Monday, October 15, 2007

"Support the Troops" But...

If, as almost all Democrats agree, the Iraq War serves no defensible purpose, then it follows that the deaths and injuries our troops have suffered – and inflicted – have been in vain. No Democratic candidate -- except Mike Gravel and, in a more guarded way, Dennis Kucinich – will admit this. But it requires remarkable disingenuousness to conclude otherwise. Nevertheless, the troops deserve our “support.” It is true that they are technically volunteers. But the vast majority of them “volunteered” because the military seemed their best option, given their economic prospects. Others “volunteered” because military service seemed to offer a way to gain citizenship or at least permanent residency in the United States. What they volunteered to do was not work that needed to be done, and what they did is certainly not “honorable.” We therefore owe them nothing for their “service”; indeed, they have done a disservice, though the fault for this is plainly not theirs. Nevertheless, our troops are owed a great deal for having lived in circumstances that led them to volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way; we all owe them for this – all of us, insofar as we are complicit in maintaining a regime based on an economic system that generates enormous inequalities and that leads to perpetual war. For the harm done to our troops and for the harm we have made them do, they warrant our “support.”

Of course, when Democrats talk of “supporting the troops,” this is not what they mean. They may sometimes talk of mitigating the dangers the troops confront or of taking better care of veterans. [They may also intend support for the “out sourced” mercenary forces the U.S. has sent into Iraq, permitting the war and occupation to drag on without reinstating official conscription.] But mitigating dangers and harms is not what “supporting the troops” means to them either. It means keeping the war going – keeping the troops in harm’s way. Evidently, some Democrats can’t add two and two. Others, just as stupidly, think that the party’s electoral prospects depend on hanging tough. Then there are the cynics who want the war and occupation to drag on to make Republicans look even worse than they already do. But many Democrats “support the troops” knowing full well what they are doing. After all, it was essentially their politics that brought those troops into harm’s way. The Democrats would have done things differently and, no doubt, more competently. But when it comes to underlying political motivations, Clintonite Democrats are not all that different from Cheney/Bush Republicans. As I’ve said before, Democrats and Republicans both want a pax Americana enforced by the world’s mightiest military machine; they both want the United States to call the shots, whether unilaterally or, if possible, under the cover of multilateral institutions. They both want the U.S. to control strategic resources, especially oil, throughout the world. Most of all, they both want American corporations to be free to enrich themselves without significant impedances. This is why even “anti-war” Democrats want to avoid the appearance of an abject defeat in Iraq. Of course, there’s no way they can get what they want, but they can buy time – by “supporting the troops.”

Still there are limits because, for Democrats, some things are even more important – like pandering to ethnic lobbies. Everyone knows what mischief these lobbies do to what we naively call “the national interest.” The Cuba lobby has not only damaged Cuba and U.S.- Cuba relations. It has helped the U.S. do incalculable harm in Central America and elsewhere in the Western hemisphere (and, in Africa too, working against Cuban support for liberation movements there.). The role of the Israel lobby in shaping American policy in the Middle East has lately become a matter of dispute. We may soon have better evidence of its power and of its malign effects if the U.S. goes to war with Iran. There is little doubt, though, that the Israel lobby commands U.S. policy towards Israel/Palestine, and that America’s thorough lack of “even handedness” in that conflict has done incalculable damage to all the parties involved, including the United States.

That the Cuba and Israel lobbies are powerful and do harm should come as no surprise. But the Armenian lobby has operated, for the most part, under the radar. Now, though, that lobby has gotten Congress to pass a resolution calling the Ottoman slaughter of Armenians in 1915 a “genocide.” [They tried first in the mid-90s. But then Bill Clinton got Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, to quash the effort. George W. Bush can’t get Nancy Pelosi to budge.] The description is probably apt. But in liberal societies it is not up to the state to decide what is true; it is therefore not the Congress’s business to legislate historical judgments. When it attempts to do so, scientific or scholarly detachment go by the board, and electoral posturing of the most unseemly and self-serving kind, takes its place. This is what has happened, most recently, with Darfur. Even so, when the U.S. deems the tragic events there a “genocide,” there are – or are supposed to be – consequences. But not even Nancy Pelosi or others in the California delegation, where most Armenian-Americans live, can pass laws that trigger legal measures against the Ottoman Empire; not unless they can get their hands on a Way Back Machine. Congress’ abject pandering is therefore only symbolic. But, as usual, pandering has consequences.

Pandering to the Armenian lobby has put U.S. Turkish relations in peril – an especially dangerous eventuality when the Turks are poised to invade the Kurdish regions of Iraq, ostensibly to combat “terrorism” but actually to quash Iraqi Kuridsh support for the (much oppressed) Kurdish regions of Turkey. This is potentially an even greater threat to what little stability there still is in the region than the Israeli aggression last September against what turns out to have been a small-scale nuclear reactor in Syria. [There was no thought that the reactor posed any threat to Israel or anyone else in the foreseeable future. But it seems to have been of North Korean “provenance”; and we can’t have that! Especially not at a time when the Israelis are hell bent on getting the United States to go after Iran’s reactors. They must have figured that, to that end, a “demonstration” raid wouldn’t hurt.]

Ironically, though, the Armenian genocide resolution could have another consequence: that Turkey will rescind the support it renders the American war effort in Iraq, at least for a while. By making Turkish bases and Turkish air space unavailable to “the troops” and, more importantly, to the cargo the U.S. needs to run the war, Turkey could make the Iraq War much more difficult to conduct. This is not what “supporting the troops” is about; at least not to the Democratic leadership. Evidently, though, no matter how determined they are to be or at least to seem as “strong on defense” as their Republican rivals, pandering to ethnic constituencies still takes precedence. It trumps “supporting the troops.”

[Too bad that Serbs are not more concentrated in battleground states and that they’re not better organized as an interest group. Had they been, Bill Clintons’ military adventures in the former Yugoslavia might have been avoided, saving countless lives and incalculable damage to that nation’s infrastructure!]

Thus it turns out that Nancy Pelosi and the rest are not incapable of impeding Bush wars after all. Since “does” implies “can,” we now know for sure that they can do more than “talk the (anti-war) talk.” They may not have it within themselves to end the war by defunding it, or to punish its perpetrators (or even remove them from office), but they can make the murder and mayhem more difficult to execute. Supporting the troops, it seems, has its limits – even in Pelosiite circles. That’s good to know.

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Note: in declaring that the Armenians suffered a genocide, the House of Representatives, home of the “freedom fry,” is following the lead of their new friends, the French. But the French are even worse. Not only do they legislate historical judgments; they also impose penalties on those who disagree. This makes life difficult for Holocaust deniers but it can also have charmingly ironic consequences – as when that archetypal “orientalist” and leading figure in the “clash of civilizations” wing of the neo-con movement, Bernard Lewis, was indicted in France -- for denying the Armenian genocide!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia commend House Democrats and Speaker Pelosi for pressing ahead with an Armenian genocide bill. Republican opposition to the bill is pure manifestation of moral relativism.
Muslims Against Sharia condemn Turkish government for refusing to acknowledge Armenian genocide and recalling its US ambassador in response to the bill.

Source: AFP