Why I Do Not
Support The Troops
By Lucinda Marshall
02 September, 2005
the last four years, the anti-war movement has been seriously handicapping
itself with its 'We support the troops but we're against war' mantra
of qualified dissent. Initially, the phrasing of this message was a
reflexive attempt to fit into the context of pro-militarism created
by the Neocon spinmeisters who quickly established a flag-waving, 'Support
our troops' litmus test in the aftermath of the tragedies of September
Wanting to avoid
being branded as un-American traitors from the get-go, the left promptly
started couching their verbage in the newly minted criteria for patriotism.
Unfortunately, that line of thinking is still alive and well today and
has become a serious detriment to bringing an end to the agenda of empire.
One of the guilt
factors that continues to keep the mostly white and privileged anti-war
movement supporting the troops is the argument that many soldiers come
from impoverished circumstances and are motivated to join the military
because of the education and job benefits that are marketed by recruiters
and glossy advertisements. Implicit in this angst is the assumption
that it is racist and classist to deny the 'benefits' of military service
to those who choose to enlist just because of our own ideological objections
to the military industrial complex.
There are several
major problems with this line of reasoning. First, the benefits aren't
all they are cracked up to be. For some, military service has been a
positive experience on a personal level, but for too many others, it
has not. Many military personnel receive no educational benefits at
all and only a few receive full benefits.
In addition, while
the military boasts about job benefits, the reality is that, according
to the Veteran's Administration, veterans' actually make less money
in civilian life than those without military experience. They also make
up 1/3 of homeless men and 20% of the nation's prison population.
How then can it
be appropriate to support recruits who sign up for benefits that are
overstated if not totally illusory? By saying that we understand that
they signed up because of the benefits, we are buying into the myth
of the military as a tool for social betterment. In essence, we are
excusing them (and ourselves) from questioning the morality of their
participation in a system that was designed to wage war.
Getting bogged down
in this line of reasoning also keeps us from examining how increased
military spending, as well as trade agreements like CAFTA, destroy our
economy. Would we not better support those who join the military for
the job benefits if we insisted that our spending priorities emphasize
education and job training, rather than cutting those funds so that
the only option left is the military?
By supporting those
who sign up for the benefits, we are saying that we think they are so
low on the totem poll that the only way we are going to give them a
chance to better themselves and lead a productive life is if they first
risk their lives for something that we don't actually even believe in.
And then maybe, possibly, depending on the small print at the bottom
of their contracts, they might get the benefits.
supporting those who sign up to serve their country totally excuses
the immorality of justifying the unjust as patriotism. There can be
no excuse for enriching the coffers of the likes of Halliburton while
bleeding dry our human capital and the resources of this planet.
It is not now nor
has it ever been in the best interests of our country, any other country,
or indeed the planet to kill innocent people, to poison the environment
with nuclear weaponry, to destroy cities and deprive people of their
health or the basic necessities of life for any reason. It does not
matter what their religion or skin color is or what language they speak
or how much oil is under their sand.
As Cindy Sheehan
has so eloquently pointed out, using our children as "human cluster-bombs"
to kill other children in never-ending wars is not a family value, it
is the callous betrayal of our youth and the wanton destruction of our
It is for these
reasons that I will not say that I support our troops.
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the
Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org.
Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and
abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our
Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine , Common Dreams
and Information Clearinghouse.