J’Accuse! You can’t knock the military, its tactics, its weapons, its cause, and the legitimacy of the elected government it fights for and still claim, in any real sense, to support the troops. By making such sustained criticisms, you undercut morale at every turn. At best you insult our troops by portraying them as servile dupes, when in fact they’re knowledgable of their cause and motivated by the mission. At worst, you are calling them war criminals and helping the enemy in its struggle for public opinion. ~Chris Roach

I don’t know whether Mr. Roach was intentionally ironically quoting Zola, one of the leading critics of the French Army and the French state in the 1890s, to season his pro-militarist post, but it is certainly striking. It is remarkable that he would choose the title of a work plainly dedicated to criticising and, well, accusing the French Army of criminal abuse of one of its members to take a rather uncompromising position in support of the military (including any tactics they may choose to employ). In any event, I would have to be counted among the supposed morale-sappers who question some of the tactics employed and have no confidence in the cause for which these men are fighting and dying. I would make the self-evident statement that preferring American soldiers not die so that Arabs can vote is very supportive of those soldiers (or rather it values them as men and not simply as instruments of the state, which is perhaps worse for militarists than pacifism itself), but I doubt Mr. Roach would accept that.

The slogan, “support our troops,” like the ubiquitous, obnoxious yellow stickers that bark the same phrase, is not an exhortation, but a command to be followed on pain of condemnation. While I won’t attempt to dissuade antiwar folks from making the well-intentioned argument that we support the troops because we wish them to be withdrawn from an unnecessary and unjust war, there is something about that argument that has been almost too cute by half. Of course, I believe it is true that withdrawing from Iraq is better for America and the armed forces as an institution, and for everyone now serving their country in the armed forces, but I suppose I won’t pretend to be more pro-military than a militarist. I am not, and I don’t consider this something for which an American ought ever to be ashamed. Our ancestors had a horror of any standing army, no matter where it was or what it did–that we can have an even remotely civil argument over how we should be killing Arabs in a half-baked protectorate on the other side of the world shows that we have nothing in common with our Founders. In some very real sense, “supporting the troops” means supporting a war of aggression for which there is not an iota of justification. It is, of course, a damn lie and an insult to suggest that someone who refrains from cheering on such aggression lacks anything in patriotism, but it is a lie and insult to which serious patriots are well accustomed by now.

I suppose I must side with the “freakazoids,” as he calls them, over at Antiwar on the question of white phosphorus, and not simply because the “freakazoids” and I happen to agree that this war is an abomination. Note that none of the “freakazoids,” so far as I have seen, has claimed that white phosphorus is a chemical weapon. At least, it is not a chemical weapon like mustard gas: this stuff simply melts flesh, which is much better. The point ought to be that it was being used in populated civilian centers, and it evidently caused more than a few horrific civilian deaths. For the same reasons that I deplore and despise the use of all indiscriminate weapons in civilian population centers, such as fire-bombing of urban areas, I deplore and despise the use of such incendiary weapons in civilian centers.