Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ben Tripp: 'Support Our Troops'

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 Ben Tripp: 'Support Our Troops'
October 25 @ 10:13:23 EDT

The vengeance-crazy stooges with their heads full of agitprop, macho belligerence, and video-game glory got us into this war, supporting our troops all the way to the airport; now it seems that only attrition will get us out. The war has been waged, and those of us with a little nuance in our understanding or a knowledge of history or simply a distaste for bloodshed have been reviled as cowards, traitors, and fools. Meanwhile the corpses pile up in mountains and the seeds of uranium-dusted death have been sewn for a hundred generations, not just in that distant land but in the bellies of our own sons and daughters. Soon, by one bitter road or another, our troops will be coming back home. They will trickle out of the war zone as the enemy trickles in, celebrated in few glorious homecomings except perhaps for a state-staged parade here and there in the name of claiming victory. Already, they are coming home. Some of them send me messages, ghost-ridden and battered to the core of their beings.

The pro-war simpletons will clap the homecoming warriors on the backs and tell them they done good, they done proud, no matter how things turned out over there. Have a beer and here's the newspaper, good luck finding a job. Our troops will come back and be welcomed, but they will not be healed. You can't tell a man of 22 years he did a good job when he knows he slaughtered civilians to save his own life. You can't tell a woman whose job it was to keep the gunships flying that she helped destroy cities to liberate their occupants. This is a dirty, cruel, shameful war, and it will leave an indelible stain on everyone with a glimmer of insight that fought in it. This is where we that oppose the war must rise to a new and greater challenge. Somebody has to support our troops when they come home, and not just with glad words and yellow ribbon magnets. There are thousands with wounded bodies. But every single one of them has been wounded in the soul.

It is common practice to brand this kind of statement as an anti-soldier idea, like the mythical spitting-upon of troops returning from Vietnam. It is not. Our troops, the fliers, the soldiers, the sailors and marines, did what they were sworn to do. They could do nothing else. War is by definition a cruel and inhuman exercise. But in a war like this one, where the moral innards of the venture were rotten from the start, it becomes impossible to forgive oneself for participating at all. Every one of us has a compass inside that points the way to righteousness. Cast that compass aside, it never works properly again. How do you hold a menial job after you've held life and death in your hands? How do you learn to love when you have been taught that only hate will keep you alive? These are not rhetorical questions. Thousands of Vietnam veterans are lost in America's streets and public shelters, thirty years after their war petered out, unable to repatriate in a nation that has forgotten what real sacrifice costs. The ruthless pro-war cowards that cheered on the Vietnam warriors when that war was happening have now ascended to lives of unimaginable privilege and power, and turned their backs on the men that fought in their stead. Will we let this happen again to the warriors that are spilling their guts in the sands of Iraq? Because it will happen. It always does.

Our time to 'support our troops' is coming. Anybody that believes war is a good thing for any other reason than to defend one's homeland from direct assault, or to defend an ally from it, has never smelled a battlefield. Anybody that believes a belligerent cause, however noble it may be, is worth the death of a single innocent child if diplomacy might have kept that child alive, has never lost a child of their own. And yet these fools are going to lose their children and they are going to smell the battlefield because the war never ends inside the warrior. They will welcome their sons and daughters back from Iraq and wonder at the changes in them, the moods, the fears, the unwillingness to participate in the numb ritual of everyday life. The war will come home inside these people, poisonous as uranium dust, and the hawks around them will not understand. We that opposed this war, like every war, must reach out to these veterans. We must learn what it means to live with that pain, and what can be done to relieve it, and give them the comfort they cannot get from those that know the cost of war only from comic books and television.

Do not judge them for what they have done, no matter how bloody, no matter how banal their role in the war. Do not judge them. They are the sword that cuts. They are not the hand that wields it. Some will be accused of crimes, and will answer for them; others will be lauded as heroes and held up as models for future generations. But all of them have felt the bite of an unrighteous cause, the terror of an aimless, violent occupation, the fearful sleep of one that may never wake up. The pro-war zealots that cheered them off do not have the human feeling, the simple empathy required to understand what the war will have done to these people when they come back. This is the next great task for those of us that oppose this carnage: we could not stop the war in Iraq. But if we are willing to do the work, we might be able to stop the war inside our troops when they come home.

Copyright 2005 by ben tripp


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