Just what does it mean to support the troops but oppose the cause they fight for?
No loyal Colts fan rooted for Indianapolis to lose the Super Bowl. No investor buys 100 shares of Google in the hope that Google's stock will tank. No one who esteems firefighters for their courage and education wants a four-alarm blaze to burn out of control.
Yet there is no end of Americans who insist they "support" US troops in Iraq but want the war those troops are fighting to end in defeat. The two positions are irreconcilable. You cannot logically or honorably curse the war as an immoral neocon disaster or a Halliburton oil grab or "a fraud . . . cooked up in Texas," yet bless the troops who are waging it.
But logic and honor haven't stopped members of Congress from trying to square that circle. The nonbinding resolution passed by the House last week was a flagrant attempt to have it both ways. One of its two clauses professed to "support and protect" the forces serving "bravely and honorably" in Iraq. The other declared that Congress "disapproves" the surge in troops now underway a surge that General David Petraeus, the newly confirmed military commander in Iraq, considers essential to American success.
It was a disgraceful and dishonest resolution, and it must have done wonders for the insurgents' morale. Democrats hardly bothered to disguise that when they say they "support and protect" the troops, what they really intend is to undermine and endanger their mission. The Politico, a Washington news site, reported Thursday that the strategy of "top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups," is to "pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options." If they had the courage of their convictions, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha would forthrightly defund the war, bring the troops home, and brave the political consequences. Instead they plan an agonizing and drawn-out defeat slowly choking off the war by denying reinforcements, eventually leaving no alternative but retreat.
That is how those who oppose the war "support" the troops they "slow-bleed" them dry. Or they declare that the lives laid down by those troops were "wasted," as Senator Barack Obama did last Sunday. Obama later weaseled away from that characterization ("Well, as I said, it is not at all what I intended to say, and I would absolutely apologize if any of them felt that in some ways it had diminished the enormous courage and sacrifice that they'd shown"), but the gaffe had been committed. And like most political gaffes, it exposed the speaker's true feelings.
But then, why shouldn't Obama feel that way? If an American serviceman dies in the course of a war that toppled a monstrous dictatorship, opened the door to the possibility of decent Arab governance, and has become the central front in the struggle against radical Islam, then his death is not in vain. It is the sacrifice of an American hero, the last full measure of devotion given in the cause of freedom. But if he dies in the course of a senseless and illegitimate invasion the Obama/Murtha/Pelosi view of Iraq then his life was wasted. If that's what you believe, Senator, why not say so?
Obama's is merely the latest in a series of senatorial comments that offer a glimpse of the left's anti-military disdain.
Smart people who work hard become successful, John Kerry "joked" last fall, but uneducated sluggards "get stuck in Iraq." Osama bin Laden is beloved by Muslims for "building schools, building roads, [and] building day-care facilities," Washington Senator Patty Murray explained in 2002, while Americans only show up to "bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan." Obama's Illinois colleague Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor to equate US military interrogators in Guantanamo Bay with genocidal mass-murderers: "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or . . . Pol Pot."
It goes without saying that many Democrats and liberals take a back seat to no one in their admiration and appreciation of the US military. But there is no denying that a notable current of antimilitary hostility runs through the left as well. Examples are endless: ROTC is banned on elite college campuses. San Francisco bars a historic battleship from its port. Signs at antiwar protests exhort troops to "shoot their officers." An Ivy League professor prays for "a million Mogadishus." Michael Moore compares Iraqi insurgents who kill Americans to the Minutemen of Revolutionary New England.
America is a free country, but it is not the Michael Moores or the ROTC-banners or the senatorial loudmouths who keep it free. They merely enjoy the freedom that others are prepared to defend with their lives. It is the men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform to whom we owe our liberty. Surely they deserve better than pious claims of "support" from those who are working for their defeat.