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So, just who is supporting whom?

by Jim Goodman

(Wednesday, April 9, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- During the weeks preceding the U.S./British invasion of Iraq a sort of patriotic fervor swept across the country. Politicians, the media and often police targeted anyone involved in the peace movement as being "un-American". If you didnít have a flag flying from your car antenna, wear a flag lapel pin or reverently stand for the National Anthem (or in one instance a patriotic Country Western song) you could be accused of "not supporting the troops". Once the invasion had begun, there were demands for war protesters to "put the debates aside and support our troops". I am not sure how a desire for peace could be construed as anything other than support for the troops, keeping them out of battle and alive seems to be a rather solid form of support. Supporting the troops and supporting the Bush Administrationís master plan (stop the inspections, start the war, get the oil, dominate the world) has been carefully melded into a single option by the Administrationís PR machine and the media. Peace activists were targeted and used to solidify support for Bushís war by calling into question their commitment to freedom and their concern for the troops that the Administration would send forth to further expand the American Empire.

We were told to join our President in "supporting our young men and women who were in harms way". We were not supposed to question why they would be put in harms way, securing Iraqi freedom, ending terrorism, toppling a ruthless dictator, those were the reasons and they were set in stone, war was the only option. We were not to question the governments concern for the troops, how the war would be paid for, or how long it would last. We were just supposed to support the troops.

There was never a lack of support for the troops from the peace movement: soldiers donít start wars, politicians do. We wanted to keep them at home, because we questioned the governmentís support. We know that the government denies the existence of health related problems caused by the use of depleted uranium munitions, just as they tried to dismiss the possibility of Gulf War Syndrome being a real illness. We know from past experience that veterans benefits have sometimes been too little and sometimes too hard to get. In a move that was hardly supportive, the House Budget Committee cut $15 billion from the Veterans Affairs budget. With 150,000 Gulf War Veterans receiving service related medical disability, and a new generation of veterans on the way, is that a wise move?

One only needs to look at the makeup of the military to question whose interest military recruitment has served. Many inner-city schools see more military recruiters than college recruiters. Those of less than spectacular wealth have historically seen the military as a way out of poverty, from being paid to replace a wealthy conscript during the Civil War, to having a college deferment during Vietnam, to joining the volunteer military for a promise of job skills or college tuition. There are many who join the military out of love of country and that is as it should be, but, as Representative Charles Rangel of New York said, for many itís not fair because they (the poor) have fewer options.

If President Bush truly wanted to support the poor and those of average income, he would not be so anxious to dismantle programs that support equal opportunity like Head Start, Title IX and Affirmative Action. He would make the minimum wage a living wage and let single mothers go to school rather than forcing them to work at dead end jobs. If the President really supported working people he would; support rather than bust unions, protect American jobs rather than allow them to be shipped overseas under the auspices of the WTO, support farmers and local marketing rather than the Globalization of agriculture for the benefit of multi-national corporations.

While the Administration plans to cut Veterans benefits, moneys for health care, education, social security and many other programs that would advance equal rights, equal opportunity, a living wage and fair farm prices, they plan tax cuts for the richest Americans. They happily ignore the military devastation they caused in Afghanistan and Vieques in Puerto Rico, as well as the economic devastation their neo-liberal trade policies have inflicted upon developing countries around the world. By supporting Raytheon, General Dynamics, Lockheed and the rest of the military contractors, this and previous Administrations have sought to advance the doctrine of an American Empire and in so doing economies, lives and societies have been destroyed. Their support of Globalization to benefit Monsanto, Dow, Cargill, Aventis and a host of other multi-national pharmaceutical, chemical and agribusiness corporations has denied affordable drugs to the world, forced the acceptance of Genetically Modified foods, concentrated control of the worlds food supply and driven indigenous farmers off the land.

Peace protesters, environmentalists and living wage advocates are suspect for not supporting the military, economic growth or the New World Order. Universal health care supporters are branded as socialists and those who support fair trade, local food economies and the rights of indigenous peoples are condemned for their lack of vision. It would appear that Bushís call to support the troops is just another catch phrase in a long line of attempts to dissuade those on the left from working for real progressive change. There was never any question of our "support" for the troops; they are our sons, daughters, friends, parents, husbands and wives. There was never a question of our desire for universal healthcare, a clean environment, living wages, equal rights or fair trade. We the people have always been supportive of the poor, the underdog, the common good, and the common dream. The lack of support seems to lie squarely on the President, his Administration and most of the DC establishment. They support the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and they insist on questioning our patriotism whenever we work for the best interests of everyone, rather than those of the wealthy.

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc Wisconsin. He can be reached at r.j.goodman@mwt.net