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Iconic propaganda, dysfunctional revisionism, and why "Supporting The Troops" doesn’t.

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Message Jay Esbe
Iconic propaganda, dysfunctional revisionism, and why "Supporting The Troops" doesn't.

One of the strange things about the Bush Presidency and his war, is that it appears to be an unexpected resurrection of an enemy thought to have been slain by the so-called "counter culture" which enveloped the United States, and indeed the world, during Vietnam. But if one was paying attention to the Reagan Presidency, and the subsequent mythology it created, it's a lot less of a surprise.

There was always a sizable contingency of men returned from Vietnam, who couldn't grasp an entire cultural reaction to the establishment when it landed them in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Out of the loop and bogged down fighting for a dumbed down ideology with no basis in reality -the domino theory of geopolitical spheres of influence-, they were subjected to powerful psychological forces tending to oppose "realization". "Born on the fourth of July" unveiled and demonstrated the dynamic brilliantly in the case of one soldier's psychological post-Vietnam battle to understand his situation. In the film, he succeeded in integrating and accepting his victimization. Many others never did.

Admitting one's been victimized to the extent that they were willing to kill and die for a lie, has to present the most formidable psychological impediments there are to extricating one's self from an indoctrinated state, to restored objective reality. America is filled with men from Vietnam who didn't make it, and it will inevitably be filled with men from Iraq who also fail to understand what happened to them.

No one wants to admit to what amounts to being punked when the stakes are this high. But as is the case in so many cases of abusive relationships, if left untreated, victims go on to become victimizers. Furthermore, if left untreated and allowed to simply seek internal support from others, they are capable of maintaining their denial against the outside world and doing great harm in the process. Untreated warped men who molest little boys create NAMBLA, and Vietnam Vets who failed to accept their own victimization create organizations which support wars which cheerlead the killing of a new generation of victims. It also allows men like Robert McNamara to escape to say, "We were wrong" and walk among free men. Robert McNamara and Johnson were more than wrong, much more than wrong, and so are Rumsfeld and Bush. This is criminal, and any contrition expressed must be weighed against the magnitude of the crime. McNamara should have gone to prison, and so should Bush.

The military is -intrinsically- a psychologically unhealthy place, beginning with the notion of destroying a man's individuality, will, and then artificially reprogramming him to automatic obedient responses to orders without consideration. When the destruction of the will and reprogramming combines with complete cultural detachment during deployment, with physical violence and the requirement to kill to survive, any society attempting to write an accurate history of a war, is going to find itself at enmity with it's own soldiers if they are left behind psychologically. I believe that these events and the psychological forces they generated are responsible for the resurrection of what was believed to be a dead values system after Vietnam. It came about in the form of a viscerally angry right wing movement which fed on a sense of betrayal and humiliation after Vietnam which was never addressed by an honest response. After a politically dormant stage it reawakened in the 1980's on talk radio and spread within itself at the hands of propagandists and red-baiting agitators like Rush Limbaugh. It's a lot easier to choose to be angry than to admit to being depressed, and any group of men who've collectively been exploited and abused like Vietnam Vets, are easy prey for unconscionable manipulation by people like Limbaugh, a man who dodged the draft on the claim of a cyst on his anal cleft.

The latest manifestations of this angry flag-draped revisionism are groups like the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth", which excoriate anything or anyone who challenges the belief that their "service" was anything less than invaluable to the country, or given for good reason. At some point the recognition of the lies as lies comes very close to the surface, yet they are still embraced. When a man is lied to and suffers, he protects himself from the truth if he's allowed to. When he's given the choice between believing he's a hero, or a dupe and victim, the motivational direction is not difficult to predict.

These veteran groups have damaged the country. They've damaged it by their collective embrace of unreality and it's requisite re-imposition of the failed values system they fought for: "My country, right or wrong". In their warped minds, Vietnam is still winnable "if only". For every John Murtha who's come to terms with the corrupt self-serving nature of the government's military industrial complex, there is one who has not and who will insist that anyone who questions a war, is disloyal. The American people have allowed themselves to be intimidated to an astonishing degree by these people, believing as though the only individuals who have the right to questiona war, are those who've seen combat. Murtha becomes the spokesman not because he's the most eloquent, but because he can't be attacked as a veteran. Yet, the overwhelming majority of those who've advocated this war are hypocritically excluded from the requirement. It has to change. The American people too, are collectively subject to psychological forces destructive to the national interest, misplaced collective guilt being chief among them. Failing to speak against this war because you've been told it's not "supportive of the troops", is the same old garbage applied to a new war based on the same lies to maintain the same failed values system. The disconnection between the war, and the people who're actually waging it only remains as long the propaganda prevails in the public discourse. So far it has prevailed, for I have yet to see the subject undertaken here, undertaken in any meaningful public debate by our leaders.

The American people have allowed themselves to be collectively cowed into either silence, or making absurd claims like "I oppose the war but I support the troops". What do you support them in? Doing laundry? What it really means to "support the troops" is what must be defined. If you support continuing to send them into a failed occupation and civil war to die, you're not supporting them. It's far easier to define what does not support them: But if you simply say you support them as troops, you're supporting what's killing and maiming them. If you want them to remain in a kill zone, but with better helmets, you're still killing them, although perhaps in smaller numbers and you clearly lack an actual ethic. But you're not supporting them because they simply should not be where they are. And if you insist on telling them that they're "heroes" for their service, you're telling a lethal white lie; You are creating a new generation of men who will never face reality and who will inevitably again damage our history, and eventually the country in another worthless war. Truly supporting the troops is not going to be perceived by the troops as support. What it really is, is this; tell them the truth. And the truth is, like Vietnam's veterans, they got duped, lied to, cynically used. In other words, they got punked. Those who died, did indeed die in vain. They need to know this, whether they want to or not. They do not. Something of value must be found in the senseless deaths of 2,500 troops. Making certain this never happens again is the one option within our control which can bring something of actual value to the country. These men put their lives on the line for a lie, and sometimes, they killed their fellow human beings for a lie. Something close to 90 percent of the troops in Iraq, went there believing that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. If we leave their programming and factual isolation un-remedied, in a few short years, they too will emerge as yet another dysfunctional angry generation of victims turned war mongers. The history of these events will be up against a series of psychologically defensive lies enlisted in the service of sending yet another generation of soldiers into the kill zone on unchallenged propaganda and indoctrination.

In the case of Vietnam's veterans, so much time has passed now, that helping them actually deal with and to accept reality has become less viable. They have in too many cases, moved from being victims, to being activist victimizers. Like NAMBLA. The segment of angry, reactionary vets who rush to immediately support war and scream "commie" at cooler heads, are a group we can no longer afford to indulge the sensitivities of if we're to ever prevent this disease from continuing to spread. They're not heroes now, nor were they ever heroes. Good intentions do not a hero make. Neither are the kids in Iraq heroes. They're victims. This blurring and transfer between victim and hero has been cynically fostered and maintained by those in society intent on maintaining their murderous corrupt agenda. A little logic in any other circumstance leads one to conclude that just because someone has been abused and damaged, does not engender them with innate nobility or moral supremacy. But when societal peer pressure meets military group think, unless consciously countered, the outcome is absolutely predictable; Guilt on the part of the bystanders maintains the white lies, and anyone given the choice between accepting a narrative that they've shows been victimized, or being regarded as "national heroes" is going to choose the narrative which supports the later.

The soldiers deserve our compassion and our honesty, but they do not deserve to be idolized or elevated at the expense of reality. It is up to us as a nation to realize that to one degree or another, we've all been punked, and to put an end to it. This is no easy task, and it will inevitably be met with outrage when undertaken. It involves telling people their Sons did die in vain, for it was for the vanity of George W. Bush and his corrupt advisors. It will involve telling returning troops that they lost an arm or leg for nothing greater than a cold-blooded political calculation designed to mitigate damage to the leader responsible for sending them into harms way on knowing lies. And last, but certainly not least, it will involve telling soldiers that despite their courage, nothing they did ever protected the American people; that the war they fought actually severely damaged the country. None of this is advocating that we heap further abuse on these men, although it will certainly be spun that way by people who've proven themselves willing to fight to the last drop of someone else's blood. This is about reclaiming reality, and although it will be unpleasant in the extreme, if it's not dealt with now, it will grow a far bigger and uglier cancer later.
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Jay Esbe is a writer with a background in cultural anthropology and comparative religion and lives in Seattle Washington.
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