Monday, July 11, 2011

Hiding Behind the Troops


By Jeff Huber

They sure could go for a Reese's Peanut Butter
Cup from your local Walgreens right about now. 
You’re at a convenience shack or a grocery barn or wherever Old Century-style place it is you go where you have wait in some kind of line to pay for stuff in person and talk to an actual check-out clerk who hasn’t yet been replaced by a machine that’s smarter than your kid in college.  You look around while you’re waiting for the one or more of the latter-day luddites in front of you to write a check instead of swiping a credit card because a) they don’t believe in the 21st century or b) they never heard of it.  (I can think of no contemporary scenario more Chaplin-esque—maddening, hilarious and heart-breaking at the same time—that the one that contains the bit of dialogue that goes: Darn it, I can never find that pen, it’s the one I always use, I know its in my purse somewhere, I always keep it there, it was an anniversary present, you know.  Oh, I hope I didn’t leave it someplace.)

Mixed in among the displays of designer kid’s candies that are more addictive than crack cocaine and tabloid periodicals that are worse for your mind than sniffing glue, right next to the cash register, you see a presentation that proudly features one of those old-oak-tree ribbon thingies with a logo you can’t quite read yet.  It’s not the pink one that wants you to save the ta-tas, no, and it’s not the one that wants you to adopt pound puppies and kitties or have them neutered or to clean up their poop or whatever—that one’s brown isn’t it? No, this is the yellow one, and you can read what it says now: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!

If you tack a dollar onto the tab for groceries or your beer or your giant box of Jujubes, “a portion” of it will go help our troops overseas who are protecting us and keeping us safe and are making all the sacrifices in our War on Evil while we sit at home and don’t make hardly any sacrifices at all.  This particular come-on promises to make sure every troop—that is, every troop who wants one, or asks for one, or fills out a ten page application form and writes a 500 word essay and then wins the drawing—will receive a gift, on the next Christian holiday, of a personalized Hershey bar that reads “Go, Troops, Go!” or simply “Yay Troops!”

At this point, you hopefully ask yourself why, if we the taxpayers have ponied up over a trillion dollars for our woebegone wars in Iraq and the Bananastans, should any of us pull another dollar out of our wallet to make sure our troops get a candy bar for Christmas?  Gee, those tens or maybe hundreds of billions we poured into Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan that disappeared like an old lady’s favorite pen, wouldn’t they alone have bought a lifetime supply of personalized Christmas Hershey bars for just about every person in the world who celebrates Christmas?

And you hopefully want to scream when you fail to toss a buck into the pot when you check out and the cash register professional pouts and says, “Don’t you want to help the troops?  The poor old lady who lost her pen did.”

If these yahooligans
don't end up in hell
there is no such place.
The preceding scenario portrays an artfully crafted scam with a witting or unwitting accomplice on the scene to guilt trip you into going along with it. It’s a parable that illustrates the principle behind the most cynical and perhaps the most effective pro-war propaganda campaign that has been operating since Dick Cheney first convened his White House Information Group to gull the American public and its legislature into rolling over for the invasion of Iraq, the crown jewel in the grand neoconservative strategy for invading and occupying the world. 

Some of the support-our-troops organizations you’ll rub against are no doubt front groups, supposedly “grass roots” outfits similar to the repellant Vets for Freedom that bills itself as the f the "leading voice representing troops and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan" but is actually a political beard run by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants who include former Bush White House spokesman Taylor Gross.

Many troop support groups and the people who run them are quite earnest and relatively free of Big War paw prints, but their effect is much the same as if they were simply a gaggle of propaganda goons.  And I hate to say this, but even most of the love-the-troops-hate-the-war folks, however well intentioned they are, play into the pro-war propaganda scheme.  In any case, it’s hard to tell which pro-trooper outfits are a scam and/or a front group and which ones, however misguided they may be, are on the up-and-up.  The thing to remember is that there is no reason on earth why you should pluck a single penny out of your pocket to “support” the troops.  You’ve already sacrificed enough; the malignant likes of Dick Cheney and John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol who brought you the Longest War Ever have hustled your country’s economy to hell in a hand truck, and unless you’re in pre-school right now, you’ll never see a return to the fiscal halcyon days of the President Pants (aka Clinton) era.

Lamentably, the grandchildren of kids in preschool might not see the end of the Long War either, now that the folks in charge of it have established a line of succession.  Ex-CIA director Leon Panetta, who just replaced Ex-CIA director Bob Gates as defense secretary, is the same brand war perpetuating bureaucratic savant as his predecessor was.  John Bolton was a kick up, kiss down kind of D.C. culture vulture; Panetta and Gates kissed up, down and sideways and sucked their way to the top of the dung heap.  They were, long ago, wholly vested in the warfare-welfare system status quo; they knew where all the bodies were buried because they’re the ones who hired the hit men. 

That they know little or nothing about actual war is of little consequence.  The next guy in line for their cabinet job, newly implanted CIA chief David Petraeus, knows little or nothing about actual war either, yet to hear the hapless bullroar machine describe him, you’d think he’s the reincarnation of Ike, Patton and Robert E. Lee combined.  Where Panetta and Gates are self-promoting bureaucrat buffoons, Petraeus is an out-and-out great white shark.  He knows where all the bodies are buried because he’s the one who embalmed them.  All Petraeus really knows about wars is how to keep from losing them by making sure they never end.  As his hagiographer and camp wife Tom Ricks artlessly blurted in his most recent rewritten history of the Iraq War, Petraeus really did “betray us,” pretending to be looking for a way out of Iraq when he was actually buying time to make it impossible for us to ever leave.

That’s where the “support our troops” hook kicks into high gear.  Whenever commenting for the embedded media about the prospects of bring troops home, the likes of King David, Mush Mullen, Desert Ox Odierno, Uncle Bob and now Panetta Head will fall back on the we don’t want to squander the tremendous gains our wonderful men and women in uniform sacrificed so bravely to achieve mantra.  Those bravely sacrificed for “gains” amount to an Iraq and Afghanistan that, nearly a decade after 9/11, still look like the London Zoo ten minutes after a Nazi air raid, and a best ally—Pakistan—that we’re in a virtual open war with.   

The Pentarchy exhorts us to honor our war dead and wounded by adding to their number in pursuit of self-defeating, self-perpetuating wars whose sole purpose is to create bases of operations from which we can launch more self-defeating, self-perpetuating wars in the name of American global leadership.   

The way you can support our troops is to apply constant pressure on your elected federal officials to bring them home and to keep their tea bagger toadying mitts off the troops’ pay and benefits.  Anything else is just helping the warmongery use our troops as a human shield.

Whatever you do, don't plunk down good money to have Walgreens send them a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  Our troops are getting plenty to eat, trust me.  

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance.


  1. It's not that hard a situation to deal with, if you use a little creativity.

    The simplest thing to do is say, “I supported the troops on April 15th, thank you very much.” If that doesn't shut them off, mention the amount paid, along with the rejoinder, “How much did you give?” If applicable, do be sure and mention the names of any relatives or friends fed to the War Machine by our system of economic draft. And you might also mention that your great-grandchildren also support the troops, even though they haven't been born yet. And so do you, Mr. Safeway clerk, seeing as how every penny being spent on the wars is effectively being borrowed from foreigners.

    I'm always tempted to ask the STP brownshirts if they'd consider really supporting the troops, the way their grandparents did. “Have you planted a Victory Garden yet?” “Isn't it time the government instituted gasoline rationing? That's how we won World War Two, you know.” “Say, if we all quit using cell phones, maybe the military wouldn't have to worry about future supplies of rare earth metals.” “Yeah, I know what you mean. We've got to support the troops...hey, I just had an idea! Why don't we write our congressmen and ask them to raise our taxes!”

    No, on second thought, don't use that last one. You might get an earful of Tea.

  2. Hah! Well said, JP.

  3. I always tell 'em, "Fuck the troops. Nothing's too good for the troops, so that's what they get: nothing." And then I pull out my wallet, show this pretty blue card I have, and say, "You see this? I'm a retired Army officer and it was my sworn duty to always fuck the troops." And then I go on to say, "everybody should fuck the troops. Maybe then, they wouldn't be so happy about going off and getting killed in stupid wars for nothing. And maybe then, we'd all get a break on our national deficit, you twit."

    Actually, I've never said that, but I fantasize about it. I have been asked why I didn't have some of those nifty magnetic things on my car. Then I point to the decal on my windshield and say, "I supported the troops in Vietnam. I kept some of 'em alive."

    I don't suffer fools gladly, Commander, but inasmuch as we are both "gentlemen" according to some law or other, I do try to maintain a certain degree of decorum.

    You have a very nice blog BTW. I wish you published more than once a week, but I do check you out every Monday or Tuesday. It pains me to admit it, but you're a squid who's real good. I mean, real good. Come over and check us out at MilPub. Most of our guys tend not to be as caustic as you, but we're getting there.

  4. The "blood and treasure" memo was deftly uncovered in multiple captured sound clips of our dearly elected leaders. No Agenda episode 320 by Curry and Dvorak. Trust me it's in there -- it is a 2+ hour show.

  5. President Bush sent CIA to attack annoying US citizen blogger Juan Cole, according to sources. These sources were CIA themselves.

    Our favorite blogger is undoubtedly aware that Obama upped the ante on both whistleblowers and annoyances.

    I say, freedom is like muscle: use it or lose it.

    Carry on!

  6. Publius, thanks for the nice words. I'm at present working on a novel that's keeping my essay writing on the back burner. We'll see what's up by the end of summer.


    Cole kind of lost me when he said Libya was a kosher deal because the UN said it was okay to bomb it. Tsk, tsk.

  7. I think that's an excellent article.

    " Panetta and Gates kissed up, down and sideways and sucked their way to the top of the dung heap. They were, long ago, wholly vested in the warfare-welfare system status quo; they knew where all the bodies were buried because they’re the ones who hired the hit men. "

    World leader are now, and always have been, very bad people. History is a testament to that. Absolutely NO PROGRESS has been made between nations in human relations for thousands of years. World leaders are as described in the paragraph above by Jeff Huber, and they are always looking for problems, creating problems and finding ways of never solving them because they think problems are good for whatever side they might be on.

    Most people aren't looking for problems. Leaders do.

  8. Another thing...I always thought RESCUE THE TROOPS! (From Bush/Obama) was a better line.

  9. I read your blog with great interest as recommended by a friend. You present some valid points. I would like to offer some comment to your illusion at the check out line.

    The poor old lady who still writes checks, just might be that, POOR. Not all companies that accept checks process them the same day as written, thus giving the writer a couple days to cover the cost. I work in retail and see this quite often, especially right before paydays and at the end of the month. From the looks of Social Security these days, I hope that older people have something other than their check to fall back on. Unfortunately a lot of the "new" older people haven't planned their retirement as well as previous generations or have fallen folly to some scheme to that was suppose to have helped them. They also may have been burdened financially by medical problems and outrageous medication costs. The economy hasn't helped much either.

    The other point I wish to comment on is why did you pick Walgreens as the place of incident. Walgreens does not support such donation sites. I have known them to support medical research and wellness programs, but never have seen them solicite to buy the troops candy bars. I have also seen those magnets used to save a particular organization, but they have always been merchandised and not solicited for a donation. Do you have something against the company? I realize it is a well known name, so is WalMart, KMart, Trader Jacks and Safeway.

    I would hope that Walgreens doesn't see your blog and decide to sue you. I doubt they would get much other than a retraction as I see you also are seeking personal donations for YOUR cause. I do watch my fingers.

  10. Hi, Tom, thanks for stopping by.

    If you read the parenthetical phrase in the opening paragraph, you'll find that I actually take a rather sympathetic view of these older folks who write checks. The word "heartbreaking" and the rest of the data I supplied about her implies that she is in fact poor, and that she's simply too old to keep up with the modern world. By describing it as "Chaplin-esque" I am conjuring the concept of "pathos," on that says whatever else we may feel about the subject, we feel sympathy and are emotionally connected to said subject.

    As for choosing Walgreens: I had just returned from my local Walgreens, where a prominent display encouraged me to give some amount of money to send a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup to the troops. I'm not sure where you got the impression that Walgreens does not support these donation scams. If you ever decide to support your opinions and accusations with facts, I can highly recommend the web--the very same vehicle you used to post your comment--as a research tool.

    Have a bright size life,