awkwardly

Wednesday

Support Our Troops
Translation of this bumper sticker: the emotional well-being of our vets is more important than the number of them who may die in fighting a war. Especially more important than the number of civilians or enemies who may die in the war.

You've heard how Vietnam vets were called "baby killers" after they returned home, no parades, treated lousy. I don't want to create or add to any stigma for soldiers, but we still have to ask that unjust wars be stopped. How do you fit the two together?

On the one hand, lots of people who oppose the war say that they are supporting the troops. The best way to support them is to bring them home. Keeping them in combat for an illegal war is not supporting them.

Other people imply that anyone arguing against the war is adding to stigma that will come down on innocent troops who were only following orders. To oppose the war is to make the troops feel guilty.

Let's look back at the aftermath of Vietnam. According to official counts, roughly 50,000 US people died fighting the war. Estimates differ on how many Vietnamese were killed, but as time passes and the number gets passed more often among historians instead of government mouthpieces, most people seem to use the figure of 2 million dead Vietnamese.

I don't know how many US soldiers were involved in the whole war, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that 2 million of them returned and all felt stigmatized because they were involved in an unpopular war. [Note that we're only taking into consideration the well-being of US vets from that war, because none of our attention can be spared to consider Vietnamese survivors.]

Which would have been the bigger tragedy: 2,050,000 humans killed in the war and 2 million survivors who felt stigmatized, or resolving the war early with zero humans killed and 4 million survivors who felt stigmatized?

Is the stigma more important than the body count? If the war is wrong, is there any number of stigmatized participants that would stop you from wanting to end it?

This is not to say that soldiers deserve to be treated badly just because they thought their patriotic duty was to carry out illegal orders. It's not their fault that they were misled or lied to. On the other hand, these are adults. They are given the responsibility for deciding whether to kill people on a day to day basis. Surely they can withstand the peril of criticism easier than the peril of combat. It's extortion to expect their emotional well-being ought to trump our right to question our government, or trump other people's right to live.

In the final analysis, some vets and some civilians will continue to feel that they weren't "supported" or that we increase stigma against vets by protesting the war. Don't let them guilt you into agreeing. They are wrong, and their desire to coddle responsible adults is far outweighed by our need to stop endorsing massive international crimes.

Support our species, dammit.

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