Thursday, March 27, 2003

OPINION: Sending Wimps to Baghdad? Why Opposing the War Is Supporting The Troops

The United States has managed to convince the whole world that Iraq has to be bombed.

Um, well, they have convinced four other countries. Absent from the Coalition of the Killing are the US’s two neighbours (Canada and Mexico), all but two of its NATO allies and every other country on earth.

Every other country that is, except the two mighty military powers of Poland and Australia.

In line with all its other conquests (including a World Cup win), Australia is ready to conquer Iraq. But are Australians convinced? As late as early last week (mid-March 2003), most Australians opposed the war. This was reflected even in Uncle Rupert bin Murdoch’s poll conducted by his national broadsheet The Australian which shows that a majority of people still do not support war.

But then last week, our good Prime Minister John Dubya Howard called upon all Australians to get behind the war effort for the sake of the troops and their families. He urged us to remember those awful days after the Vietnam War when Australian troops returned home after witnessing all sorts of atrocities. And how they were jeered when they returned. And how many of them suffered for the rest of their lives.

The PM had a point. But some supporters of the war were claiming that the PM was telling us Aussies to support the war and to stop protesting. Because if we did not stop protesting, this would adversely affect our troops’ morale. It would also make the families feel very very upset.

Sounds absurd? Well apparently similar logic (or lack thereof) is being used by politicians in North America and the UK. And Uncle Rupert’s scribes in his newspapers and the clowns that appear on his Fox News are using the same dodgy logic.

So what do we tell them? How do we answer back? What is the solution to this riddle?

The answer lies in a little analogy. To see how amazingly imbecilic this logic is, apply it to other contexts.

Now I have many friends who are lawyers. And there are many things about the legal system in Australia that I think are awful. I am happy to say it also. And in case anyone doubts me, I will say it again – some aspects of our legal system are absolutely terrible!

Read the last clause aloud. Really loud. In fact, invite 10 lawyers over and scream it to their face. Then cover your eyes. Count to ten. Then uncover your eyes. Do you see any lawyers wailing and crying? Are they consoling their families at your outrageously immoral and unpatriotic statement? Are some of them ready to collapse in shock and horror?

Obviously not. Why? Because they are PROFESSIONALS. They do not get offended at everything. They do not take it personally. Yes, they form an essential part of the legal system. But they know that by voicing your views on the system, you are not attacking them personally. Nor are you attacking their families.

Another example (and please do not tell my cousins in Lahore or Delhi). In the recent World Cup cricket final, I was watching with glee as we were kicking some Indian butt. But then it started raining. And this would effect how the game is scored. I hate the rule. I think it is severely stuffed. And I am happy to tell millions on the internet that I think it is stuffed.

So I have just stated twice that a rule of cricket sux. Does that mean I have offended the Australian cricket team?

And you could apply it on and on. Do Department of Immigration staff go on stress leave because many people oppose mandatory detention of asylum seekers? Do Tax Office staff wail and weep as people get upset over the GST? Are nurses leaving the health system because people keep complaining about hospital waiting lists and the state of the health system?

Anyone who says that we should stop protesting against this war because it hurts the troops is really insulting our armed forces. Our soldiers, our navy personnel, our pilots, our other military staff are TRAINED to fight. They are TOUGHENED to face things much worse than 2,000 socialist (and in my case, 1 conservative) hippies marching and dancing in the streets of Sydney or New York. To suggest that our exercise of our democratic rights is somehow going to hurt the troops’ feelings is to effectively say that our soldiers are a bunch of wimps and weaklings.

We are not sending to Iraq young kids fresh off the street as part of some draft process. We are sending professionals. Trained soldiers who are educated in the art of warfare and in the intricacies of international law. Even if their political superiors do not understand international law, I am sure our troops do understand. They are tough. They are fearsome. They are disciplined. And they do not break down and reach for the Kleenex just because you or I or anyone else is shouting ‘No War’ a few thousand miles away.

And why should they react like this? Many of them have family members involved in anti-war protests. Or they have relatives or friends marching against the war.

And let’s be frank. If (God forbid!) some of these young men and women do not come back alive, who has a better chance of copping flack from their families? Anti-war protestors? Or the politicians who sent these young people to their deaths in the first place? Was it the banners and loudspeakers that caused the death? Or was it the decision to go to war?

So next time you see some clown on Fox News whining about unpatriotic protestors, just remember that these people are paid to ensure that the standard of their program is as low as the News Corporation share price.

First published in MWU! on 26 March 2003.

Words © 2003 Irfan Yusuf

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