William Arkin, who writes a blog for the Washington Post, recently incurred the wrath of the blogosphera when he lamented some soldiers’ inability to distinguish between supporting the troops and supporting the mission the soldiers have been ordered to do. He wrote:
>Friday’s NBC Nightly News included a story from my colleague and friend Richard Engel, who was embedded with an active duty Army infantry battalion from Fort Lewis, Washington.
>Engel relayed how “troops here say they are increasingly frustrated by American criticism of the war. Many take it personally, believing it is also criticism of what they’ve been fighting for.”
>First up was 21 year old junior enlisted man Tyler Johnson, whom Engel said was frustrated about war skepticism and thinks that critics “should come over and see what it’s like firsthand before criticizing.”
>”You may support or say we support the troops, but, so you’re not supporting what they do, what they’re here sweating for, what we bleed for, what we die for. It just don’t make sense to me,” Johnson said.
>Next up was Staff Sergeant Manuel Sahagun, who is on his second tour in Iraq. He complained that “one thing I don’t like is when people back home say they support the troops, but they don’t support the war. If they’re going to support us, support us all the way.”
>Next was Specialist Peter Manna: “If they don’t think we’re doing a good job, everything that we’ve done here is all in vain,” he said.
>These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President’s handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.
>Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.
>Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don’t see very many “baby killer” epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.
>So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?
I know some of the readers here are “troops” (as William Safire would not say), so it would be interesting to have your feedback on this. The interesting thing about Arkin’s post is the vitriol it produced. For instance:
>You know I’m sick and tired of liberals deciding domestic policy, simply because they control all of the airwaves.It’s hi time that we true Americans (Stop the Liberal presses).We do need to boycott their networks and Put major pressure on their sponsers.We need to shut the liberals up.let’s give them a new assignment to report first hand accounts of unemployed and worthless. Let’s do it on behalf of any soldier that you know.Because My two nephews in Iraq do not deserve to die on behalf of people who hate them.
That’s nutpicking–combing comments to find a nutjob’s comment and then concluding that everyone in the comment section (and the blog) is a nutjob. No one’s doing that here. But I couldn’t find anyone who seriously addressed the distinction between supporting that troops and supporting the war effort.