If You Say ‘Support the Troops,’ Be Specific About What You Mean

If You Say ‘Support the Troops,’ Be Specific About What You Mean

If You Say ‘Support the Troops,’ Be Specific About What You Mean

Close to a million of our veterans, and many active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines depend on food stamps. Those of us who have military experience, or have lived on or around the major military bases throughout the United States, know about the poverty that many of our military personnel experience, a burden that falls very heavily on the children of our servicemen and women. Trivial scandals abound in the news about politician's personal lives or the traffic situation in Jersey, but US veteran and military poverty in the United States is a real scandal. The unprecedented pace of deployments that accompanied the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have only made the situation more extreme, more obvious, and more in need of public attention (and public money).

Nonetheless, even at the highest levels of the United States government, the troops' real problems are not being addressed. The mainstream media does not seem overly interested in it either - probably because both political parties are culpable and are refusing to deal with it. Recently, former Vice President Dick Cheney, an architect of the Afghanistan and/or Iraq wars, commented on a television program that President Obama would "rather pay for food stamps than . . . a strong military or support for our troops." What Mr. Cheney doesn't understand is that nowadays paying for food stamps or paying for federally provided medical care is "supporting the troops." What the troops and our veterans need more than most is food, clothing and shelter. Often the wounds of war, the disabilities and disfigurement our uniformed personnel receive, and the sheer length of their service out of the job market, has left them unable to adequately provide for themselves or their families.

But I don't think that Mr. Cheney was confused about what he was saying or that he doesn't know about this. When Mr. Cheney says "support the troops," he just means what a lot of politicians mean by that phrase. What they mean by "support the troops" is to spend huge amounts of money on expensive weapon systems to drive up the profits of the companies their friends run. When Mr. Cheney says "support the troops," what he means is increase the size of contracts from military contractors like Haliburton that have a permanent, massive financial interest in  perpetual war. When Mr. Cheney says "support the troops," what he really means is use the troops in as many conflicts and in as many places as possible, and as often as possible. Often, politicians with their eyes on campaign cash, try to make the military buy expensive weapons the Pentagon doesn't even want.

American flag.jpg Mr. Cheney is not alone. War profiteers on Wall Street, and in Washington, DC, are always braying the words "support the troops" at us. The troops provide them their profits. The troops provide them their bonuses. The troops line their pockets and allow them to enjoy the political power. One report explained very clearly what kind of "support" Mr. Cheney wanted for the troops while he was Vice President:

The biggest winner to date is Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton. In one year, Halliburton went from being the Pentagon's number 37 contractor with just $500 million in contracts to lucky number 7 and $3.9 billion in defense contracts. And that's just the beginning, the company now has over $8 billion in contracts for Iraqi rebuilding and Pentagon logistics work in hand. That figure could hit $18 billion if it exercises all of its options. Halliburton's work includes everything from rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure and building military bases to providing meals, doing laundry and maintaining military vehicles. Whenever and wherever the U.S. Army has to deploy on short notice, Halliburton is there.

That's how some people want to "support the troops" - not with food, or body armor, or wise policy, but with money the troops will never see, as they are marched into the next convenient and profitable war. But I think of something different when I say we should support the troops. I believe supporting the troops means, first and foremost, honoring the promises we have made to them to provide them with the medical care they require, to pay them decent living wages, and funding appropriate pensions to compensate them for their service and the disabilities they have acquired in the name of their country -- that is the very least that we can do to support the troops. But the most important thing we can do to support the troops is to make sure that they are never deployed or placed in harm's way recklessly, foolishly, or needlessly, or in places where neither our country, nor its allies, have been attacked.

Those who truly wish to support the troops can do so in many ways. The Wounded Warrior Project directly supports our troops by helping them to recover from the wounds of war. The USO organization is another good place to start when one wants to actually support the troops. You can look at IAVA too, if supporting the troops is on your mind. All these ways exist to support the troops by doing something for them, as opposed to asking them, yet again, to do some more for us or, more often, to do something for the politicians who are in the trillion-dollar business of perpetual war.