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Warping the role of the military

Apr 8, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

One of my clearest memories came as an 8-year old hunting quail with my dad, my grandfather and my great uncle in the Arkansas woods.

I was finally big enough to keep up with these guys and a couple of my dad's cousins as they worked through a native thicket of trees on my grandfather's east Arkansas farm.

Lots of joking, teasing and bragging accompanied any hunt with this group, and my dad wowed the rest of us as he hit a quail directly overhead, took off his cap and caught the bird in it as it fell .

It was a pretty impressive stunt in the eyes of a third-grader on his first trip to the woods with the big boys.

Needless to say, my dad remains an excellent shot. He won many squadron trophies for marksmanship in the Air Force, and his keen eye has passed to his grandson. I've never had a problem hitting a target, but my dad and my son take marksmanship to a different level.

My family has a military tradition, but it doesn't carry on from generation to generation as it does with some. My grandfather served in the Swiss Cavalry (yes, the horse cavalry) guarding the Swiss border during World War I. I have an uncle who was wounded in the Philippines in World War II and another who served the Pacific as well. My dad and another uncle fought in Korea, and my last uncle served in peace time with the National Guard.

Go back a few generations and there are dozens of relatives who fought for the Confederacy in the War of Northern Aggression as the Civil War is often called in the South.

This tradition, along with a lifetime dedicated to the study of American and world history in its many forms, leads me to question the ultra-conservative views of the military today.

I saw what I consider to be the stupidest post I've ever seen on a blog this week. The clueless statement in its entirety read, "American troops come home. We need you to protect us from the government."

The dichotomy of the would-be pundit writing this was easy to see. Somehow the writer separated the government (the enemy) from the troops (the heroes), when in fact they are one and the same.

That's the danger the endlessly repeated phrase "support the troops" can create in people devoid of a sense of history, purpose or any concept of their own political surroundings. The roots of "support the troops" come from another generation, young people who went to war when their government called, but who were spit upon, defiled and hated when they returned from Southeast Asia.

The military is the muscle of our republic. That's why the second amendment was written, to provide a means of gathering a militia quickly in order to defend the nation from foreign invaders. Stealth bombers, cruise missiles and orbital weapons systems have outstripped the technological intentions of the founding fathers in preserving our right to bear arms , but the intent to have a non-professional, citizen army remains constant.

The logic behind loving the troops while hating the government is familiar to anyone who has ever coached a team. The thought pattern is easy to follow: kids win games, and coaches lose them. To parents and ideologues alike, there can be no switching of blame; one side is good and the other is evil.

Calling the troops home to protect us from the government they have taken an oath to protect makes as much sense as doing away with the court system and letting the police decide who is and isn't guilty. Yep, extremists actually believe the military and the police should rule.

Coups de tat were once commonplace in Latin America and Africa. The CIA was responsible for many of them in the 1950s, 1960s and even the 1970s. It was part of our foreign policy. It's a practice that isn't necessary anymore, because we now simply invade or bomb anyone who gets in the way.

Even the personal sacrifice the young in our military assume as part of their commitment to the government the extremists would have them protect us from is routinely exploited. When Marine private Chance Phelps of Dubois was killed eight years ago in Iraq, unscrupulous recruiters were quick to use his sacrifice as a ploy to get young men from Fremont County to enlist.

A recruiter called our house several times trying to get our son to join. His message was the same to many boys around the county: "You have to get over there and get the guys who shot Chance. "

The calls bordered on harassment, so one evening I answered the phone when we saw it was the recruiter. In a quick statement I told the recruiter, "Brian is 17. If he wants to enlist after he graduates, I support his choice, But you are not going to call him until then. The next time you call I'll be on the phone to your commanding officer, and you won't like the results."

He didn't call again.

The military protecting us against our own government is just another right-wing fantasy. It makes no sense at all.

I prefer the image of American GIs giving their last bits of food to starving children in Italy, Germany and France, of American Marines defending helpless refugees as they escaped the advancing Chinese army at Chosin, Korea in the frozen hell of December 1950.

That's my image of the American military and what it is when it serves a higher purpose.

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