I just got off the phone talking on Free Talk Live after one of the hosts started calling military folks “baby killers.” The argument he was making was that if you are dropping bombs out of planes onto villages, you are most certainly killing babies. This is not under debate here, as death (even children) is certainly an expected part of war. Nobody likes that.
But still, that’s harsh and not useful.
Now, I’m avidly against the late Vietnam war and the current Iraq war (yet, I fully agree with using military force to retaliate and hunt down Osama in Afghanistan and wherever he is), but I think once you start throwing around blanket statements about the morality of our military troops, you are treading into dangerous territory. Back during Vietnam, one of the greatest blunders of the anti-war movement was to greet returning troops with spit and name-calling. The hippie crowd turned their backs on the military and shunned them as pariahs. My father is a testament and I have heard many stories in that vein from him that I trust his account of.
Here’s where it gets complicated with Vietnam, because of the draft: All of those who joined (by draft or willingly) were essentially made suckers years later when Gerald Ford pardoned all the deserters who ran to Canada or refused to join. I’d feel like a sucker too, but in that context, I’d hate hippies who had mocked me, not the government that had gotten away with a lying pretext for war.
Now here’s where we as libertarians have a unique opportunity to garner military people into our fold:
Don’t call them suckers, don’t call them baby killers.
Make it clear that the real criminal here is the U.S. government for waging an illegal war with their lives.
I’m not going to lay out an argument against the Iraq war here, since being in an information age, it’s easy to find what you need to state your argument with the Downing Street Memo.
But what I will say is that this misdirected rage at our troops must not be tolerated. Point it up the chain, the general who gives unlawful orders at the POW prison and has no control over his battalion, the secretary of defense who mocks our troops when he says “you go to war with the military you have, not the military you want”, the president and vice president who cull intelligence for damning WMD evidence to support their invasion, and change the reason to “spreading freedom” after the fact.
Only then can we win the battle of opinion with the returning troops instead of alienating them.
UPDATE: You can listen to the archived audio from Free Talk Live, where this post is read verbatim at the end of the second hour of the show (I had called in at the end of the first hour): hour 1 (6.7MB mp3) hour 2 (6.8MB mp3)