Friday, October 12, 2007

Late Reply

A while ago, a guest poster from here provide a lengthy essay that I said I would get to in four days. Well, I've been incredibly busy. And far more than four days have elapsed. I thought it worthwhile to put the essay up here and reply to bits and pieces as I'm able. I'll simply go back and add comments over the days and weeks ahead. You might be reading something that is still unfinshed, or it might be the product of lots of different entries ....


I had fully intended to write a proper response to the questions posed by CC and was hoping that my schedule would calm down enough to do just that but, unfortunately, time has been passing by and it doesn’t look like my life is going to get any less chaotic over the next couple of weeks so I decided that it would have to be a “now or never” sort of a deal. I apologize in advance for the lack of quality that I’m sure is to follow.

For those of you who haven’t read the comments that have lead to the topic that I will be addressing today (proposed by CC), please see the links at the bottom of the page. I feel that it
is fairly obvious based on the responses to the comments that I have posted that several (many??) of those who frequent this site do not share my beliefs concerning the “best”[1] methods for effecting political change.

Perhaps it is the result of my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Nepal during the middle of a civil war and attending the UN mandated University for Peace Master’s program, but I have adopted more of a Gandhian, Martian Luther King Jr., Gene Sharp[2], David Hume[3] Mary King,[4] Robert Helvey[5] and Miki Kashtan[6] (to name a few) approach to social activism. This includes being the change that you wish to see in the world. And, although I often struggle with not lashing out at those whose views I find abhorred, more often than not, I am able to refrain because, like David Hume I believe, “by every act, by every word and deed, a man expresses his character.”[7] Some may call it naive and idealistic – in fact, I’m well aware that many do…. and this approach isn’t always successful but history has shown that it can be and I would rather act in a manner that I feel is consistent with my goals.

My views concerning social activism and the most appropriate and productive methods of voicing dissent ties in with the questions posed by CC in that I truly believe that if those “in the Left-o-sphere” (CC’s words) are to lessen the chance of being labeled “anti-military,” (which contributes to the claim that to “support the troops is to support the mission” and vice versa), then it is important to protest/voice opposition to the war in a manner that shows consideration and respect for those associate with the military as well as those whose opinions differ from your own. While it is true that many on the “right” haven’t always acted in an understanding and kind manner, adopting the same or similar behavior or language does little to win the “left” any supporters aside from those who were already in your camp.

Hmm. Okay, I see where this is going. Well, what I'll say is that for the most part I agree, but I'll caution that we have to also work extra hard not to fetishize the military. I've posted on this earlier. I think as institutions, militaries are abhorrent. I don't think most individuals join them in order to save the world and/or expand democratic principles. A lot of people who join them do so because it's a relatively sure way to find employment. The right-wing has made it so that even dissenting with the war of the politicians is going to demoralize the precious, sacred troops and cause their mission to fail. I'll see what I read tomorrow!!!

A Gandhian Approach to Social/Political Change

Please forgive me if this is obvious to the readers but in order to better explain my worldview concerning social change, I feel that it is necessary to review the basics of Gandhian thought.Gandhi believed in the unity of all things and for this reason promoted “ahimsa,” the Sanskrit word for “noninjury.” Gandhi expanded this to include the principle of nonviolence, truthfulness, the love of all. Basically, Gandhi changed the Christian adage from “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” to “what you do to others, you also do to yourself.”[8]

Well, that's true. On the other hand, it's also possible that if all is one and one is all, then that holds true for pain and suffering and pleasure and happiness on some metaphysical level. Which leads to the rejection of the world and withdrawl from the struggles of politics.

On a more realistic level, what someone does to you doesn't always seem to impact them in any materially similar way. People who rob and exploit you might be debasing their souls and creating later psychological anguish for themselves, but they often appear to materially prosper, develop comforting delusions of superiority, and die in comfort surrounded by a prosperous, healthy, large family of loved ones.

We just don't want to concede too much, all at once to metaphysical justifications for denouncing any form of resistance.

Ahimsa is not just the absence of violence or non-harming but a condition of mental purification and positive acts through body, speech and mind. Ahimsa means viewing people as good and kindhearted, each with inner resources to seek love and understanding of others. Gandhi believed that we have a responsibility to confront injustice but that we must do so in a way that we seek to understand another person’s perspective otherwise we will not be truly effective in reaching our goals. While I acknowledge that there are truly some “evil” people in this world, I still believe that, overall, human-beings are basically “good” and that most of us are simply trying to live our lives in the best way that we know how. I believe that these are the individuals make up the majority, who our arguments may appeal to, and that, with their support, we can bring about social/policy change. However, when we use hateful language to describe or converse with those whose views differ from our own, we dehumanize them and ignore the fact that they also have reasons for having adopted their way of thinking. If their point of view serves as the basis for a political system or policy that we wish to change, it is important that we make an attempt to understand why they have adopted this position and persuade them of the validity of our point of view. If we use hateful language, even if it is a response to their own, we simply ensure that these individuals will go on the defensive and all of our logic will fall upon closed minds and deaf ears. I realize that there are individuals who are so extreme that they will NEVER listen to “reason” but there are far more who are fairly “open-minded” or “in the middle” who can be reached….but not if we alienate them from the beginning. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this and focused on appealing to the basic human decency of the “average person” and refused to respond to the verbal and physical violence of his adversaries with that of his own. As King explained, “Somebody must have sense enough to meet hate with love. Its either non-violence or non-existence.”[9]

The Purpose of Rhetoric

It is generally assumed that the “communication of ideas, values, opinions and beliefs in an effort to illicit the approval or acceptance of others is the primary concern of the rhetorician.”[10] An activist must persuade expanding circles of people that they are affected by some condition and must inspire others to join him/her if they are to effect change. Basically, rhetorical persuasion is the central means for mobilizing new resources (human, financial, etc) in any movement.[11] But, as Lisa Zagumny[12] explains, “the ideas being reciprocated must be comprehended by the audience if change in attitude is to occur. In order to prevent rejection, the persuader must exhibit expertise and credibility.” Additionally, George Campbell[13] notes that when appealing to an audience whose opinions of you or your message are generally unfavorable (as seems to be the case, more often than not, when purporting and anti-war stance), the speaker must be much more cautious and show more modesty. This increases the likelihood of mollifying your opponents and the chances that they will actually hear your message. It’s difficult to persuade someone to see things from your point of view if you can’t even get them to listen to your message.

Those who oppose the mission(s) in Afghanistan and/or Iraq are already at a disadvantage in that many are still of the mindset that this war(s) is(are) justified and, perhaps, “winnable.” Ara Norenzayan[14] has found that “If you present Westerners an argument that is contrary to their prior belief, they’ll apply a na├»ve form of logic and ask themselves which one is ‘true,’ the new belief or their own? Unless the new argument is very strong, they’ll be likely to generate reasons why their prior belief is right and the new one is wrong, and not be susceptible to the new argument.” Along those same lines, Robert Levine[15], notes that a “consequence of cognitive dissonance is that a belief may actually get stronger when it's proven wrong. The more you stand to lose, and the more foolish you look, the greater the dissonance and, so, the greater the pressure to prove you were right in the first place.”[16] Levine explains that, “if you’ve been a dedicated member of a group and are now confronted with evidence that your group's cause is just plain wrong. Would you admit that you made a mistake and leave? If you'd already committed enough, probably not….the more one endures, the greater the need to self-justify.”[17] This has obvious implications for those trying to convince the public that their “political leaders” have made a mistake and of the need to alter political policies and action. It is also one of the reasons why many of those who have supported (or continue to do so) the Canadian and U.S. military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq view those who challenge those missions as “unpatriotic” and unsupportive of the troops….this is especially true for those who have made personal sacrifices (lost loved ones, long deployments, etc). They have endured a great deal in support of these missions and to acknowledge that they were perhaps mistaken can feel like a betrayal of their loved ones and/or self.

Unfortunately, partisanship remains one of the most important filters that citizens use to interpret political messages. This leads to a selective processing of information and the “reasonableness” or “logic” of an argument is often lost when appealing to an individual of a different political persuasion. However, this is all the more reason to tailor your message to your intended audience. I am not suggesting that we change our political message but, if the purpose is truly to effect change and that change depends upon convincing a majority of the populace of the validity of your message and the need to act, we must use language and methods that increase the likelihood that someone will at least listen. In the words of George Campbell, “we do not argue to gain barely the assent of the understanding, but, which is infinitely more important, the consent of the will.”[18] The Civil Rights movement in the United States is a prime example of this and, contrary to popular belief, was not a haphazard series of demonstrations but a well-strategized non-violent movement. The leaders and participants of this movement realized that if enough people were convinced that segregationist practices were morally, ethically, and constitutionally wrong, then they could be persuaded to act upon this belief. However, the point is that they needed to be persuaded and they did this using Gandhian methods.

Support the Troops, not the Mission (War)

CC noted that “It's a common position in the Left-o-sphere…that the whole philosophy of ’Support the troops’ has become so politicized that it's virtually impossible for anyone who opposes the mission in Afghanistan to still say that they support the troops, since that (troop) support will immediately (and dishonestly, of course) be re-interpreted as support for the mission. “ I absolutely agree with this statement (and the other aspect of it, that you cannot oppose the mission and still support the troops) and acknowledge that this has been true throughout all wars. While researching for my Masters Thesis, I interviewed several anti-war protesters from the World War II era, Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. They all experienced the same dilemma….this is not new or unique. Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who feel that to oppose a war is to dishonor the troops – no matter what tactics you use to voice your opinions - and that if you claim to support the military, you obviously support its missions. However, there are also many (including service members) who recognize that opposition to a specific war or policy is not the same thing as being opposed to the military as a whole and there are several ways that you can reduce the risk of being labeled “anti-military.” I feel that it is this “anti-military” (i.e. “unsupportive of the troops”) that has created the situation of which CC speaks.

This leads me to the second part of CC’s question; “If Canada's progressives are tired of being misrepresented this way, how should they publicly announce their support for the troops while making it clear that that support doesn't extend to the mission?”

I personally feel that this can perhaps best be addressed by approaching it from the “other side” – by showing that you are not “anti-military”. This can be achieved by employing both “negative” (actions you refrain from – using malicious language, protesting in certain areas/against certain targets, etc) and “positive” (recruiting military families/supporters/veterans/troops to stand with you and voice dissent) action.

At this point, I must confess that my knowledge of the Canadian anti-war movement is somewhat limited and I am basing my answer largely on my experience living in the United States and the information that I gathered while researching for my thesis on United States military wives. In order to better understand why those who vocally oppose specific military missions are labeled as “anti-military,” it is necessary to look at the culture of the military. While my experience is primarily with the United States military, military cultures throughout the world are fairly similar and many generalizations can be made. As most are aware, the military is an elite group that has a very low tolerance for digression from the long-held values, traditions, and beliefs – especially if they threaten to disrupt the war machine. The conservative nature of the military, its demand for obedience and loyalty, the dependency of military families on the military community for financial and social support to cope with the hardships of military life, and views concerning “patriotism” (often the belief that he/she is serving his/her nation as part of an elite group dedicated to the “our” way of “life” or “freedom”), all contribute to the reluctance of those opposed to specific wars to publicly express this opposition and/or contribute to their negative perceptions of the anti-war movement. Although large-scale opposition to any war among military families and hard-core military supporters is unlikely, it is possible to avoid further alienating military families and potential allies by being aware of the military culture and engaging in anti-war activities accordingly. If you do not alienate military supporters, you are much more likely to be able to demonstrate that you do, in fact, respect the troops.

Through my research, I found that despite the fact that some military wives are very public in their opposition to the war in Iraq and regularly participate in anti-war demonstrations, the majority of those who oppose the war are, in the words of one military wife, “in the closet.” The reluctance of military wives to openly oppose the war are as diverse as the wives themselves but based on in-depth interviews with sixteen military wives opposed to the war in Iraq, four main reasons can be identified: 1) concern that open opposition to the war encourages terrorism and “aides and abets” the enemy; 2.) a belief that openly opposing the war has little to no impact on political leaders and policy concerning the war in Iraq; 3) a belief that the majority of the anti-war demonstrations and demonstrators are anti-military; and the most significant, 4.) the negative impact that their open opposition may have on their husband’s morale and/or career as well as a fear of being socially ostracized and/or negative consequences concerning their own employment. I feel that three out of these four “reasons” (#s 1,3 and the first part of 4) also apply to those in the general population who believe that it is impossible to oppose a war and still support the troops………..those who cannot seem separate the mission from the troops……… support one means to support the other……………to oppose one means to oppose the other……………

Because I believe that “successful communications are based on understanding the persons you are trying to reach,”19 it is important to increase our awareness concerning the “rational” behind the above mentioned beliefs. If we are able to do that, we can better shape our anti-war messages so that they aren’t quite as threatening and less likely to be completely ignored.

“Aiding and Abetting the Enemy”

First things first, a look at why some believe that open opposition to the war encourages terrorism and “aides and abets” the enemy. Now, if this were true, it is obvious why anti-war protesters would be accused of not supporting the troops. How can you support the troops if you are (gasp!) supporting, the enemy?! The belief that anti-war demonstrations “aid and abet the enemy” has a long history and was a popular criticism of the United States anti-war movement during Vietnam. Although evidence exists to both support and contradict this claim, the fact that many military families and supporters hold this belief contributes to the reluctance of some individuals to openly oppose a war and/or to view those who do in a negative light out of concern for the safety of their loved ones and loyalty to their country. Ariel, a military wife who is opposed to the war in Iraq, explained “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, I wish that they would not do it so publicly because that is what gives our enemies power and if they have that power then the soldier’s missions are harder to accomplish safely.” Unfortunately, the possibility that anti-war demonstrations can divide a country, embolden the “enemy” and put their loved ones at risk increases negative feelings towards those who voice opposition to the war. It seems that those on the “right” and/or supporters of the missions in the Middle East use this to silence the opposition. In order to avoid the “anti-military” label, the “left” would benefit by providing strong evidence or well-spoken (read: easy to understand and not hateful or condescending) to dispute the “aiding and abetting” claims.“

Anti-war demonstrations and demonstrators are anti-military”

The methods used to voice opposition is perhaps the biggest reason why those on the “left” are accused of not supporting the troops. Many military families/supporters view anti-war demonstrations/statements as “anti-military” and thus as an attack on their way of life and the values that they hold as “defenders of freedom.”

The majority of military wives that I interviewed support ones’ right to protest/voice dissent and feel that this is a freedom that their husband’s are fighting to defend. However, wives both in support of and opposed to the war in Iraq expressed that there is a fine line between protesting the war and targeting the military. Most military wives would prefer anti-war demonstrators to focus their efforts on the politicians who make the decision to send their husbands to war and therefore feel that protests staged outside government offices are more appropriate. Most of those who support or oppose the war in Iraq feel that anti-war statements that also attack military members and/or their families are counter-productive and believe that protests held outside of military recruiting offices, military hospitals, and military bases are highly inappropriate, in contradiction to the protesters’ message that they “support the troops,” and reminiscent of Vietnam protests in the United States which often targeted soldiers.

The association between anti-war protests and an anti-military stance is hardly surprising given the treatment of soldiers and veterans during the Vietnam War. Military families and supporters fear that troops serving in Afghanistan and/or Iraq will be received in a similar manner so when individuals within the anti-war movement target the troops themselves, even those oppose one or both of these wars become defensive and separate themselves from the anti-war movement. Alexis, a 20 year-old United States Air Force wife who is opposed to the war in Iraq explained, “The husband of a friend of mine (Air Force) was at the Bush ranch in Texas at the time of the protests with Cindy Sheehan. He was called a “baby killer” and other not so friendly terms. He was also spit on. It is protests like these that get my blood boiling. In one breath they preach wanting the war over and to get the soldiers home but in the other, they blatantly and aggressively oppose them to their face. Every time I hear stories such as that, it makes me sick.” Unfortunately, Alexis’ story is not unique and I have come across several incidents in which service members who have served or are serving in Afghanistan or Iraq were treated in a less than respectable manner by anti-war advocates. While these individuals obviously do not represent the “left” as a whole, these negative tactics stand out in the minds of military members, supporters and/or those on the “right” who then use them to discredit the anti-war movement.

Additionally, it must be noted that the media can be critical to the success of any movement but it is important to remember that just as the negative actions and words of ones adversaries are reported, the reverse also holds true. When individuals on the “left” make negative comments to or about the military and/or military families or are disrespectful, inconsiderate or rude to them, those on the “right” will attribute these comments/actions to the “left” as a whole and this contributes to the perception that the “left,” or those opposed to the war, are also “anti-military.” This furthers the false idea that you can’t support the troops without supporting the mission and you can’t oppose the mission without opposing the troops.

An obvious way to lessen the likelihood of being labeled anti-military is to increase the number of military family members and/or troops and/or veterans supporting the anti-war movement. Military families and veterans speaking out against the war are assets to the anti-war movement because people generally listen to them with more interest than they would to people whose lives aren’t invested in the situation. Military people are known to be very committed and loyal so it surprises people to see them standing up and criticizing an administration, policies, and missions/wars and it makes the public question what is happening. However, despite the increasing involvement of military families in the anti-war movement ,(at least in the United States), tension between civilians and military families/troops/veterans remains. Anne Sapp, a United States Army National Guard wife and member of Military Families Speak Out said that her status as a military wife has helped her at events that involve the police and security because they seem to have more respect for her and treat her better than other protesters. According to Anne, “that made it easier to get people to listen to me because they didn’t immediately reject what I said. They were more open to me.” However members of the anti-war movement have criticized her for her association with the military and she has “had to listen to protesters who hate the military and call them murderers.” Anne occasionally wears one of her husband’s Army t-shirts to anti-war speaking engagements to call attention to the fact that she is a military spouse openly opposing the occupation of Iraq and to encourage more military people to join her. However, following a speech that Anne gave at an anti-war venue, she was verbally attacked by an anti-war woman for speaking out against the war while wearing an Army shirt. Anne tried to explain her reasons for wearing the shirt but the woman refused to listen, continued to insult her, and walked away without giving Anne the opportunity to present her side. According to Anne, “I was amazed at how angry I felt and was also amazed at how easily they [some anti-war people] can pass their anger on to others.”

I realize that there are many in the anti-war movement who view the military as a source of the problem with the Middle East rather than a potential ally in ending these conflicts but such treatment of military personnel and families who speak out only serves to reduce support and hinders the movement as a whole. If you want to show people that supporting the troops does not extend to support for the mission, convince more military families, veterans, and service members who also oppose the mission to stand with you.

Another important defense against being labeled anti-military, and therefore reduce the strength of the opposition’s claim that to support the troops is to support the mission, is to chose the venue of protests or public demonstrations carefully. While it appears that the majority of the protests being staged in Canada have targeted government offices, etc, some have focused on the Canadian Forces and military recruiting offices. And, unfortunately for Canadian activists, the actions of United States anti-war activists are widely reported and, more likely than not, contribute to the “anti-troop” perception that some have of the Canadian “Left-o-sphere”.” Protests at military hospitals, military recruitment offices, and military bases can serve as great photo ops and command a lot of publicity but generally garner more negative attention than positive. An excellent example of this comes from Kathleen Kroll, a United States Army wife who has considered joining anti-war protests but finds many of them to be anti-military. She noted that during a big protest in Pittsburgh, a few members of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) along with other non-members "stormed" the main recruiting station in the city. According to Kathleen, “the station is on the second floor, and they broke in through a Mexican restaurant downstairs, knocked in the door to the recruiting station and trashed the place.” For Kathleen, “The amazing thing is that the main counter-recruiting group in Pittsburgh, POG, supports this action. I completely support one's right to protest. I don't necessarily agree with protesting recruiters, but I can understand protesting the WAR itself. However, when people do something like they did to the recruiting station, it makes me wonder if they really have a clue what they're protesting and what they're doing. The statements they've made remind me of someone just wanting to protest SOMETHING without really putting too much thought into it. The actions of the protesting group in Pittsburgh seems to take away their credibility, instead of enhancing it. When you have to resort to trashing an unoccupied (the recruiters were at a training conference in West Virginia that weekend), it makes me question the strength of your argument (and your intelligence, to be quite frank). It has made me resolve that the next protest they stage outside of the recruiting building, I will be there (7 months pregnant or not) to lend a counter presence to their actions.” While the logic behind their choice in a target is fairly clear - as POG explained, “for us, a focus on recruitment is a tangible way to help stop the unjust/war occupations currently occurring as well as serving to help restrict the negative projection of Government power in the future.” it is equally obvious that by choosing to protest military recruiters, these demonstrators are not simply protesting the war but the military establishment itself. Although there are military wives/families/troops/veterans who oppose military operations in Afghanistan and/or Iraq, they generally support the military as a whole and find such protests to be an attack on their way of life, loved ones, and selves.

In the United States, protesting outside of military bases has definitely contributed to the anti-troop label that the “left” has received. Jennifer, a United States Army wife who is opposed to the war in Iraq, explained that “A lot of spouses don’t think that it is possible to support protests and the troops but I do. I look at it as my husband is just doing his job. However, there is a fine line between protesting the war and being anti-military, ‘thank god for dead soldiers’ signs outside of military bases are not ok.” Protesting at military bases and in military communities is a tactic utilized by the United States anti-war movement and several large anti-war demonstrations have been held outside of military bases led by a variety of organizations. The most well-known of these took place outside of Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina on the second anniversary of the Iraq War sponsored by local peace activists working with a number of national groups including the umbrella anti-war organization United For Peace and Justice.

Stacy Bannerman participated in this protest and said the “location was chosen to demonstrate that it’s possible to support the troops and oppose the administration.” However, for many in the military, and even those who are simply part of the anti-war movement, this had the exact opposite effect. Iraq Veterans Against the War director Paul Rieckhoff condemned this protest based on the belief that demonstrating outside of military bases targets the military members and their families, not the politicians and the war. Rieckhoff claimed, “as families living in and around the bases try to salvage some sense of normalcy as they worry about their loved ones overseas, the last thing they need to see on Saturday morning is a crowd of protestors outside their window. This is the height of insensitivity by the anti-war organizations. If you support the troops, don’t protest them in their backyards, especially not as they’re sent to war or returning home.”

Although the members of the Armed Forces and their families either directly or indirectly support the system, they are not in a position to end the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq as a large majority of individual soldiers would need to make the decision to revolt. Based on the nature of their service, the contract they sign and the punishment they face, it seems highly unlikely that an anti-war demonstration held near a military base will win many converts. A more likely outcome is the further alienation of military families from the anti-war movement and the unlikelihood of constructive dialog between the two.

Andrew Borene, a University law student and adviser to Operation Truth, a nonpartisan Iraq Veterans’ organization, urges those who oppose a specific policy or war to “direct their energy and presence in directions that do no alienate the people who have courageously and voluntarily chosen to serve.” He suggests that they “hold a protest to neo-conservatism at the young Republicans’ next meeting; hold a protest at the State Capitol for the state’s failure to take care of National Guard and Reserve Veterans who have been shortchanged by the president’s health-care policy; or hold a rally for political candidates that share your beliefs.”[20] Although this statement was obviously intended for an American audience, the general idea is applicable to Canadian anti-war advocates.

Although the methods of protest and statements expressing disapproval of a military mission may alienate military supporters, those who make an attempt to convey their lack of support for operations in Afghanistan and/or Iraq in a way that targets the administrations responsible for these missions and/or the wars themselves rather than the military are much less likely to be labeled as “unpatriotic” and “anti-military.”

Finally, the possibility that open opposition to a war may have a negative impact on the morale of troops serving in Afghanistan and/or Iraq serves as strong ammunition for those on the “right” who wish to paint those opposed to the war(s) as “anti-military” or insist that supporting the troops is equivalent to supporting the mission. There really isn’t an easy solution to this one as a significant amount of research has yet to be done concerning whether or not protest actually does have a negative impact on troop morale. I interviewed 100 servicemen who were in Iraq at the time or had served in Iraq in an attempt to gain some sort of understanding as to whether or not open opposition to the war had a negative impact on their morale and/or negatively impacted their ability to carry out their mission. The majority (around 70 percent, I believe) felt that open opposition had “no impact” while about 25 percent felt that it had a “slightly negative impact.” The other 5 percent noted that it had either a “slightly positive impact” or a “negative impact.” Stacy Bannerman, a member of Military Families Speak Out and author of “When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists And the Families They Leave Behind” explains that “there is a ‘code of silence’ [in military families and the military] and the cultural, social and financial implications for breaking that are intense. We also hear all of the crap and the comments from those who support the invasion and occupation of Iraq that protests are undermining troop morale and that’s always there in the back of your mind… what if my speaking out contributes to my husband being killed?” Overall, Bannerman feels justified in openly opposing the war because she has talked to many soldiers, including those in uniform at the airport, about the issue of troop morale and they have given her the impression that anti-war demonstrations do not have a large impact on their morale.

It seems that the best way to lessen the power of this argument is to provide some sort of evidence to show that voicing opposition to the war in Afghanistan or Iraq does not hurt troop morale. Talk to the service members - ask their opinions! Does it hurt their morale? Does it negatively impact their mission? If open opposition really doesn’t have much of a negative impact on the troops, it makes it more difficult for those on the “right” to use this against the “left” and as “proof” of the “left’s anti-military” attitude. Again, appealing to like-minded military families/supporters/veterans/service members and persuading them to stand with you will have the same effect.

Another positive way of disputing this claim is to follow in the footsteps of United States military wives like Stacy Bannerman and Ann Sapp - present strong arguments concerning the definition of SUPPORT. Stacy asks, “….how can my wanting to preserve his life and the lives of tens of thousands of others, ever potentially be seen as betrayal?” When she has been criticized for not supporting the troops, she has thus responded, “first of all, my husband is the troops and second of all, silence is not support and speaking out is my duty and responsibility as a military family and an American citizen." Anne Sapp shares Stacy’s views: “I’ve heard the word ‘support’ so often from people who have no idea what it really means. My role as a military spouse is to do whatever I can to keep my husband safe and well. This does not entail waving a flag while our president and his administration commit crimes against humanity, including their own troops. It does entail for me the responsibility to speak out and work to end the wrong being done in our name and try to help people understand that the role he volunteered for in the military was taken with a love and commitment to the people of the country, not a few selfish, misguided politicians……..When I first became politically active against the war, I talked to Andy and we both agreed that the truth was the most important thing.”

Some military families and supporters, like Stacy and Ann, have reached the conclusion that speaking out against what they perceive to be an unjust war and misuse of the troops is the best support that they can provide. If you can get that message across to the “average” Canadian and convince enough of them to join you and appeal to your government, you are much more likely to dispel the “anti-war equals anti-military,” “support for the troops equals support for the mission” myths and alter Canada’s policies/missions concerning Afghanistan than should you alienate potential supporters with callous language targeting individuals - especially those associated with the military.Criticize their statements……..their words……….their ideas/beliefs……….but don’t attack the person.


WhattheH said...

Well done, thanks.

Anonymous said...

As was posted on the original story this crap about the pittsburgh protesters going into a recruiting station and trashing it through some mexican place is just not true. It's also physically impossible considering the doors are completely seperate, you don't enter the one through the other...

I'm sorry but the "army wife" is simply ignorant or a flat out liar trying to manufactor a compelling reason why protesters are bad. Considering she fabricates stories I wonder about her desire to join anti-war protests.