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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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July 13, 2005

"Support Our Troops"

“Does The Left Honestly Support Our Troops?” So asks Dennis Prager in a column posted on RealClearPolitics.com. I come at this from a different position from either Prager or those he criticizes: I am not of the left, but I don’t support the war, either. I have always objected to the slogan, “Support Our Troops,” because the real question is whether to support the war, and making it into a choice of supporting the troops puts opponents of the war into the position of being disloyal. (Prager denies this last point, but he is being disingenuous.)

Prager argues that you cannot support the troops, really, without supporting the war. The crucial step in his argument is when he defines the term, ‘support the troops’:

“Presumably it means that one supports what the troops are doing and rooting for them to succeed. What else could ‘support the troops’ mean? If you say, for example, that you support the Yankees or the Dodgers, we assume it means you want them to win.”

He has won his argument by definition, which is the risk-free way to do it. With the Mariners (let’s use the local ball club), there is never a moral argument about who to play: one would never say the team has no justification to be playing the Yankees. Also, we are not sending baseball players out to risk death, nor are runners knifing the basemen as they round the bases or dropping explosives among the people on the stands. It would make no sense to say, “I don’t support what Mariners are doing to the Yankees, but I wish all the players to stop their pointless game and come home safe and sound.” But one could say that about the Army and Marines in Iraq, and one might reasonably describe that position as “supporting the troops and not the war.”

Prager says:

“A German citizen during World War II could not have argued: ‘The Nazi regime's army is engaged in an evil war of aggression and is slaughtering millions of innocent people, and I therefore completely oppose this war, but I sure do support the Nazi troops.”

A German during World War II could have argued something very much like that. He could have decided the Nazi regime be evil and hoped for the war to be over and the soldiers (German troops, not necessarily “Nazi troops") to come home—and for as few of his fellow countrymen to be killed as possible. Probably a lot of Germans felt just that way.

Prager says liberals are dishonest when they say, “I oppose the war but support the troops.” I don’t think so. The real dishonesty here is by the supporters of war, who are too chicken to come out and say, “Support the war.” That’s what they mean: Why can’t they say it? Instead, they say, “Support the troops.” Don’t hide behind the troops, dammit. We did not go to war on account of the troops, and we are not staying in the war on account of them. The war is not about the troops.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at July 13, 2005 03:33 PM



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