A few days ago, New York Times columnists Bob Herbert and David Brooks engaged in an online conversation in which they lamented that the American people are not doing enough to support the troops who are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. They said that Americans just aren’t taking these “wars” seriously and should be engaging in much more shared sacrifice for the sake of the troops.
It would be difficult to find greater imperialistic nonsense than that.
First of all, there is absolutely nothing to prevent Herbert and Brooks from joining the military and volunteering to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sure, Herbert is 60 or so and Brooks is 48 or so. So what? Old people can serve useful functions in combat, especially in a support role. For example, Herbert could drive a transport vehicle. Brooks could cook. Old age is an invalid excuse for avoiding military service, especially when one honestly believes that national security is at stake.
Moreover, even if the military refused Herbert’s and Brooks’ offer of service, that would not prevent them from traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan and joining up with a private contractor that serves the troops, such as Blackwater. Or they could join some private aid group that assists the many Iraqi and Afghani victims of the war, such as those who have lost family members in wedding parties that the troops have bombed.
Herbert writes: “The members of the military have behaved heroically and conducted themselves with great dignity. Their sacrifices (and those of their families) have been enormous. I haven’t even talked about the thousands who have given their lives and the tens of thousands who have suffered terrible physical injuries.”
Unfortunately, neither Herbert nor Brooks raises a critically important question: What difference does it make if the troops are conducting themselves “heroically and with great dignity” if they are engaged in an illegal and immoral war of aggression? Are the American people supposed to be enthusiastically supporting the troops when the troops are doing something that is fundamentally wrong and that violates people’s consciences?
Where is the constitutionally required declaration of war for Iraq? It doesn’t exist. Where is it for Afghanistan? It doesn’t exist. That makes the wars on these two countries — and the resulting occupations — illegal under our form of government.
Where is the morality of using the troops to kill, torture, and maim people in order to achieve a foreign policy of regime change? Who cares whether they are performing “heroically and with great dignity” when they’re serving as the instruments of violence to achieve an immoral political aim?
Moreover, we must also keep in mind that no matter how heroically the troops are behaving, their killings, assassinations, maiming, and torture of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, continue to engender massive anger and rage among foreigners, which produces the ever-growing threat of more terrorist retaliation against the United States. By continuing to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, the fact is that the troops are making Americans less safe.
Herbert and Brooks point out that many U.S. soldiers are returning home with psychological problems, which Herbert and Brook partly attribute to post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
There’s another possibility though: that those troops are suffering from massive guilt, rooted in the unlawful and immoral killing of people who had a right to live free of an illegal and immoral invasion and occupation by the troops of a foreign empire.
When people are engaged in wrongdoing, oftentimes there is nothing they love more than for everyone else to engage in the wrongdoing too. It makes them feel better about what they are doing. We must constantly resist the temptation to support wrongdoing, either explicitly or implicitly.
We must never surrender our consciences for any reason. We must steadfastly continue to oppose the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and continue calling for an immediate evacuation from those countries. That is the only moral way to genuinely support the troops, our country, and ourselves.
POSTSCRIPT for people in the Arizona area: The Freedom Library, which is run by longtime FFF friend Howard Blitz, whose articles in the Yuma Sun we often link to in FFF Email Update, is hosting (pdf) its 14th Annual Education Forum on Saturday, October 31, at Arizona Western College in Yuma, featuring C. Edward Griffin, author of The Creature from Jekyll Island.