Home > Military, Right-Wing Hypocrisy, Right-Wing Lies > Supporting the Troops vs. Using the Troops

Supporting the Troops vs. Using the Troops

December 19th, 2011

Tucker Carlson’s agitprop outfit just came out with a rather stunning slant in a piece where they criticize Obama for… praising the troops. Now, how, you may ask, could they criticize Obama for that? Easy: make it seem like Obama actually hates the troops, usually reviles them, thus making his current lavish praise seem “unfamiliar” and “unprecedented,” in effect suggesting that he’s doing it purely for shallow and dishonest political reasons.

Their evidence in this regard, of course, is non-existent–the article is heavy with implied claims that Obama has somehow ignored or even hated the troops until now, thus creating the larger impression that his current praise can be explained away as posturing, thus explaining how he could heap such praise and yet still not contradict the right-wing fiction that he hates the troops.

The only support they provided for the claim that Obama abused the troops was that he had provided the soldiers and their families with a large number of programs to help them out, making sure they got good medical and psychological care, assuring that the families were looked after sufficiently, seeing to the education of their children–stuff like that. In other words: supporting the troops.

How, exactly, did conservatives paint Obama as abusive to the troops with this? They claimed he had painted them as “victims dependent on social-welfare and medical services offered by the Democratic coalition.”

You see, when you do things like recognize soldier trauma and high suicide rates and needs for things like education for their children, you are actually hurting the troops, insulting them by making them into victims and robbing them of their pride and self-reliance. Instead, you should let them suffer without support, and not reward them substantively for their service, so when they come through it all, they’ll be more proud. Apparently, only lip service is required from the rest of us. That is the Republican definition of “supporting the troops.”

Liberals don’t hate the troops; quite the opposite, they have, from individuals up to national politicians, always been concerned about the health and welfare of the men and women in the armed forces, and mindful of their needs. I am sure that most rank-and-file conservatives respect the troops in general, but the conservative establishment sees them as more of a resource to be used. This attitude is more aptly expressed in how they weild the troops as a tool, a means to an end. The best example of this is when they use the troops as human shields to avoid political criticism; when conservatives screw up, they deflect any disparagement of their actions as “attacking the troops.”

It is simply a long-standing lie that liberals hate or disrespect the troops. The lie has been propagated since the Vietnam War, when liberals protested the war and the political administrations, and conservatives wanted to deflect those criticisms. So they created the cowardly lie that any criticism of the war was somehow criticizing the troops, and not the leaders.

On a general level, the lie fits in with the conservative myth that right-wingers are “pro-military” and liberals are anti-military. The distinction is sometimes blurred in the eyes of the public because conservatives are hawkish and want more military spending, whereas liberals oppose egregious or harmful use of the troops and the military, and often disapprove of the corporate-military complex. Because these are not simple divisions, they are easily mischaracterized, and thus we get the current mythos.

The conservative “pro-military” stance, however, is not so inclusive of the troops; it is more about wanting to send troops to war, and reward wealthy patrons who are military contractors, like Halliburton. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to run wars where troops are kept out of harm’s way, and try to run a leaner yet fully-capable military.

As General Wesley Clark so aptly put it in 2004, “Republicans like weapons systems; Democrats like the soldiers.”

Remember how liberal protesters spat on Vietnam vets on the airport tarmacs as the vets returned from Vietnam? That’s an image ingrained upon the America psyche–and is pure fiction. There was not one soldier who got spat on by a liberal protester on any airport tarmac–it never happened. We know that because liberal protesters were never allowed on military bases to protest, and soldiers returning on civilian airlines were not in uniform nor were their arrivals publicly announced–nor were protesters allowed to congregate on civilian tarmacs in any case. The entire thing is a fiction produced by right-wingers who wanted to vilify liberals as soldier-haters, a lie perpetuated by–of all things–Hollywood, in movies like Rambo, whose title character famously said, “I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap!” People saw that made-up right-wing fantasy and other such characterizations and simply accepted the idea.

The fact was, liberals during Vietnam were mostly the same as liberals during the Iraq War: they protested the political administration or elements of the military hierarchy which propagated the war–but not the troops themselves.

Am I claiming that there were never any liberals anywhere who hated soldiers in general? Of course not, there must have been–just as there are extremists on the right today who see soldiers as jack-booted thugs. You’ll find crazies at the extreme of any movement or group. Conservatives are simply extraordinarily talented at taking such extremes, exaggerating them and padding them with lies, and then painting the entire opposition with that brush.

The fact is, many of the liberal protesters were soldiers themselves, vets who returned from the war and saw the liberal protesters as forwarding their cause–to stop the war and bring the soldiers home. Troops who would never had associated with the liberal movement in general had that movement been populated with people who spat on returning soldiers.

Conservatives more crassly use troops as a resource, as cannon fodder, easily starting ground wars and even mercilessly extending tours of duty, whilst promoting G.I. benefits only as a way to entice recruitment, but otherwise not giving a crap about their actual welfare. Soldiers are raw material to be used militarily, politically, even sometimes socially. They are to be proselytized and reshaped to a conservative ideal, to be used and then discarded. Not, of course, by all conservatives, not by a long shot–but that is how they are treated by the conservative establishment.

In the past few decades, maybe longer, whenever we saw a bill to raise the troops’ pay or benefits or help them in some way other than signing bonuses, it was the Democrats pushing for it and the Republicans balking, while Republicans were mostly responsible for cutting pay and benefits, and for abuses like we saw done with stop-loss and failure to outfit the soldiers with body or vehicular armor.

Republicans committed the lion’s share of our forces to not one, but two decade-long land wars in Asia, where more than 4500 soldiers were killed. Democrats started actions in Bosnia and Libya, where mostly air power was used on a short-term basis to positive effect, with a minimum risk to the troops.

I think Republicans burn at seeing Obama lavish praise on the troops because they know Bush didn’t do it as much. Bush not only tried to hide military funerals, he didn’t even sign condolence letters; Obama reversed that trend of neglect. Bush slashed soldier’s benefits and cut their families adrift; Obama passed dozens of programs to bring back support to the troops and their families–and right-wingers hate him for it.

What does that tell you?

I will leave you with a post from nearly a year ago when I laid out much the same case:

During the Bush years, Republicans made their usual big deal about supporting the troops. When it comes to actual support though, the right wing really only supports the military contractors, who are, after all, among those paying the bills. Despite their talk about cutting spending, they won’t touch Defense, despite there being a lot to cut; Lockheed Martin alone receives an average of something like $260 from each taxpaying American family.

When it comes to the soldiery, the support from the right is not quite so strong. Oh, yes, the words come out. Support the troops and all that. But actions speak louder than words, and during the Bush years, much of the action was abusive. Lengthening tours of duty, employing stop-loss, scaling down pay increases, cutting benefits, failing to outfit them properly–basically chintzing the soldiers on nickels and dimes while pouring billions into the pockets of firms like Halliburton. When a veteran’s organization ranked senators on how they voted on veteran’s issues, the disparity was striking: Democrats occupied the top of the list, while Republicans uniformly failed to support the troops themselves where it counted.

There is one aspect in which Bush and the Republicans liked the troops: as a prop to help them politically. How many times did you see Bush–the AWOL draft-dodger–give speeches before uniformed audiences, helpfully arranged behind him for effect; how many times did we see him reviewing the troops, a purely PR-related activity?

Whenever Bush’s decisions were questioned, the reply very often was to use the troops as a human shield. Anyone who criticized Bush was accused of attacking the troops–an act of hatefully vile cowardice which I personally despise.

When a selflessly patriotic man gave up a lucrative personal career and volunteered to serve, and then was killed in “friendly fire,” the details of his death were covered up while the Bush administration shamelessly used him as a poster boy for their PR campaign after their disgrace at Abu Ghraib.

But people believe that liberals are the ones who abuse the troops. After all, wasn’t it liberals who spat on soldiers on the airport tarmac as they returned from service in Vietnam? Well, no. It’s an urban legend, another lie generated to discredit liberals. In fact, during the Vietnam War, liberals supported the soldiery just like they do today; it was the administration they despised. Again we see the tactic of using soldiers as a human shield, to very great effect–so many people even today believe the image of liberal hippie protesters spitting on deplaning soldiers, despite the fact that it would have been physically impossible for that to even happen.

Whenever a bill to support the actual soldiers came through, it was almost always a Democratic effort, and was usually opposed by Republicans, who, after throwing billions at contractors, could not see themselves clear to tossing a few million to actually support the troops. Take this GI Bill for example. The only time Republicans assented to spending more on the troops was in order to bring more people in the door–enticements for signing on or staying on. When it came to helping the troops without an ulterior motive, simply because it’s the right thing to do, Republicans suddenly had other things to do, leaving the Democrats to pick up that particular ball.

That continues today. From the White House:

President Barack Obama on Monday announced a governmentwide series of 50 programs and proposals to increase support for U.S. military families.

The 50 initiatives — including more counseling to prevent suicides, increased education grants and expanded child-care assistance — resulted from efforts by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to address concerns of military families.

Seriously, do you ever recall Bush doing anything even remotely like this during his eight years in office?

Me neither.

None of the reports indicate that this will have to pass through Congress. Let’s hope not, because you know who would most likely decide that it’s not worth doing, or should be pared down somewhat.

  1. Troy
    December 19th, 2011 at 12:35 | #1

    it’s not the BS that gets me, it’s the millions of people who are buying it.

    “In the sampling of all voters, half said they would vote for Gingrich and 41 percent favored Obama. The same sampling showed that 55 percent would vote for Romney while Obama dropped to 38 percent as some undecided respondents moved to Romney.”


    Instead of analyzing the bullshit, it’s helpful to understand why people believe what they do.

    But frustrating, too. This country is just too damn divided by ideology and ignorance.

    You should write more about your own country : ) Can Japan get its act together?

    Is it getting better or worse?

    I was studying Mandarin a couple of years ago not to be able to go to China (no thanks!) but rather I was thinking it would be useful to be trilingual in Tokyo, career-wise.

    Not sure that’s correct thinking but the future of Japan interests me more than the future of the US. I don’t plan on being here much longer, I think the baby boom turning 65 is going to be a terrible burden. This happens in 2026, the 250th anniversary of the revolution.

    I remember how cool 1976 was, but was too young to understand the macro difficulties of the time. I wonder how 2026 will be.

  2. Tim Kane
    December 20th, 2011 at 04:43 | #2

    Recall, in 2006, Americans voted in large majorities of Democrats in a rejection of Bush’s strategy in Iraq.

    Bush’s reaction, as commander in chief, was, to change the strategy, to put in even more troops, stylized as “the surge” (no doubt by a focus group), even though there was no money for those troops.

    This presented Nancy Pelosi with a dilemma. Because Bush was Commander-in-Chief, he could put the troops in Iraq if he wanted to even it there was no money to feed, close, house and arm the troops. Pelosi, for her part was voted into office out of the American people’s desire to end the American war in Iraq. In other words, reduce spending.

    Pelosi’s choice were quite a contrast: let the troops Bush put there starve, or vote to fund the surge, against the people’s will but in line with Bush’s will.

    Bush, then was holding the soldiers as hostages in a political stand off. .

    Love the troops? Yeah, Republicans love them a lot. Love to hold them or anything hostage to get what they want… Love to send them to war ill armed and ill supplied.

    The Iraq war says everything you need to know about the Republicans. The public’s interests (capturing Bin Laden) was hold up in the Tora Bora Mountains in Afghanistan. Republican interest was in Iraq. What did they do? They went into Iraq and let Bin Laden go.

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