Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A few days after the election, Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler wrote about white Southerners' fondness for war. He quoted Michael Lind's book Made in Texas:

White Southerners are not isolationists or pacifists. On the contrary, from the eighteenth century to the present, they have been more eager than white Northerners to support American wars abroad. According to the historian David Hackett Fischer, “From the quasi-war with France [in 1789] to the Vietnam War, the two southern cultures strongly supported every American war no matter what it was about or who it was against. Southern ideas of honor and the warrior ethic combined to create regional war fevers of great intensity in 1798, 1812, 1846, 1861, 1898, 1917, 1941, 1950 and 1965.”

To this, Somerby added,

Of course, as we learned in this last election, when blue-state elitists try to stop red-staters from killing themselves in these wars, they earn themselves a lifetime of enmity....

That idea has stuck in my mind ever since I read it -- that we piss red-staters off when we try to save their sons' and daughters' lives by ending wars that have turned into quagmires.

Now along comes Russ Vaughn, a Vietnam vet who writes right-wing and pro-military essays and verse. Recently, to defend the honor of the Marine who was filmed shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner, Vaughn wrote a poem called "Fightin' Words":

You media pansies may squeal and may squirm,
But a fightin’ man knows that the way to confirm,
That some jihadist bastard truly is dead,
Is a brain-tappin’ round fired into his head....

The poem goes on like that (suffice to say that the hypothetical jihadist is sent to meet "fat ugly virgins" in the afterlife).

Now Vaughn has written an essay defending his poem for a Web site called the American Thinker. And he says flat-out what Somerby said just after the election: Don't you stateside liberals wimps dare try to save our lives.

... You see, what I'm wholeheartedly for is the troops, and not in the sense that most liberal Americans profess to be, in that they believe they are demonstrating their support of the troops by calling for them to be brought home and removed from harm's way. If that's what you call supporting the troops, then take it from an old trooper who's been there and done that, the troops don't see you as supportive at all. They see you as undermining their mission, which is to go in harm's way, with deliberate intent to prevail by force of arms.

What the troops perceive as support is hearing you cheering not jeering when they are seriously kicking the butts of jihadi terrorists. So, on behalf of the troops you support, it's with you peace-at-any-price liberals and your synergistic media pals that I have an ax to grind....

I know Vaughn’s poem and essay are meant to address the shooting of the prisoner. But that’s not what he’s talking about here. He’s saying that civilians cross the line not when we question what one of the troops does in battle, but long before that, when we merely debate the merits of the war.

So all dissent must stop once troops are deployed; democratic debate must be suspended. The soldiers and Marines have butts to kick, and merely stepping back to weigh the costs and benefits is a betrayal of them.

OK, fine. I’ll still call for an end to this war, but I don’t expect most of the troops, or gung-ho veterans, to make any attempt to grasp what I’m saying or why I’m saying it. Many of these people think anti-war liberals have contempt for them; I try to understand the way the other side thinks, but I guess I shouldn’t expect supporters of the war to return the favor.


Here's a curious fact: Russ Vaughn wrote a poem that was posted on the Web site run by Kevin Sites -- yes, the journalist who filmed the shooting of the prisoner by the Marine. That poem is "The Sheepdogs"; it reveals a lot about what Vaughn thinks of civilians:

Most humans truly are like sheep
Wanting nothing more than peace to keep
To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.
Their lives serene upon Life’s farm,
They sense no threat nor fear no harm.
On verdant meadows, they forage free
With naught to fear, with naught to flee.
They pay their sheepdogs little heed
For there is no threat; there is no need....

Feel a bit demeaned by this? Maybe in your life you've dealt with crime, cancer, fire; maybe at times you've had to work two or three jobs to put food on the table for your family. Sorry -- you're not a soldier, so you're just a sheep. When wolves attack -- they do, of course, on a "calm September morning" -- you’re just their "passive helpless enemy"; you’ve been living "a life of illusive bliss.” Only the “sheepdogs,” the “Dogs of War,” really understand how the world works.

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