COLUMN: HEY, SOLDIERS: QUIT WHINING!

Troops Suck Up to Bush, Ask for Support

Over a year ago, in March 2006, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes published the results of a Zogby poll of troops serving in Iraq. 72 percent said U.S. forces should withdraw within a year. Twenty-five percent thought we should pull out right away. But 85 percent said a major reason they were there was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the September 11 attacks.” These people are confused, to say the least.

Even more confusing is the persistent flow of complaints by Iraq War veterans that Americans on the home front are partying like it’s 2009 while their comrades back in Vichy Mesopotamia are getting blown up.

Army infantry officer Will Bardenwerper gave voice to this oft-stated sentiment in an October 20th New York Times op/ed. “As I began my 13-month deployment (in Tal Afar, Iraq),” wrote a dispirited Bardenwerper, “I imagined an American public following our progress with the same concern as my family and friends. But since returning home, I have seen that America has changed the channel.” He was struck by “the disparity between the lives of the few who are fighting and being killed, and the many who have been asked for nothing more than to continue shopping.”

Typical suggestions for fairer distribution of sacrifice and a military draft–the latter to obtain additional manpower and inspire antiwar marchers to fill the streets like they did during Vietnam–follow. At least he left out the usual calls for victory gardens and gas rationing.

The war sucks. On that point, the millions of Americans who were against it from the start (and the many millions more who’ve come around to agreeing with us) agree with the soldiers serving in it. Forced reenlistment through the “stop-loss” loophole is placing thousands of lives in suspended animation, destroying marriages and small businesses. Troops aren’t getting enough protective gear.

It’s also true that Americans have stopped paying attention. I’m a news junkie. And even I flip the page past the same old “2 Dead, 7 Wounded in IED Blast” headline.

But hey, soldier, you volunteered. If not for you, there wouldn’t be a war in the first place.

“Supporting the troops means supporting their mission.” That’s been the mantra of the pro-war right. It’s been hard for those of us who oppose the war to argue with them because so many of the troops have repeatedly allowed themselves to be used as propaganda shills for Bush Administration officials and the Republican Party in general.

It’s bad enough that a majority of soldiers voted for Bush in 2004. Over and over since the war began, American troops have been seen on television applauding Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and others whose cynical recklessness have sent their buddies to their graves. Sailors cheered wildly when Bush staged his notorious “Mission Accomplished” photo op on an aircraft carrier. They swooned when he joined them for Thanksgiving dinner in Baghdad.

“The shocked and elated soldiers jumped to their feet, pumped their fists in the air, roared with delight, and grabbed their cameras to snap photographs,” reported CNN about Bush’s visit. A “standing ovation” followed. “It gave us a little extra oomph,” said a member of the 1st Armored Division. “It really boosted my morale,” said another. No one heckled or booed the imposter president. No one threw tomatoes. No one told him where he could stick his plastic turkey.

Even after soldiers get killed, their parents promote the war so their dead kids won’t be lonely in heaven. At Fort Benning, Georgia met Deb Tainsh, whose son was killed by a roadside bomb near the Baghdad Airport. She presented Bush with more than 100 e-mails from parents of soldiers who have died or are presently serving in Iraq. “Every one of these letters says, ‘Mr. President, we support you,'” she said. “The consensus is that they…want him to do everything he can to win this war and that our prayers are with him.”

“Bush, 61, has so far met with more than 1,500 relatives of the 4,255 American troops who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Bloomberg News wire service reported last week. “In most of the meetings, [Bush’s] aides say, he hears support for his policies, hardening his resolve to stay the course in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Few Gold Star mothers tell him off. Those who do are polite to the man who murdered their children as surely and as viciously as if he’d shot them himself. Why don’t they spit at him?

Four years after the WMDs and liberation flora failed to turn up, people still enlist. After soldiers die, their parents insist that theirs was a noble sacrifice. Tell me again: Why should I care about the war? Why shouldn’t I go shopping?

Soldiers who want antiwar Americans to march to demand that they be brought home should take a cue from Vietnam veterans. They marched with peace protesters and threw their medals at the Capitol. Soldiers serving on the front refused orders. Some fragged their officers. Vietnam Veterans Against the War claimed more than 50,000 members by 1971. That year saw numerous dramatic acts of dissent by U.S. troops, including 50 veterans who marched to the Pentagon and demanded that they be arrested as war criminals. Fifteen vets took over and barricaded the Statue of Liberty for two days. These acts swayed opinions and helped convince lawmakers it was time to withdraw.

Some soldiers in Iraq have offered resistance. After being denied conscientious objector status, Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes went AWOL in 2004. He was sentenced to two months in the brig and three months hard labor. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada refused to be sent to Iraq in 2006, telling the media that the war’s illegality would make him a party to war crimes. Army Specialist Darrell Anderson, faced with a second tour of duty after being wounded by a roadside bomb, deserted and fled to Canada. “I went to Iraq willingly,” said Anderson. “I wanted to die for my country. I thought I was going to go there and protect my family back home. All I was doing was killing other families there.” The Army decided not to prosecute him. Several other deserters have applied for political asylum in Canada, but they’re only a fraction of the thousands who went there during the 1960s and 1970s.

When Bill Clinton was president, Republicans said he should be afraid to speak at military bases. That should go double for Bush. The next he shows up to use you as a TV prop, soldiers and fellow Americans, boo the crap out of him. What’s the worst he can do? Kill you?

COPYRIGHT 2007 TED RALL

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27 Responses to “”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I agree with everything you’re saying here, Ted, but I have to say something about one of your sources. Zogby’s polls are a load of crap. Zogby doesn’t understand (or care) about established survey methods. I’m not saying Zogby’s findings are necessarily wrong, I’m just saying that I wish that journalists would stop citing someone who reports a margin of error for opt-in web surveys (this is conceptually misleading and is not allowed by the American Assn of Public Opinion Research).

    I’m glad he removed that bit on his website about his estimates being “unbiased”, and I’m glad he’s thinking about issues that methodologists were thinking about 20 years ago (RDD vs directory samples). But he tends to ignore the rest of the pollster/survey community, which means he doesn’t understand surveys themselves. He’s a joke, honestly, and I wish people would stop giving him money and paying attention to him.

  2. Marion Delgado Says:

    rachel:

    I think Zogby’s record* speaks for itself. It’s noticably better than Gallup’s, and as good as or better than Rasmussen, which polls 2-4 times longer. You saying he doesn’t understand or care about established survey methods is simply wrong.

    Web polls are indeed unreliable in general, but you have some sort of axe to grind with Zogby personally. I wish you’d bring your concerns to people like the Reuters folks, who preferentially use Zogby
    I believe they could explain to you very easily why your statements are wrong.

    I’m very concerned with these issues. My history is as a journalist (now i’m a news programmer), and one of the last things I did along those lines was catching out Dana Milbank and the Washington Post’s polling editor on a glaring inaccuracy in a front-page Washington Post story – they claimed that for the first time a majority of Americans felt the Iraq War had not made them safer. More than a year earlier, major national polls, including one commissioned by their partner ABC (the story was about a WaPo/ABC poll), had had virtually identical results with a clear majority saying the same thing. Their lame excuse was that the WaPo had not used the same wording in their earlier poll and that ABC’s earlier poll was not WaPo so it didn’t count – “we like to use our polls as a benchmark.” Now, that’s how people get bad poll data into their heads.

    *From Wikipedia:

    Zogby founded the polling firm Zogby International in 1984. Since then, he has conducted polls around the world, though he has gained the most notoriety for his polls of United States Presidential elections.

    He first gained attention in the 1996 Presidential election when his final poll came within a tenth of a point of the actual result. Zogby also correctly predicted the cliffhanger result of the 2000 presidential election won narrowly by George W. Bush, in contrast to most other pollsters who had expected Bush to win easily.

    In 2004, however, his predictions failed to materialize. Before polls had even closed in the 2004 presidential election, Zogby predicted a comfortable win for John Kerry (311 electoral votes, versus 213 for Bush, with 14 too close to call), saying that “Bush had this election lost a long time ago,” adding that voters wanted a change and would vote for “any candidate who was not Bush.” While admitting that he was mistaken, Zogby did not admit any possible flaws in his poll methods, insisting that his predictions were all “within the margin of error.” While on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, he said he felt that Kerry would win due to the undecided voters. Despite his personal prediction, Zogby’s final poll showed Bush with a one point lead over Kerry, making him one of the ‘winners’ among pollsters according to the New York Post and Boston Globe.[1] Zogby later released a “mea culpa” in which he stated “I will do better next time: I will just poll, not predict.” [2]

    In 2006, Zogby phone polling correctly called all 10 competitive United States Senate races and nailed the exact margin in the three closest races. His interactive online polling correctly called the winner of 17 of 18 races, but was far off in the margin of victory of some races. [3]

    Zogby has also had success with elections in countries outside the United States. He correctly called the 2001 Israeli election for Ariel Sharon, the 2000 Mexican election for Vicente Fox and again in Mexico with the victory of Felipe Calderón in 2006.

  3. Rachel Says:

    Whether or not Zogby is correctly calling polls is largely immaterial to me. Here is why I have “an axe to grind” with Zogby:

    -He’s provides margins of error with opt in web surveys. This is not acceptable to the public opinion community. This is a major problem, and it misleads journalists and readers into thinking that it actually means something.

    -He, nor any of his staff, belong to AAPOR. By not belonging to the professional community, he loses credibility.

    -At one time, his website claimed to produce “unbiased estimates”. This is a joke and a lie, and it sat on his website for some time. No one can produce unbiased estimates. Bias is in every survey estimate. The best you can do is find the lowest error per unit (respondent) cost.

    -While he is doing some methodological work, it’s quite outdated and demonstrates that he’s not familiar with the literature. It’s as if Zogby has been living in a public opinion vacuum. If Zogby has been living in Bizarro World, where no one’s been studying methodology in the past, oh, 50 years, then that means his methods are likely to be outdated and bad.

    -Gallup is, actually, quite a reputable organization. They do good work, they have decent methods, and their staff are part of the academic community. (I am not working for Gallup. I do work in a methodological field, and I must disclose that a good number of my colleagues have worked or currently worked for Gallup.) Gallup also works with the U of Nebraska’s Survey Research program, which shows it gives a shit about methods to want to make its methods better. As far as I know (and I would) Zogby doesn’t even know that these programs exist.

    -I agree that using one question wording as a “benchmark” is a bad idea, and that was certainly a bad call. A lot of surveys that have been repeating the survey over time often have to make a decision–do they change the question wording and risk comparability, or do they keep it the same, knowing that the wording isn’t quite right? The National Election Survey takes the second approach. Some places (I think Gallup’s done this) will do some methodological studies to see if there is comparability.

    I think my main overall gripe, as part of the public opinion community, is that Zogby is all over the news, but I never see a representative at any AAPOR conferences. He doesn’t present his work to anyone except for people who don’t know a lot about polls, and that’s fishy.

  4. Brian Says:

    Polling methodologies and science? Yeah-that’s the most important thing we need to focus on here.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Once again Ted, you tackle a tough subject and your opinion makes alot of sense. With no draft the war grinds on and the vets feel used and abused, as they should. The president and his cabinet have miss used our braves to what gain? The comanders follow orders and plan on how to win a war. But how can they win a war that has no objective? The war on poverty, the war on drugs. And now the war on terrorism. Where’s Osama Bin Ladden?

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent column, Ted. I really hope this outrages someone and stir up some real, meaty debate.

  7. Rachel Says:

    Yeah–science is for the ivory tower egghead intelligensia.

    But we must keep citing polls! Without questioning! If polls can tell us about public opinion and somehow shape public policy, maybe we (polling people) should try to do it right, and survey consumers (the public and, especially, journalists) should know how to interpret basic results.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    THANK YOU Ted Rall!

    So often you’re the only voice brave enough to say the obvious!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Wow. Calling soldiers who go to war stupid certainly raises the level of debate. Truly, you are a credit to our side of the issue. Thanks so much for needlessly making enemies and insulting the memory of those who gave their lives for what they at least believed was a good cause. Excellent.

  10. Joe (Rochester) Says:

    Wow, another head-up-his-ass liberal disconnected with reality, what a surprise!!!! And then you wonder why you’ve lost the last 2 presidental elections…

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I’d buy a projectile that turned Ted into Ted-pink-jelly; unfortunatly I can’t find a dealer for 500 caliber meteor ammo. God has it, but ain’t selling…yet. Hmmm gotta check my other suppliers like the USMC.

  12. R. Maheras Says:

    Ted, when are you going to get it through your thick-skinned skull that this war is nothing like Vietnam, hence the outrage and protest level is nothing like it was for Vietnam?

    Vietnam was a bloody and costly war to defend a country which, like Korea, really had no direct bearing on U.S. national security — except in theory.

    This war (regardless of whether or not it was started for the wrong reasons, based on flawed intelligence) has an absolutely, positively crucial bearing on our national security — as long as we and the rest of the world are so dependent on oil.

    Vietnam was primarily a conscript force — consisting of literally thousands of soldiers who did not want to be in the military in the first place. Such is not the case for the current U.S. military, so there isn’t anywhere near as much dissent in the ranks as there was during Vietnam.

    In the casualty department, Vietnam makes Iraq look like a small skirmish. As a matter of fact, if you compare the two, numbers-wise, Iraq hasn’t even even made it half-way through the letter “B” of the Vietnam casualty list yet. And, just to put things into even clearer perspective, the casualty rate during World War II was about eight times that of Vietnam!

    As a veteran, I think even one combat death is too much — but the fact is, ours is a risky profession at times. It comes with the territory.

    And your Iraq War concientious objector argument is no argument at all. There were also tens of thousands of conscientious objectors during World War II — the so-called “good war.” So it was then; so it will always be.

    There’s more I could argue about, but I see no point in doing so. You made up your mind a long time ago that those who serve in the military — during peace or war –are stupid, and nothing anyone can say will ever change that. That alone makes it clear to me that your much-vaunted “BS detector” is, itself, just a load of BS.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Ted;
    Could it B one reason the casualty list is so low is because of the high number of “private contractors” in Iraq? The U.S. is using “private contractors” in convoys,kitchens,and many other areas, where before this war, military personel were used. It only figures if you have 1/10th of the personel as say…Vietnam, the casualty list will be lower and civilian “contractors” don’t count.

  14. Keith Williams Says:

    You can talk all you want about the troops whining and what not, I think you are wrong, but of course this is the United States of America and you have the Constitutional right to say what you want. Maybe we should do like a MINORITY of the Vietnam war vets and protest the war, demand to get out. But we understand history. What happened in Vietnam when we left? The name Pol Pot comes to mind. Why is it that you on the left hate the military so much? Do you understand what it means to be in the military and serve your country? Have you ever stood for anything other than your loony left wing ideas that have been proven over and over to fail? Get a life, go to Iraq and see for yourself what is going on instead of being an armchair general. It’s funny to me that you lefties hate the military until you need us as was demonstrated in the recent and ongoing California wildfires, or hurricane Katrina. Grow up and join the rest of us in the real world where all is not what we want it to be but what really is. You should be ashamed of yourself for denegrating military family members whose relatives have given all for YOU.

  15. Adam Says:

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. First, you call those who serve in our armed forces “idiots,” and then you tell them to “quit whining.” Perhaps, Ted, you should meet my friend-the one who just returned from Iraq and was accepted into Harvard Law school. He must be an “idiot,” eh, Ted?
    And the “quit whining” bit? Until you’ve gone to Iraq and served for a bit, I suggest you shut up. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you make such a ridiculous statement. They do the work so you don’t have to. You absolutely personify the reason nobody takes the left seriously. Oh, and by the way, I tend to vote Democrat, I was against going into Iraq…but you go too far. If you’re going to say such things, at least be able to back them up.

  16. The Prodidal Says:

    Does anyone else find it ironic that conservatives–who almost certainly proclaim themselves as “Christian”–immediately resort to graphic death threats toward those who dare to express an opinion with which they disagree?

    The person in search of the wrath of God upon Ted should read this: Matthew 5: 38-48 (that’s in the Christian New Testament, by the way; you can find it online at http://www.biblegateway.com since if you own a Bible, it is obviously unread).

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Keith, My $250.00 Columbia jacket was made in Viet Nam. Hmmmmm….

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I forget,why are we in Iraq? WMD’s? Free the Iraqis? Oil? Bad diplomatic decisions? Where is Osama?

  19. Dar Says:

    Another excellent post, Ted.

    The fact is, anyone with even a small knowledge of history, nknws that after WWII virtually every country the U.S. has attacked has been a country that never attacked America.

    Further, pretty much every Preisdent since F.D.R. has been engaging the military in some sort of mission against such country.

    Therefore, anyone who joins the military should be aware that chances are he will be sent on a mission against a country that has done the U.S. no harm. He can’t act shocked about it. “What? You mean I was sent to attack a country that did America no harm? I’m outraged!”.

    Notes to Keith Williams:
    1-Pol Pot was in Cambodia, not Vietnam, the latter being the country that ultimately stopped him.

    2-You bring up Katrina and the California fires. There’s a big difference between helping out in a domestic natural disaster, and invading, occupying, and destroying another country.

    3-You say that Ted should grow up and see the real world. You mean the real world where the U.S. lied and invaded and destroyed a country that did nothing to it? The real world where countless tens of thousands of Iraqis are killed and over two million Iraqis have been made refugees because of this war? The real world where most Iraqis want the U.S. out of their country? You mean that real world?

    Oh, and given that the war was a criminal war, these dead soldiers didn’t give anyone anything.

    Notes to adam:
    1-You say Ted should go to Iraq and serve a bit before talking. Why? Why should he go if he is against the war?

    SO if I see someone robbing a home, I shouldn’t speak out until I too have robbed a home?

    2-You say that these soldiers “do the work so you don’t have to”. Nonesense. Invading and occupying a country that has done nothing to us, and killing te4ns of thousands of its people, isn’t work that anyone with a brain and a conscience, would want to do anyhow.

  20. Matthew Says:

    “Get a life, go to Iraq and see for yourself what is going on instead of being an armchair general. It’s funny to me…”

    It’s funny to me that someone would pick Ted Rall as someone to accuse of not going somewhere dangerous and seeing for himself.

  21. angelo Says:

    adam, if your friend joined after the Iraq invasion, you just took away his last excuse.

  22. Chris Says:

    US expansion of the war in Southeast Asia, including massive bombardment of Cambodia, was a greater factor in the rise of Pol Pot than the final withdrawal of US forces from Vietnamese soil.

  23. Adam Says:

    Angelo-

    No, he did not join the military post-invasion. He joined an ROTC program several years ago.

  24. Adam Says:

    Dar-

    1. It’s quite possible to be opposed to the war and not criticize the troops and call them “whiners.”

    2. You further the assertion that anyone in the military has no brain, soul, or conscience. That is ridiculous. Try this scenario:
    18-year-old kid. Low income family, joins the ROTC program so that he/she can afford to go to college. Are they some brainless, unconscionable killer?
    Again, they serve so you don’t have to. You should be glad that you live in a country such as this where military service isn’t compulsory (as in Israel, etc.), and that you have the right to speak your mind.

  25. John Manyjars Says:

    Well done, Ted.

    To be fair, though, 18-year-olds are generally not the sharpest tools in the box- one reason the military likes to get ’em young.

    I fell for the patrio-bullshit as well and signed up, not realizing (a) how much Uncle Sam now truly owned my ass and (b) how I was nothing more than a merc for the investor class-whose kids by and large are mostly nowhere to be found ‘when the bugle calls’. Maybe they know something us little people don’t?

    Some lessons take a while to learn but if I ever had kids there’s no fucking way they’d enlist, so they could die or lose limbs/eyes/balls for someone like the coward Bush and his enablers.

    GEN Smedley Butler said it best, ‘There are only 2 reasons to go to war- the defense of our shores, and the Bill of Rights. Anything else is just a racket.’ Fuggin’ A.

    Freepers and other war lovers posting here can kiss this vet’s ass.

  26. angelo Says:

    adam, there are geniuses in the military, and there are idiots in Harvard.
    You have a friend you say got out of the military and went to Harvard. I have friends in the military who could not get into Cal State Fullerton. Who’s friends do you suppose more resemble the norm?

  27. angelo Says:

    “Are they some brainless, unconscionable killer? “

    well, adam, those dead Iraqi civilians did not just up and kill themselves did they?
    ditto for Vietnam and every other useless war your friend should have known about.

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