On America's roads only one thing is more prevalent than reckless cell phone-talking drivers: yellow ribbon magnets that read "Support Our Troops." As I sat in my car waiting for the light to turn green recently, I noticed the SUV in front of me sporting the popular slogan. I am tempted to get a ribbon myself, but realized that it would probably send the wrong message, namely, that I support the war in Iraq.
Unfortunately, war advocates in this country have manipulated the English language to fit their hawkish agenda. Now it appears that in order to support the troops, one is expected to support the Iraq war and President Bush unconditionally. Essentially, such a charged definition presents the false dichotomy: either you're with us (the war hawks) or against us (with the terrorists). Naturally, this proves problematic for anti-war advocates who are neither war hawks nor terrorists.
What does supporting our troops entail? Can people support the troops and not the war? "No," says a Marine I spoke with who was awarded a Purple Heart for his duty in Iraq. The Marine, who preferred not to disclose his name, added, "If people don't support what we are doing in Iraq, what do they support us to do?" The Marine mentioned that, while there have been mistakes committed throughout the course of the war, "this is not the time for criticism."
Former Army Ranger Mike Rhodes, who spent two tours in Afghanistan, provided the counter argument that one "can support the troops as individuals and still condemn the concept of war.
"The policymakers are the people accountable for the war in Iraq, but they have ingeniously and insidiously inserted the slogan 'Support Our Troops' into the public mind with the understanding that anyone who doesn't support the troops must be a terrorist."
When asked whether criticism of the war had affected him negatively while on duty Rhodes replied, "in Afghanistan the lives of my comrades were of sole importance, not sentiments back home. Political motives that landed us in Afghanistan were of no importance to us, only our collective survival."
For most anti-war advocates, the phrase "don't shoot the messenger" sums up our outlook toward the war in Iraq. Troops are not responsible for waging an unjustified war – that burden falls on policymakers.
Anti-war advocates support service men and women for their sense of duty, comradery and altruistic character. Moreover, we understand the troops have the good intentions of protecting the country and establishing stability in Iraq.
A question that is seldom raised is how our most adamant war hawks are supporting the troops. In order to answer this question I refer to one of the cruelest paradoxes attributed to nature – that of the crocodile who, after eating its young, will shed tears of sorrow. An analogous inference can be made of the way Mr. Bush supports our troops.
Mr. Bush enjoys strutting around in military attire, saluting and waving at the troops, leading them in the occasional "Hoo-ah!" – all the while cutting their benefits and allowing veteran hospitals to shut down for lack of funding. Moreover, his diplomatic blunders have left the country fighting a unilateral war in which thousands of honorably discharged soldiers are being recalled to the battlefield.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that many of our troops are not being supplied with adequate body and vehicle armor. This issue was brought to the attention of the general public when, in December 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?"
These days, the war lobby seems to share Republican Rep. Tom Delay's line of reasoning that "it's hypocritical to say, on the one hand, that you support the troops while, on the other hand, you say the reason they are risking their lives is wrong."
Ironically, when former President Clinton committed U.S. troops to Bosnia, Mr. Delay was quoted saying "You can support the troops, but not the president." I couldn't agree more, Mr. Delay.
Luci Storelli – Castro is a junior double majoring in political science and philosophy.