"I have a friend who is a veteran. Yesterday, I asked this friend, 'How can I support the members of the military while opposing the action in which they are engaged?'
It was bothering me. How can I see the humanity of Mr. Bush's so-called "enemy," while not seeing the humanity of the men and women he's putting in harm's way?
Here's what my friend said:
Good question. I think what it boils down to is being able to separate the two things (the war and the people on the front lines fighting it) in your mind. Most people can't get their mind around that: How can I support that guy that just dropped a bomb that went off target and took out a day care center?
But let me try, for a minute, to introduce a couple of concepts. First of all, the people on the front lines, the "troops," are serving their country to the best of their ability. I've said it before: part of the sacrifice of being a soldier is having to put your trust in your commanders that if they send you in somewhere, it is for the good of the country or the world as a whole. Barring the assholes and psychopaths that one gets in any walk of life, what you have in the troops is a bunch of people who are dedicated to the purpose of establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, and preserving or restoring freedom.
A military requires a lot of discipline in order to work in any kind of efficient or effective manner, and when you join, you have to have that belief that the officers, political leaders, etc, will utilize your services in an appropriate manner. And (barring illegal orders which we are trained to recognize) you HAVE TO DO WHAT THEY SAY.
Otherwise it all falls apart, you see.
So, you've got these folks who are dedicated to the service of the country.
Then, you've got commanders who are, perhaps, having these folks do things that you DON'T think benefit the country, or freedom, or whatever. But that's the fault of the commander, not the soldier.
The troops don't get a choice in where, or sometimes, when they serve.
As I said, it's a tough concept. I'm not going to go, "Hey, man, great job with that napalm on the aspirin factory! Woo hoo!" But I am going to say, "Thank you for dedicating part of your life to service to our country," because I think that's a noble thing.
I could say a lot more about this, but to my mind, you can protest the war, and at the same time, hang a yellow ribbon in the hope that the troops come home safely. Hoping for our folks to come home safe isn't at all pro-war, to my mind. Writing a letter saying, "Hey, hope you guys are doing okay" doesn't imply you hope anyone else (like the Iraqis) are being blown to smithereens.
This is the time when it's really tough. Probably a lot of the troops over there are uncertain whether this is a good idea, so they're going to get kind of defensive with anti-war protesters. Add to that the people who cannot separate the war from the people fighting it, and you have even more ill will.
Seriously, it's very tough to reconcile for a lot of people. I've been there, so I know stuff about what it's like to be in the military. It's damn hard to explain some things to civilians in a way that makes sense, though, because some of it DOES NOT make sense outside of the military culture. But it makes perfect sense in there.
It is really a different culture too, remember. US military and US civilians live by a very different set of rules and assumptions a lot of the time.
Like I said: Protest the war, Embrace the people. They are our brothers and sisters who have dedicated themselves to the service of our country. If they are used unjustly, blame the leaders.