Liberals, Democrats and others on the Left frequently state that they "support the troops." For most of them, whether they realize it or not, this is not true. They feel they must say this because the majority of Americans would find any other position unacceptable. Indeed, for most liberals, the thought that they really do not support the troops is unacceptable even to them.
Lest this argument be dismissed as an attack on leftist Americans' patriotism, let it be clear that leftists' patriotism is not the issue here. Their honesty is.
In order to understand this, we need to first have a working definition of the term "support the troops." Presumably it means that one supports what the troops are doing and rooting for them to succeed. What else could "support the troops" mean? If you say, for example, that you support the Yankees or the Dodgers, we assume it means you want them to win.
But most of the Left does not want the troops to win in Iraq. The Left's message is this: "You troops may think you are winning; you may think you are doing good and moral things in Iraq; you may believe you are fighting the worst human beings of our age and protecting us against the scourge of Islamic terror. But we on the Left believe none of that. We believe this war is being fought for oil and for Halliburton and other corporations; we believe you are waging a war that is both illegal and immoral; we believe you have invaded a country for no good reason and have killed a hundred thousand Iraqis [the Left's generally mentioned number] for no good reason; but, hey, we sure do support you."
Honest people on the Left need to understand that the two positions are not reconcilable. A German citizen during World War II could not have argued: "The Nazi regime's army is engaged in an evil war of aggression and is slaughtering millions of innocent people, and I therefore completely oppose this war, but I sure do support the Nazi troops."
One example is the claim made by Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and almost all other Democrats and liberals that the war in Iraq is "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." How does one support troops that are fighting a wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time? A few leftist writers have been honest enough to say, "Nothing personal, guys, but I sure don't support you." But the vast majority of the Left and all Democratic politicians have not been honest on this matter.
A second example is the oft-repeated line, found on liberal bumper stickers, "War is not the answer." Aside from the idiocy of this claim -- war has solved slavery, ended the Holocaust, destroyed Japanese Fascism, preserved half the Korean peninsula from near-genocide, and saved Israel from extinction, among other noble achievements -- the claim offers no support to those who do engage in war.
How could one believe that "war is not the answer" and also claim to "support the troops," the very people waging what is "not the answer"? The answer is, by being dishonest.
A third example is the Left's opposition to military recruitment on most of the elite and many other college campuses. So deep is leftist disdain for troops that most on the Left regard the mere presence of military personnel on a university campus as a form of contamination. Yet, the Left claims to "support the troops."
Many on the Left express far more contempt than support for the troops.
A Democratic senator compares our interrogators to the Nazis and Communist torturers; the head of Amnesty International in America defends likening Guantanamo Bay to the Gulag; and liberals routinely speak of troops as coming from the lowest socio-economic rungs of society (maybe that's one reason they oppose recruiters on campuses, lest the best educated actually join the military). But, hey, the Left supports the troops.
An honest leftist would say: "Because I view this war as immoral, I cannot support our troops." What is not honest is their saying, "Support the troops -- bring them home." Supporting people who wish to fight entails supporting their fight; and if that fight is opposed, those waging it are also opposed.
Many on the Left angrily accuse the Right of disparaging their patriotism. That charge, too, is false. I have never heard a mainstream conservative impugn the patriotism of liberals. But as regards their attitude toward our troops, the patriotism of those on the Left is not the issue. The issue is their honesty.