May 17, 2004


Den Beste received an email from a German friend who said

Your impression of Fischer is correct regarding his absolute position on the issue, but I believe you have no idea how much more dishonest and anti-American most German politicians (and the voters) are. Fischer and other right-wing Greens are among the most militant, pro-American, pro-Israel politicians we have.

Den Beste points out that though Fischer may in fact be the least anti-American apple in the bunch, he's still seems pretty darn anti-American. He then went on to stress the importance of one of our Amercan values: actions speak louder than words.

His post patterned what I've been trying to say for months about the we-support-the-troops platitude. Back in February I said

I'm often irritated by the but that follows that phrase (as in I support our troops, but...). I appreciate that people don't think my own husband as an individual is a baby killer or a monster, which is usually what they mean when they start that sentence, but I can't help but think they use it as a buffer just so they don't sound heartless. I'm against the war sounds much softer when you preface it with I support our troops, but.

I got some guff for coming down on the support-the-troops types. LT Smash got barrels of guff when he expressed the same sentiment. Smash said

Your definition would appear to be "wish them good health and hope they come home safe." My definition of "support" is a bit more robust than that. In my world, "supporting the troops" also means letting them know that you appreciate the sacrifices they are making, and believe in the cause they're fighting for.

I too see these two distinct definitions within the one phrase; I said:

I tend to think that the first definition should be an understood, that no human would wish that soldiers should be injured or die (though some of the posts on Democratic Underground might suggest otherwise). Therefore, it's not worth broadcasting, just as I support cancer patients or I support the disabled seem inane. I'd agree with Smash that the second definition is the one I see in that phrase, and I believe that definition is much more important and the one that makes a difference. Unfortunately, it's probably not the most common definition intended when people use the phrase I support our troops.

The British use the verb "support" to talk about sports teams. We don't use it here in the US, but if we did, my husband would say he supports the Cardinals. When the Brits use this word, they obviously are implying that they want their team to win, not that they're simply supporting their existance and hoping their players don't get broken legs during they game. "Supporting" a team means hoping they go all the way. When we talk about our troops, I often don't think people mean it that way. Often they mean they don't long for all of our troops to die, but they don't necessarily want them to win, nor do they think they should be there in the first place. To me, that does not follow the definition of "support".

The claim that Joschka Fischer is pro-American is meaningless because it's only in contrast to rabidly anti-American Europeans that Fischer looks remotely pro-. Ted Bundy didn't kill as many people as Pol Pot, but I'd hardly say that the comparison makes him an upstanding citizen. In the same way, there are Americans who aren't actively working against the troops, but you can't always claim that they support our military simply by comparison.

Posted by Sarah at May 17, 2004 07:44 AM

Sarah - I completely agree with you. I have tried to understand the logic of people who say I support the troops BUT not the war. This happens with some truly generous and dedicated people on the site Books for Soldiers which is pretty much apolitical. But every once in awhile someone will make this exact statement. I think I will start to use LT's statement in my signature line (with of course giving full disclosure of the author). Personally, I believe those who use this 'illogical phrase' are being disingenuous at a minimum.

Posted by: Toni at May 17, 2004 03:23 PM

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