During this Memorial Day we need to do more than mindless salutes, posting flags in our yards, and parrot platitudes about the men and women serving in harms way in this ongoing Iraq war.
First, we need to recognize that the war is an ongoing nightmare that we will never win in some facile sense where we simply train a handful of Iraqis to patrol their own streets while we construct a few permanent military bases in the region and call that victory.
Don't just take my word for it though. Who would know better that the Iraqi war is a faithless and fruitless pursuit better than some of the military that have been there? This memorial day weekend, we highly recommend supporting the efforts of the Iraq Veterans Against the War.
What are the main objectives of Iraq Veterans Against the war?
The main objectives of IVAW are threefold. They are:
1: Bring the troops home now.
2: Support Iraqi reconstruction in whatever way possible.
3: Support our veterans and our troops now and upon their return home.
However, this does not mean that we completely embrace the "support the troops or you're unAmerican" claptrap. Certainly we can agree that some of the military are downright reactionary in their support for the meaningless war efforts of the Bush regime, but in general they are exactly the same people you would see doing any other working class job. If a distinction were to be made about who is responsible for this mess and who is worthy of our disdain, I'd say make it between officers who are involved in creating and perpetuating this war and the civilian higher ups who keep beating the drums of war, not between military folks and enlisted people.
We have a problem in perception. The fact that some leftists and progressives do usually seem to see ALL military people as the enemy, in my own experience, is a large part of the reason that soldiers often don't understand the concerns that progressives have about the military. Calling someone a "baby killer" does not demonstrate what is wrong with the reasons, planning, and action of an unjust war. It just makes the basic soldier on the ground angry and resentful when we want to encourage that soldier to be reflective and thoughtful.
I do understand the history here, but we must recognize that most enlisted people are just kids with a (barely) high school education, who can't figure out any other way to pay for college or get out of their home town and because they've had their woefully deficient education in public high school, they know next to nothing about history themselves. Let alone any kind of experience in directly questioning authority.
The whole history of the Bonus Army, of US military actions in Central America, of the United Fruit Company... all of this would not only be news to them, but if you told them they wouldn't believe it without a heck of a lot of evidence. They don't have a reason to believe it: they watch Fox News and they love what they think their country stands for; even if it's another right-wing lie.
We must focus our criticisms like an illusory star wars defense plan laser. We must be careful to not focus on the enlisted soldier because even if we disagree with their politics these are the people who don't actually have anything to do with making US war policy. If we are mad at Rumsfeld and Bush (and all the many other leaders who have led us down a path to war) then we must aim at these feckless chickenhawk leaders, not some kid from Podunk who saw cable for the first time when he got to basic training.
I'm not absolving any military-affiliated people from any actions that run counter to common decency and ethical behavior. But there are a whole lot of factors that make them shy away from critical civilians like many in the progressive movement, and not many factors that would make them feel any kind of solidarity with progressive causes.
And that is a problem that we can fix.