enemies," civilians, Iraq civil servants, news reporters or, indeed, anyone else with the misfortune of having been trapped at the spot at which he directed his machine gun volleys because there was, it appeared, snipers around that place. How chilling is that? How about considering that our tax dollars go towards this sort of undiscerning homicidal madness?

No, I am not grateful for their actions. Meanwhile, many of the personnel in the military are not desperate for college funds. Some were criminals, who got a "get free card" for signing up, and others are immigrants, who stand to gain citizenship from their stint in the forces.Thus, there is largely in place a barter system between our government and quite a few of the enlistees.

At the same time, some other troops, actually, left college and fine employment positions to join as they always liked male hierarchical institutions and equate guns with power, as well as love the military life wherein rewards and punishments are very concrete with extrinsic reinforcement in place. As such, they feel important by being in a unit and pleasing higher-ups, who they wish to emulate while getting awarded for doing so. That thought aside, there are always other options available to high school graduates besides joining such reckless misadventures.

For example, it might not be exciting to flip hamburgers at a fast food chain while continuing to live with one's parents as a means to save money. However, it is certainly doable in many instances. Further, there are always an assortment of low skill, menial and further kinds of jobs available in most locations across the US. As such, anyone imagining that the military option poses just about the only way for indigent young adults to get ahead envisions utter rubbish.

Nonetheless, we need to fix the job market so that there is a living wage to accompany labor and, without pressure to change, it will not be provided. As such, the military openings, in the end, do a disservice as a push to ensure salary hikes and an adequate supply of varying employment opportunities only exist when enlistment isn't posed as a wonderful choice in light of less appealing alternative prospects.

Furthermore, our government doesn't want to improve the current employment conditions for a number of reasons, including its desire to keep the military choice a superior one in many people's minds. So, joining up is presented as being patriotic, thrilling, supportive of democracy and America. It is, also, touted as being capable of providing further benefits (such as funds for school), which might or might not pan out. In addition, all sorts of other inducements are posed while there is always a shortage of troops due the fact that US leaders have ever so many, far flung interests nearly everywhere.

For example, "The Darfur region of Sudan possesses the third largest copper and the fourth largest uranium deposits on the planet, in addition to strategic location and significant oil resources of its own. Is the US-based 'Save Darfur' movement snowing the US public on the fundamental nature of the conflict in Sudan? Are 'Save Darfur' and the prevention of genocide the covers of convenience for the next round of US oil and resource wars on the African continent? [2]" This question in mind, one can easily picture just how tantalizing are the sets of "goodies" there. Consider how many more exist in Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere!

All considered, is it any wonder, then, that "excluding Iraq, Afghanistan and the other facilities in the Gulf states that have been built since the Republican war, the Pentagon lists 702 overseas bases in 130 foreign countries on which are stationed more than 250,000 uniformed troops. There are also dependents and civilian employees on many of those bases. [3]" Moreover, they, of course, are all needed everywhere in light of so much being available to grab everywhere if only we can come through with a sufficiency of troops and armaments while not rattling our allies in the process. Yes, we always need more troops!

Meanwhile, some Americans, in relation to this press for ever more, have mentioned their desire to see the draft system back in place as it being reinstated would surely be fair. It, also, would create sufficient rage (rather than the current public resignation) over various campaigns so as to, likely, end them in short order, just as occurred with the Vietnam War after the middle class and upper class families were tapped to yield up their children.

Besides, why should some young people be exempt from the duty at the expense of others? Is this just? Why should we be glad that the children of others readily join so ours can avoid a draft? Isn't that a bit cold and Machiavellian? (After all, every child is someone's child and it is hardly right that high school graduates from the lower economic lower tier almost exclusively becomes the US's sacrificial slaughter.)

Meanwhile, today's military adventurers, in the end, are two sorts: killers hired directly by our armed service divisions and negotiated contract killers (i.e., Blackwater mercenaries) of which both are trained to, unquestioningly, do our government's dirty work. Yet, it is entirely each assailant's choice to go along with an illusion of supporting freedom by viciously tackling whatever other countries our policy makers request. As mentioned before, no one is forcing this option.

Moreover, there are plenty of sources on the internet and elsewhere to see what is really going on in Africa, ME and elsewhere by our government that any of the troops can access if they want to see alternate views of their armed engagements. On account, there is no excuse to not view oneself as a cold blooded butcher if he knowingly supports the ongoing preemptive strikes in locations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere, which have nothing to do with defending the US. Instead, he has to conclude that he is, simply, a dishonorable contract killer (albeit one ratified by the status quo) and nothing more. As such, he is making tragic, indefensible mistakes.

I know all about these sorts of slip ups. Indeed, I have developed deep respect for those who made horrific blunders due to my having worked as a volunteer in rehabilitation with murderers, thieves and prostitutes both in prison and outside settings such as Dismas House [4]. Yet I am not ever grateful, nor could I ever be, for eager murderers whether their actions are state sanctioned or not.

So, the best that I can muster is to be sympathetic and sorry for their misguided behaviors, along with a desire to be helpful. I wish them well, but, as mentioned above, I am not thankful for them -- emphatically not so and will never send token of gratitude like Xerox cards or other misrepresentative tokens of endorsement.

If our military were not involved in their deeply shameful actions, I might feel differently. In any case, they should be building up the world rather than getting into an ever deepening quagmire over who (US and allies, Russia and allies, China and allies, Iran and allies, etc.) has the biggest access to global resources, power and control. Besides, how much better would be good will, cooperation and mutual support to obtain the provisions that governments wants from other countries rather than savagely going in with a lethal arsenal as a means to steal them by force?

All considered, we, if we really want to support our troops, need to, first, bring them home to protect their personal safety. Second, we must educate them to the "truths" about our government's intentions and deprogram them from all of the phony bologna of whatever they've been taught about safeguarding America by rampaging throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. Third, we need to rehabilitate them, as does the Dismas House program, so that they can integrate well back into society. Fourth, we need to teach them that, if they want to support US as a continuing troop, they need to work from within their ranks to change the military's overall aims.

In this vein, they should encourage the idea that the military needs to defend America by guarding its borders, as well as strengthening it from within by rebuilding weak spots, such as New Orleans and slum areas, rather than plundering other countries. Indeed, they should, by all means go to other lands (when invited), but with the aim of extending a helping hand to improve the quality of life abroad rather than inducing havoc through uranium tipped bullets, bombs and other means of assault, that only create bitterness, anger, suffering and death for a long time to come, especially in light of the whole landscapes being reduced to rubble and the uranium residue left behind to poison the water supplies, air and land.

In the final reckoning, our sending merry messages, little care packages and other friendly trifles to soldiers is not really meaningful, nor helpful in the long run. Our relentlessly pushing our legislators to immediately bring troops home, helping them reintegrate into society, as well as encouraging them to establish other ways to improve America and the world at large (especially in places where they have devastated the terrain) is by far preferable to their current invasions. By all reasonable means, let's unyieldingly press for this better sort of support for our troops now. Hopefully, our doing so can prove to be more advantageous and caring in the long run than any sort of maudlin cards, regardless of how sincerely they're offered, could ever be.

[1] An overview of the My Lai incident is located at: My Lai Massacre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (
[2] This quotation is from: "The US’s War In Darfur," by Keith Harmon Snow, Black Agenda Report,
[3] This quotation is from: "Time To Choose," by Charley Reese,
[4] A description of Dismas House outreach program for former criminals can be found at: Dismas House Massachusetts (

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