In general, local news programs are a sure indicator of how irrelevant and brain dead TV news has become. The stale phrases used are worthy of some study. This report was about the two sets of demonstrators, and more time was spent talking to the pro-war faction, even though we outnumbered them by at least two to one. “On one side, demonstrators supporting the troops;” said the announcer, “on the other, those who oppose the war.” Here we can see—even at this stage of the conflict, when around 70% of the population wants the troops out of Iraq—how the media has absorbed the words “support the troops” like a devotee memorizing his mantra. Its pervasive use as a code phrase loaded with unspoken meaning is in perfectly inverse proportion to its actual relationship to the facts.
“Support the troops” was invented by the rightists in the lead-up to the Gulf War in 1991. It was based on a revisionist version of the
As a representative symptom of this deliberate revision of the past, we see how Jane Fonda was turned into a symbol of everything treasonous, but McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow, Henry Kissinger, Melvin Laird, and all the other powerful men who sent thousands of soldiers down the pipeline to their deaths for no good reason, are not reviled or condemned in the mainstream.
You never heard “support the troops” during Vietnam because it was generally assumed—and rightly so—that everyone outside of a lunatic fringe supported them, and that this support was a completely separate consideration from whether or not the war was right. But the radical nationalists, who want an empire instead of a republic and a king instead of a president, changed all that. It was a deliberate strategy to take war off the table as a legitimate topic of debate.
“Support the troops” simply means, “Don’t protest the war.” I must emphasize this point: that is all that it means. By identifying dissent against a war (any war that the government chooses to wage) as dishonoring soldiers, the rightists seek to taint protestors as anti-military, anti-American, and ultimately as treasonous. The central implication of this idea is that we do not have a right to protest a war, because it harms the war effort and demoralizes the soldiers. On what is arguably the most significant issue facing a country—the waging of war—the people should not speak, except, of course, in support. If we’re talking about taxes or health or education, we are presumably allowed to speak. But if we’re talking about the possible deaths of our sons and daughters, and the commitment of our resources to killing people for some stated cause, we should keep our lips buttoned.
It’s significant also that the phrase popped up prior to the commencement of hostilities in 1991. The same was true during the 2002-2003 buildup to the Iraq War. “Support the troops” was used to discredit protest before the war, just as it was after the war started. The argument based on national security, i.e. that once the war has started we should unite behind the cause, as flimsy and dangerous as it is, does not correspond to the right-wing strategy in fact. The war was not seriously debated in the government or the media prior to its launch in 2003. The millions of protestors around the world were not taken seriously. The 9/11 attacks were used as an automatic justification of all arguments, with a strong message that dissent from this justification was an act of support for terrorism. This is conveniently forgotten in the media, now that the war is unpopular. It should be vividly remembered.
By using “support the troops” as a rhetorical mainstay, the militarist right is essentially hiding behind the soldiers in order to avoid serious discussion of its ideas and aims. It’s an act of moral cowardice, pure and simple. William Kristol and his neo-con associates have no moral standing whatsoever, and their ideas and predictions would be thoroughly discredited and reviled in a sane political environment. Instead, they still command public attention and are given plenty of opportunities in the media to make their specious arguments. There is still no debate in the mainstream on the justice or morality, as opposed to the mere competence, of this war. The only real thought is occurring on the margins—but here we’re seeing an expansion of the margins to a width that is greater than what is supposed to be the mainstream. We are seeing conclusively that the mainstream consensus is an artificially created minority view sustained by economic and political elites.
It all filters down to the rote repetition of “support the troops” on the brainless local news. How long will “the troops” be used to hide the truth? It’s obvious that the militarists don’t really care about the troops. If they did, they wouldn’t be cutting their benefits, neglecting their health and well being at