Now, I know what you're going to say.
You're going to say, "But Jack, I happen to know that a lot of people who identify as conservative willingly volunteer to serve in the military! How can you say they hate the military if they volunteer for it?"
Yes, this is true, many people who consider themselves conservative do, in fact, volunteer to serve in the military. For that, they have my respect and my thanks. And most people, conservative and liberal alike, are supportive of our veterans and our active duty service personnel.
When I say that conservatives hate the military, I am once again talking about the so-called "corporate conservatives" I mentioned in my essay "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." Corporate conservatives are seriously and chronically remiss in their care and support for American military personnel, both in terms of their own history of service in the military and in how they treat service members when they are in charge of the country.
Again, I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, "But Jack, how can that be true? Conservatives are always wearing shiny little flag pins and having their photos taken with soldiers and marines and sailors and they're constantly talking about supporting the troops in their election speeches!"
Yes, they do all those things.
Unfortunately, its all a lie. They are all posers.
They're exploiting jimmied up, fake patriotism as a means to camouflage their true intentions.
Now social conservatives (which I also talked about in "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things") are true patriots who are willing to fight and die for their country when and if the time comes. Corporate conservatives, on the other hand, are the worst sort of "show patriot," who make great public displays of mouthing all the right words to make people think they love their country. But its all bullshit. They aren't really patriots at all.
Unfortunately, it seems that most social conservatives haven't caught on to the fact that they are being bullshitted by their compatriots, or to the disservice, disrespect, and disdain that corporate conservatives regularly serve up to active duty personnel and to veterans.
Now, it is absolutely true that corporate conservatives support using (and abusing the hell out of) the troops. They're willing to send the troops to die for various causes that only vaguely have anything to do with defending America. Take Iraq, for example; when President George W. Bush ordered troops into Iraq, he did so in full knowledge that there was no need to. Its just that Iraq was weak, and had oil reserves we wanted, and he assumed that the puppet government he installed after our troops wiped out Saddam Hussein would dance to the tune he called and that the people of Iraq would just idly sit by and let it all happen. It was a case of schoolyard bullying (and we were the bully, folks) writ large, whose goal was to effectively steal another nation's natural resources.
The common theme is that conservatives are full of piss and vinegar. No cool, patient diplomacy for them! No Special Operations approach to belligerents. Rather, its full on "shock and awe." John Wayne style.
But then, what can you expect from a group of people who are so starry-eyed over spending billions of dollars on the latest weapons and attack systems, and who appropriate billions of dollars for them, even when the top generals are calling such systems boondoggles? There is no end to how much of the taxpayer's money these corporate conservatives are willing to spend on military toys and on military adventurism, especially if such toys and adventurism allows the conservatives to funnel that self-same taxpayer funding into their own pockets. And what fun is it to have a weapon system just sitting around! They want to play with the toys, even if it means aggravating some situation somewhere in the world into a full blown shooting war.
So they are always eager to send "assets" (funny how they never call them "people) into harm's way. But after the "fun" is over, when its time for the cleanup, corporate conservatives show their true colors. When it comes to caring for and assisting wounded veterans, for providing psychological or financial assistance to the solders and their families who face tough times because of their experiences during combat, they suddenly become tighter than a gnat's ass. When it comes to supporting the troops after the troops come home, these same people become so stingy with money that they won't even tip their hats.
Liberals, traditionally, are the exact opposite. They are inherently weary of unchecked military spending. They take Eisenhower's warning about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex" taking over our nation's foreign policy seriously. They place heavy emphasis on diplomacy and negotiation in order to avoid armed conflict whenever possible. They are reluctant to send human beings into the fire without overwhelming and important reasons to do so. And they don't call them "assets" because they realize when they talk about the military, they are talking about real life human beings, a consideration that the corporate conservatives dismiss out of hand.
People who are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives. For liberals, warfare is a last resort, not a first response as so often seems the case with conservatives. When armed response finally seems unavoidable, liberals prefer intelligent and clear strategies, unlike the "roll in, shoot some guys, we win" attitude of conservatives that has been so painfully on display in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rather than "shock and awe," the preferred military tactics of liberals has always been surgical strikes: do everything you can to keep your own people safe, try to minimize the trauma to the innocent local populace, and when you're done, you're done. Bill Clinton's approach to the Kosovo War was a perfect example. General Wesley Clark (a self-admitted liberal Democrat) oversaw NATO's strategic bombing to help end that war with zero American casualties. Similarly, the Obama administration used careful intelligence gathering and surgical use of the Navy Seals to finally locate and eliminate Osama bin Ladin after eight years of the Bush administration's ham-handed floundering and blundering. And once war is over, liberals move to assist service personnel and their families who need help, while conservatives suddenly decide that these "assets" are now "liabilities." and do their best to get rid of them.
For those of you reading this who are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, please note that the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA) graded the members of Congress in terms of their support for veterans, with grades similar to those used to grade school papers. These grades went from "A" for very supportive all the way to F for "no support at all." 92% of the D's and F's that were assigned were assigned to conservatives. The truth is, if you are in the military, or have a son, daughter, mother, or father who is in the military, you should absolutely quaver in fear when a Republican becomes Commander-in-Chief.
Let's take a look at how things historically worked out for the troops and veterans when conservatives were in control:
- 1777 to 1778: Conservatives in the Continental Congress stiff General George Washington when it came to financial and material support.
- 1922: President Warren G. Harding vetoes the Veterans Bonus Bill, keeping hundreds of thousands of World War I veterans in poverty.
- 1924: President Calvin Coolidge tries to veto the re-admitted Veterans Bonus Bill.
- 1932: President Herbert Hoover orders the US Army to attack a camp of homeless World War I veterans.
- 1959: President Dwight D. Eisenhower rejects a proposed extension of the GI Bill that would aid millions of World War II veterans.
- 1968: Then Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon lies to the American people by running on a platform of ending the Vietnam War, while privately making a deal with the Communist leaders of North Vietnam to refuse all agreement proposals until after Nixon is in office.
- 1983: President Ronald Reagan American servicemen into harm's way with virtually no security into Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, a war in which the United States has no stake, resulting in the deaths of over 200 US Marines.
- 1983: Primarily as a means to cover up his cowardly actions in Lebanon, President Ronald Reagan orders the invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada.
- 2002: President George W. Bush sends American troops into not one, but two simultaneous, dubious wars. In both operations, the conservatives ignore the advice of the consensus military opinion and send US troops into dual combat theaters with no clear overall objectives and absolutely no exit strategy, highly unrealistic expectations, and without proper preparation or intelligence regarding what the troops would encounter and how they would be received by the local populace.
- 2008: Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully try to block expansion of the GI Bill.
- 2011: Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully try to block VA payments to veterans affected by the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
- 2012: Senate Republicans filibuster the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012.
- 2013: House Republicans unsuccessfully seek to slash VA healthcare benefits for disabled veterans.
- 2014: House Republicans successfully block the Veterans' Bill.
By now the message of this essay should be quite clear. If you are in the military, or have as family a member of the military, the last politicians you should be wanting in charge of military affairs are the conservatives. The notion that they support you is one of the cruelest lies ever devised. They will nickel-and-dime you to death. They will use you, and once used will discard you like a soiled piece of toilet paper. They'll send you off to be killed by a trumped up enemy while they rake in what their really after: billions of dollars in war funding. They will sacrifice you on the altar of their greed, all the while telling you to your face how brave and wonderful you are. And sometimes, they'll turn you against your fellow service-members and veterans, because nothing is easier to conquer than an enemy in conflict with itself.
I cannot say it often enough. If you are in the military, do not fall for conservative lies. They are not your friends!