There is a tight intertwining of the phenomenon of the soldier with that of war. Currently, those who oppose the war have been accused of not supporting the troops, with an emphasis on the human life of these soldiers. However, as those who understand the lack of necessity of the Iraq war in particular and all war in general, there is a recognition that those who use the human life of the soldier in their pro-war argument do not see or refuse to see that war in itself is the closest threat to the lives of soldiers. The following can be considered as a polemic in order to break apart this close connection that obscures the real value of life and the destructive nature of war. It emphasizes that the main difference that is between the identity of the human and that of the soldier is the military structure. What follows will hopefully illuminate that the inherent threat to democracy that lies with militarism allows the tipping point where a beloved fellow human can turn into an instrument of destruction, a part of the mass of the military, and yet one can still see the human in the structuring of brutality through an argument for peace.
Before they were soldiers, and before our government ever began a war, they were our fellow citizens. But the nation-state requires the background of various social relationships in order to exist. So even before they were citizens they were our friends, children, siblings, spouses, and parents. They engaged in the everyday of life that included loving, working, taking care of themselves, and taking care of others. This was how they were united with other Americans first and foremost.
These people felt they wanted to help their country. But in their minds, they visualized their nation as the aggregate of their neighbors, friends, and loved ones. That was their primary motivation, and in the context of current events where those in power described a threat to our nation as forthcoming, they joined the military in order to protect those close to them. They did not wish to defend a nation in the abstract.
However, the government described a threat that did not exist in reality. There was no weapons of mass destruction nor any connection between the dictatorship in Iraq and any terrorist organization. The reason for war was then shifted to an ideal of freeing an enslaved people in another country. This ignored historical facts that demonstrated that freedom and democracy can not be imposed upon a people from the outside, and that in some cases it was even possible for a people to free themselves through nonviolence. Two examples are the liberation of India from the British and the Solidarity movement in Poland.
The misinformation of a terrorist connection and weapons of mass destruction were repeated endlessly in order to reinforce the false premise of “giving” the Iraqis freedom and democracy. After a short period of time it transformed itself into a degenerate common knowledge that ignored its lack of truth. Beginning with the taking of the tragedy of September 11th and using it as a bludgeon to demand blind obedience to the government in a state of emergency, the president’s administration took advantage of the good will of the average American citizen and exploited their desire to help their fellow Americans.
It must be repeated that a soldier always begins as a human. Taken from the identity of citizen, where there is an expectation of democracy and equal empowerment of people, they are placed into a rigid authoritarian hierarchy that demands orders to be followed without question. Fed into the machine of war, they are placed into a situation where they must kill individuals who may have never harmed them before in order to avoid being killed themselves. Military training wishes only to turn humans into walking weapons, and the constant battlefield threat for individuals and their fellow soldiers induces a constant fear that deteriorates the mind. The dehumanizing effects of killing coupled with the inability to speak out against the situation they are in results in conditioned brutalities, deadly accidents, and many civilians getting killed in the crossfire.
During a time of war, those in power regularly ask those at home to not oppose the war in order not to demoralize the troops. In our present state of emergency without end, the rigid hierarchy of the military is extended into civilian life. The principles of democracy and freedom, supposedly the ideals the soldiers are fighting for, become hollow promises that are never put into practice for fear of endangering the security of the nation. Instead we are told that the soldiers are the ones who give us our freedoms, ignoring the fact that any society exists before the military, and implying that the military has the power to take those freedoms away. Power becomes centralized in the government and large corporations, and there is a clear borderline between the identity of the united nation-state and the villified other that only serves this centralization.
Five years into the war in Iraq and almost seven years into the state of emergency, we are told that we can not bring the troops home because it would leave unfinished business that would result in making our nation less safe, endangering the Iraqi people, and making the effort of our men and women in the military pointless. The fact is that this reasoning, playing on our willingness to help those who would give their lives for us, could be used by any government to expand political hegemony abroad and subservience at home. Therefore, we can conclude that the president is holding our fellow citizens hostage in the position of soldiers in order to maintain power and the far-reaching climate of blind obedience for others who share his ideological doctrine.
Each generation of soldiers hope that they will fight in a war so that their children and grandchildren do not need to fight. However, that hope evaporates as new reasons for war emerge. What remains the same is that war as a phenomenon is a conflict between leaders of nations much more than any real substantial conflict between the people of those nations. Soldiers become trapped in this structure where they are asked to win these wars but have no say in order to win the peace.
The Green Party holds nonviolence as one of its most important 10 Key Values. This has meant that the Greens have opposed this war from the very beginning, and has continually been an integral part of the wider anti-war movement. Despite what those in power have denounced as “un-American” or unsupportive of the troops, the Green Party is motivated by the very fact that this war does nothing to protect democracy or freedom, and will only result in more military and civilian deaths. Since both the soldiers and civilians are human, the end of the war will definitively mean the protection and respect for life. That is a clear goal that surpasses the political ambitions of our government.
To support the troops means to recognize their humanity, and how this humanity is primarily expressed as friends, children, siblings, spouses, and parents. We must do this by insuring their safety, and helping them try to put the pieces back together after the horrible experience of war. Locally and nationally we can do many things to really support the troops. We can demand from our government an end to this war that includes petitions, letters to our representatives, and nonviolent civil disobedience. We can initiate community programs that test soldiers for depleted uranium contamination, donate to the veteran’s hospital and other funds to help with health care, and create local businesses that can give veterans a just economic opportunity. We can vote for Green candidates that will always be committed to peace, and remove those elected officials that have collaborated with this government and their war agenda. But most importantly we can support the troops by promising them never again, and as our fellow citizens we can welcome them home in truth and reconciliation.