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Patriots: The Real and the Fake

May 11, 2003 - 10:32 p.m.

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July 11, 2004
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True Confessions: My Life as a Female Impersonator
March 15, 2004
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February 29, 2004



I spent part of today figuring out what I could do to support U.S. troops overseas. I should have paid attention when the recent war with Iraq started, because there were a number of local programs designed to send candy or minor luxury items to soldiers serving overseas. Only now am I considering making such a gesture to support U.S. troops, for two reasons. I'll start with the second reason first.

Ever since this second war with Iraq started, anyone who said anything in opposition to war was accused of undermining U.S. troops overseas, though no such logical connection existed.

My opposition to war was based upon: the Bush administration's dismal failure in foreign policy to acheive security peacefully; the immorality of a war that was neither in defense of this country nor used as a last resort after exhausting non-violent solutions; the Bush administration's systematic lies to U.S. citizens about the threat of Iraq; the distruption that the war is causing in the Middle East which will lead to more violence there; and the fact that the war in Iraq gives terrorist groups more recruiting power which means that the U.S. will be subject to more terrorist attacks.

The fact that the Bush administration is arrogant, clumsy, deceitful, and immoral is not the fault of any soldier serving in the U.S. military. Foreign policy is not the solider's job; it's the civilian federal government's job exclusively. The standards by which the soldier's morality is judged are different. The soliders signed up to put themselves in harms way to protect civilians. That is highly noble. The Bush administration's ignorance and the solider's morality have never been connected.

Of course, the Bush administration can't stand on its own intellectually and morally corrupt decisions. Rather than defend its war on its own terms, the administration instead chose to attach itself to, and hide behind, the soldier's honor. Thus, whenever the Bush administration was questioned by a pacifist like myself, instead of adequately defending itself, it tried to change the debate from one of sound foreign policy to one of patriotism. So the charge that "the war is wrong," was answered by, "you must hate U.S. troops."

Many anti-war protesters in fact never questioned the nobility of soldiers, and did not want that perception perpetuated. Furthermore, whenever one is the subject of name-calling, a natural reaction is to respond, "Am not." So, whenever someone opposed to war spoke out, it was followed by the obligatory, "But I want to be clear that I support the troops."

I have never, when speaking or writing about my views on the war, followed up with a phrase about supporting the troops. One reason is that, by including that phrase in debate over the war, I would be admitting the relevance of support for the troops in connection with debate over the war, a relevance which has never existed.

The second reason is that I am not sure that I can, with any sort of authority, claim that I support U.S. troops. The refrain of, "But I support the troops," has always sounded hollow to me. My question is, So what exactly did you do to support the troops? I, and most anti-war protesters, and most Americans, admire the soldiers' professionalism and wish for their safe return. But the word "support" to me seems to imply some sort of act, rather than a general, ambiguous goodwill.

I can think of one great example of supporting the troops. This one actually comes from the first war with Iraq. Eddie Tsui (now deceased) was a Chinese immigrant who opened my favorite restaurant ever, Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church, Virginia. Peking Gourmet serves my favorite food ever, peking duck, which is exponentially better than any peking duck I have ever eaten at any other restaurant. This peking duck is the food of the gods.

Peking Gourmet's biggest claim to fame though was that it was a favorite restaurant of George H. Bush when he was on Capitol Hill. On the walls of the restaurant are hundreds of framed pictures of VIPs who have eaten there- a few celebrities, a number of politicians, quite a few military officers. And of course there are many pictures of Barbara and George H. Bush, posing with Eddie and his wife Lily.

When I go to Peking Gourmet and I wait for a table, one of the things I do is look over all the pictures on the wall. A few years ago, I noticed a framed letter along with the pictures. The letter is from a general who served in the first Iraq war. In the letter, he thanks Mr. Tsui for his donation of thirty peking ducks to a unit of troops in stationed in Saudi Arabia, awaiting the ground war.

This was a donation of monumental proportions. The biggest deal is that, these were Peking Gourmet peking ducks, the best food ever. But other than that, it was a donation of no inconsequential expense. A peking duck had a menu price of $30 back then (it's up to $33 now, I think). I have no idea what it might have cost to ship them over there.

That is what I call supporting the troops.

But the first reason I thought about doing an actual something to support U.S. troops is that I am thoroughly digusted with George W. Bush's latest stunt to profit from war; that is, the acting out of his warrior hero fantasy by his jet landing on an aircraft carrier.

This is digusting on a number of levels, so let's start with the least disgusting. Bush is using his official office, and government (that is, our) property to advance his re-election campaign. Bush did not just happen on board, coinciding with the carrier's normal routines. Bush's mouthpieces said that that the carrier's normal routines were not disrupted; that was a lie. (All of the lying happens to be the next most disgusting thing.) It was unnecessary for Bush to fly in on a jet; his helicopter could have landed on the carrier. Bush's mouthpieces initially told us that the helicopter did not have the range to get to the carrier, as the carrier was hundreds of miles at sea. Since the carrier was actually only thirty-nine miles at sea, we can see that Bush's mouthpieces lied. (By later admittig the true distance at sea, Bush's mouthpieces say they were just revising their earlier statement; I say it was a lie.)

Bush's mouthpieces say that the stunt was not designed for publicity's sake, but merely so that he could come on board to show his support for the troops. Actually, the carrier had to perform maneuvers to turn itself around so Bush's media entourage could get the most cinematic pictures of Bush addressing the troops. The carrier had to turn around so that, when Bush was filmed, the San Diego skyline wouldn't be visible. When Bush's mouthpieces say that Bush isn't involved in a publicity stunt, and then orchestrate the publicity, I would call that lying. That relates to the other lie, which is that Bush's mouthpieces claim that Bush's appearance did not disrupt normal operations. In fact, the carrier had to do some special maneuvering to accomodate Bush's media entourage. Thus, we have another lie. And, incidently, we also have a lot of using government (our) resources to promote Bush's re-election.

Bush and his Republicans don't seem to have any problem taking advantage of the military for their own political gains. They had a problem with similar circumstances when Clinton was in office. The Republicans wanted to criminally prosecute Al Gore for making telephone calls from his office for Democratic fund-raising. (And if you don't remember, while Gore said his lawyers misinformed him about the legality of fund-raising from his office, he took full responsibility for the act and apologized. I would call that honesty.) Clinton was skewered for delaying air traffic at a Los Angeles airport to get a haircut. (A story that, incidentally, was shown later to be entirely fabricated. It never happened.)

But here's the most disgusting thing about Bush's political stunt. This draft-dodger who couldn't even be bothered to show up for drills during his brief stint in the National Guard is now trying to pass himself off as a real soldier.

Like so many sons of elites back in the 60s and 70s, Bush used his connections to dodge Vietnam; Bush's connections got him past the draft into the National Guard. (As one veteran shrewdly observes, "Bush could have offered his services [in Vietnam] but declined, opting instead to ... save Texas from surprise attack." (From Yahoo News.)) Even in the National Gaurd, he didn't show up for drills. He couldn't even perform his safe duty.

I don't blame anyone for trying to avoid serving in Vietnam. I will never claim the false bravado of modern paramilitary hobbyists who say from the safety of their nice little homes, "I wish I could have contributed in _____ war." I know that firing a gun at someone, in any context, is something that I simply can't do. I certainly understand everyone who tried to avoid Vietnam.

But dammit if you didn't fight then, you have absolutely no right now to try to wear the soldier's bravery and courage as if it were your own. It's dishonest and cowardly. And it's an insult to the memory of my uncle who do this day is Missing In Action in Vietnam. Bush's crass theft of honor from real soldiers is the most shameful display I've ever seen from any so-called American leader.


It reminds me too that I need to do something to actually support our troops overseas. So tomorrow, I'll find something that I can do. Instead of acting like someone who pretends to be a patriot to boost his own status or career, I want to act like someone who cares about his country.

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