I find it virtually impossible to avoid analysis of the omnipresent "support the troops" concept. The latest opportunity presented itself as I walked through a parking lot in suburban Texas. On the rear window of a pick up, I saw a decal that read: "Death from Above." Translation: The truck owner (or someone the truck owner knows) is affiliated with some sort of airborne military unit. To them, "Death from Above" is a source of martial pride and patriotic passion.
In reality, "Death from Above" means nothing less than mass murder from 15,000 feet. It means daisy cutters, bunker busters, cruise missiles, napalm, and white phosphorous. It means depleted uranium and cluster bombs littering the landscape for decades. It means rubble, destruction, the ruination of lives by the hundreds, by the thousands and more. It means Dresden, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. It means "shock and awe." It means 9/11. It means more than space allows me to explain, yet it's perfectly normal for an American to slap a "Death by Above" decal on his/her vehicle...right next to "support the troops" sticker.
Many of us don't like the idea of our tax dollars paying for the aerial bombing of civilians but who do you think does the actual bombing? Our (sic) troops. Yeah, the same volunteer soldiers given a free pass by folks across the political spectrum. I know I've made this point before but, since repetition seems to work well for Corporate America, here it is again:
The "support the troops" excuse making typically touches on these two areas:
1. They were just following orders
2. Those who enlist do so for economic reasons
The first line of defense flawed argument. Principle I of the Nuremberg Tribunal (1950) states: "Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment." Principle IV adds: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." And please don't get me started on the Geneva Conventions.
As for excuse #2, a November 2006 New York Times editorial put that myth to rest. Authors Tim Kane and Mackenzie Eaglen "analyzed demographic data on every single enlistee, not just a sample, and found that in terms of education, last year's recruits were just as qualified as those of any recent year, and maybe the best ever. Over all, wartime recruits since 1999 are in many respects comparable to the youth population on the whole, except that they are on average a bit wealthier, much more likely to have graduated from high school and more rural than their civilian peers." They also found that youths "from wealthy American ZIP codes are volunteering in ever higher numbers" while "enlistees from the poorest fifth of American neighborhoods fell nearly a full percentage point over the last two years, to 13.7 percent. In 1999, that number was exactly 18 percent."
Are some of the American soldiers in Iraq there primarily for economic reasons? Sure. Did others sign up for a chance to shoot some towel heads? Probably. So, after factoring out these two relatively small groups and rejecting the immoral "only following orders" defense, the questions remain: Exactly how are the men and women fighting in Iraq immune from any and all blame and what does it say about a culture when the concept of "death from above" is proudly displayed on t-shirts and bumper stickers?