David Sirota points to an important news story in today's Pensacola News Journal -- from the most "Southern" part of Florida (in terms of political culture, not geography).
While the Washington pundits still chatter about how anti-war protests are an affront to the troops -- and use "support the troops" as short-hand for "support the war" -- the fact is that military folks don't see it that way:
If there's growing sentiment against the war in Iraq, many area veterans of the fight aren't taking it personally.
Vets see the opposition as a protest against policy, not them or their service.
"I have run into people who don't support the president's views on Iraq or our objectives, but I haven't run into a single person who said (he or she) doesn't support the troops," said Jason Crawford, a Purple Heart recipient who was shot in the face by opposition forces in December 2003 while in Iraq. "I think our society learned from Vietnam that it's not the men and women who sacrifice their lives and signed on the dotted lines who make up the plans and objectives. I think pretty much everyone supports the troops."
It's not just veterans:
"They might not agree with (the war)," said Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Bentele, 29, who returned from Iraq in May. "But they show us respect."
The story also makes the predictable comparisons to Vietnam, including this passage:
Army Reserves Lt. Col. Alice Bell, 46, who spent 10 months in Kuwait in support of the Iraq invasion, said she has heard nothing but praise since returning home.
"It's not like in Vietnam, when they spat on troops coming back," she said. "Some people don't agree with the mission itself. But even if they're against the war effort, they're for the troops. They realize we're doing what we have to do, what we've been ordered to do, whether we agree with it or not."
I appreciate the overall sentiment, although it's always important to debunk the myth of the spat-upon Vietnam soldier. It's a lie that sadly still has legs, despite the evidence:
In 1995 sociologist Thomas Beamish and his colleagues analyzed all peace movement-related stories from 1965 - 1971 in the NY Times, LA Times, and SF Chronicle (495 stories). They found no instance of any spitting on returned troops by peace movement members, nor any taunting. Indeed, they found few examples of negative demonstrations involving returning troops of any kind, or even of simple disapproval of returning soldiers. Three years later, sociologist Jerry Lembcke conducted a similarly exhaustive study for his book, The Spitting Image, with like results. He discovered war protesters being spat upon by war supporters, and hostile acts toward Vietnam veterans by conservative, pro-war groups like the VFW, but no taunting or spitting on returned veterans by peace movement members. Returned veterans and in-service GIs were welcomed in the peace movement, and many assumed leadership roles. Yet the myth endures.
Chalk another one up for the right-wing spin machine. But in 2005 with Iraq, it's not working. When will the rest of the media catch on?