What It Really Means To Support the Troops

Recently by Joel Poindexter: Confessions of a FormerGangMember

This essay is based on a letter I sent to a conservative organization. They were soliciting donations of hygiene products for an event they sponsored in support of deployed soldiers. I have updated it and edited it for this site.

Among the principals held by conservatives are limited government, fiscal responsibility, and adherence to the constitution. How any group claims these tenets as principals and yet supports the state's wars of aggression is beyond my understanding. If "war is the health of the state," as Randolph Bourne wrote, then conservatives are the health of war.

Limited governments, if such a thing could exist, cannot wage perpetual war; only a leviathan state can do so. A truly limited government would be unable to expropriate enough money through taxes, borrowing, and printing to fund these foreign conquests. A limited government would also be powerless to conscript an army for its machinations, or coercively retain those already in the ranks. This last item is especially important now, as nearly 100,000 service members have had their enlistment terms involuntarily extended in the past ten years, including the author.

Wars are not fiscally responsible; they come at an incredible cost, both in terms of human life and in treasure. The U.S. government right now is spending trillions of dollars on no less than seven undeclared, open-ended, no-win wars. None of which serve the interests of the people in whose names they are waged.

None of the dozens upon dozens of military engagements the U.S. government has undertaken in the past seven decades has been constitutional. Without exception, each has been a war of aggression. Each was fought at the prerogative of the president, who has behaved more like a King, and who was never meant to have war-making powers.

Many suggest they are not supporting the wars, only the troops. This is patently wrong. Anyone who glorifies "their sacrifice," necessarily supports the wars these soldiers are fighting in. Likewise, to espouse the false claim that these men and women are "defending freedom" is to endorse current U.S. foreign policy, including the wars.

It is either tragic naïveté or willful deception to assert that these wars are meant to defend freedom. The vast warfare/national security state that has been erected in the past ten years has done nothing to promote freedom here, or abroad. To date, the U.S. government has suspended Habeas Corpus; it has detained many thousands of people and held them without charges in secret prisons all around the world. It violates the sovereignty of other nations and summarily executes their people. It convenes panels in secret, drafting lists of citizens to be hunted and killed without due process, or even so much as the pretense of judicial oversight. Children are not even free from such tyranny. It has callously butchered hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, displaced many millions, and destroyed billions of dollars of private property. Torture, or its equally disgusting euphemism, "enhanced interrogation," is considered by many to be perfectly acceptable, even virtuous. Of course when they do it to us it is considered barbaric.

It is precisely this moral relativism that perpetuates our problems. By refusing to see the humanity in the people whose lives are destroyed in the name of "freedom" we only ensure that others will be driven to take up arms against us out of retaliation. Vengeance is the single greatest factor in motivating terrorism; not an abstract hatred of our lifestyle. It is shameful that so many in this country hold one American citizen in higher regard than one person from another country. Our value as human beings is not determined by which government claims legal authority over us, nor is it by which arbitrary set of boundaries we are born within. Our value is the same in the eyes of our Creator, and is derived simply from our being His.

The federal government has claimed the right to take nude photos of anyone wishing to travel by airplane in this country, and to unnecessarily subject them to potentially dangerous levels of radiation. Those who object are instead treated to what in any other case would be considered sexual molestation. Not even the disabled, the young, nor the elderly can escape this abuse. Our persons, property and effects are no longer secure from federal agents, as warrants issued upon probable cause are from a bygone era. This is the freedom they are fighting to defend, and which these conservatives support?

I would prefer they actually support the troops. This can only be done by relentlessly fighting to bring them home. And by closing the 900 U.S. bases around the world, ceasing to support corrupt and repressive regimes, and by ending the U.S. Empire and all such intervention. As a veteran twice over from the occupation of Iraq, I can think of no better gift to the men and women of the U.S. military than to bring them home. Somehow a toothbrush and a bottle of shampoo just doesn't measure up.

Nothing says "I support the troops" more than declaring that from this point forward, none of them will die needlessly, thousands of miles from home, fighting unlawful wars of aggression. That they need not fear horrific injuries, nor have their minds irreparably scarred by the trauma and horrors of warfare. Nothing would be better for their families as well. Oh that they can find peace in the knowledge that their father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife, son or daughter will no longer have to leave for extended periods of time, fearful they'll never return.

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts