"Is there not some chosen curse, some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven, red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man who owes his greatness to his country's ruin!" -- Joseph Addison.
Where does patriotism end and treason begin? Or, where does support for the troops and aid and comfort for their enemies begin? These are questions that many have been asking and debating at some level or other since the President first aimed our collective sights at Iraq and the brutal regime that held it in its yoke. It's one I've thought about extensively.
On the right, the answers to these questions are clearly defined and seen in such black and white terms that there is little discussion required at all. Patriotism and supporting our troops means putting the interests of the nation and its defenders first and foremost above all others. Support the troops, support the president, and support the mission. If you do have misgivings or criticisms, keep them private until our boys and girls in uniform are home and out of danger.
On the left, the aforementioned attitude is an anachronism. It is seen as hackneyed, provincial, nationalistic, or worse. The left considers it the height of patriotism to criticize military action under all conditions (unless initiated by a Democrat), and claims that by doing so, by demanding that troops are never sent in harms way unless as part of a U.N. action, they, in fact, are the true supporters of our troops. And the louder, more vocal, and more public the criticism is, the better.
I fall into the first camp. Why?
First let's look at the Constitution of the United States. Article III, Section 3, states the following:
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, added after the Civil War, elaborates further:
"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."
Those definitions are very straightforward. It's hard to imagine that anyone could misunderstand them or their meaning. Yet many do. Some seem to believe that the behaviors outlined in these two sections of the Constitution are, in fact, not a definition of treasonous activity, but the very essence of patriotism. If they are right, then patriotism truly is the last refuge of scoundrels. Scoundrels aside, however, they are wrong.
Confused? You're supposed to be. That is the goal of the left -- to blur the lines between black and white until every issue becomes an amorphous gray mess that may be manipulated for the convenience of the political moment. Use the word treason to describe treasonous activity and you will be called a right-wing nut; a paranoid conspiracy theorist; a fanatic; a fascist. The greater the treasonous activity, the greater the character assassination used to defend it. All in the name of free speech.
Still confused? Let me explain it another way. Part of my 11 years in the United States Army was spent serving in a Psychological Operations unit. The primary job of such a unit is quite simple -- use basic principles of human psychology against our enemies in order to lower or eliminate their will to fight. In other words, to destroy their morale.
How do you destroy the enemy's morale and will to fight? It's simple, really.
First, you call into question their mission. Make them question why they are fighting. Make them question whether they are doing the right thing. Soldiers unsure of their mission question their orders and hesitate to act when quick action is most necessary. In combat, you're either quick or you're dead.
Second, call into question their leadership. Make them question their commander's skill and honesty. Make them question the motives of the political figures that made the decision to go to war. Soldiers unsure of their leadership may refuse to follow their orders or take direct action against their leadership. In combat, failure to immediately follow orders usually gets soldiers killed.
Third, make them homesick. Point out how miserable they are; remind them how long they have been away from home; how much their loved ones miss them; accentuate the bad and ignore the good; tell them there is no foreseeable end in site (no, you won't be home by Christmas). Homesick and depressed soldiers are not effective soldiers. Ineffective soldiers often become dead soldiers.
Fourth, make it all about them. Point out that the war is not in their personal best interest. "Hey, you can lose an eye (or worse), doing that." This last step, converting the soldier back into the psychological equivalent of a civilian, is the most deadly. Soldiers who start thinking only of themselves stop acting as members of a team. A soldier concerned only with his own safety stops watching his buddy’s back. Unit cohesiveness breaks down. Desertions and insubordination becomes rampant. Casualties mount higher.
Conversely, the same propaganda that can destroy enemy morale can boost the morale of friendly forces, and vice-versa.
For propaganda to work, it must be based on truth, or at least the perception of truth in the mind of the recipient. Propaganda that does not adhere to this rule generally falls on deaf ears. During the first Gulf War, the Iraqi radio announcer known as Baghdad Betty failed in her attempt to demoralize U.S. Troops when she said: "While you are away, movie stars are taking your women. Robert Redford is dating your girlfriend, Tom Selleck is kissing your lady, Bart Simpson is making love to your wife." If only she had consulted with Sean Penn or Ms. Garafalo before the broadcast.
But carefully crafted lies can, if repeated often enough, still have some effect. If continued long enough, they can alter perception, and perception can become reality. In Mein Kampf (1926), Hitler described what would become known as "The Big Lie":
"Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as a paradise."
Any of this sound familiar yet? Vietnam was America’s first televised war. On that point, Dean Rusk once said:
"What would have happened in World War Two if Guadalcanal, Anzio beachhead, and the Battle of the Bulge, or the Diep Raid were on television, and the other side was not doing the same thing? Whether ordinary people can sustain a war effort under that kind of daily hammering is a very large question."
When the Tet Offensive occurred in 1968, Walter Cronkite donned a helmet, stood on the roof of the Hotel Caravel in Saigon, with the sights and sounds of battle in the background, and declared the war "un-winnable." The facts on the ground told a different story. The VC, having finally presented themselves in a stand-up fight were smashed and became irrelevant for the remainder of the conflict. The NVA (North Vietnamese Army), was so badly damaged that it would be five years before it could mount another major operation in the south. But Walter, parroted endlessly by lesser "journalists", and with the help of folks like Jane Fonda and John Kerry, declared the war "un-winnable" and "immoral." And so it became in the minds of most Americans -- including those asked to go win it.
After the war, General Vo Nguyen Giap (Supreme Commander of the Forces of [north] Vietnam), wrote his memoirs. In them, he stated that if it weren't for organizations like Kerry's Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Hanoi would have surrendered to the U.S. Interviewed in the Time/Life documentary "The Ten Thousand Day War," Giap reiterated this point and gave credit for the Communist victory to the U.S. media and protestors like Jane Fonda and John Kerry. According to Giap, the North Vietnamese government played to our media and helped feed them the propaganda that was splashed across the news in the U.S. and around the world. Propaganda that not only broke down the morale of U.S. soldiers, but boosted the morale of the NVA.
Anti-war statements by famous politicians, film stars, and media figures also were thrown in the faces of American P.O.W.s in order to break their will to resist.
After he was released from the Hanoi Hilton in 1973, Sen. John McCain publicly complained that testimony by Kerry and others before J. William Fullbright's Senate Foreign Relations Committee was "the most effective propaganda [the North Vietnamese] had to use against us."
McCain wrote of this in the May 14, 1973 issue of U.S. News & World Report. According to him, "They used Senator Fullbright a great deal." During this time Kerry was working closely with the Fulbright committee, telling the American public that U.S. soldiers were committing war crimes in Vietnam as a matter of course. "All through this period," wrote McCain, " [they were] bombarding us with anti-war quotes from people in high places back in Washington. This was the most effective propaganda they had to use against us."
Many P.O.W.s first heard Kerry’s name from the lips of their Communist captors. Later Kerry was forced to admit that he had not actually seen these "atrocities" committed, and that many of the so-called "vets" he brought with him to give public testimony before Congress and Senator Fulbright's committee had never actually served in the military.
Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the Soviet bloc, was interviewed by the National Review on February 26, 2004. According to him:
"The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. Kerry also ought to be asked who, exactly, told him any such thing, and what it was, exactly, that they said they did in Vietnam. Statutes of limitation now protect these individuals from prosecution for any such admissions. Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)? To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and "news reports" about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.
"As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe. KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, 'our most significant success.'"
Nixon, in his book The Real War (1980), had this to say:
"The War in Vietnam was not lost on the battlefields of Vietnam. It was lost in the halls of Congress, in the boardrooms of corporations, in the executive suites of foundations, and in the editorial rooms of great newspapers and television networks. It was lost in the salons of Georgetown, and the classrooms of great universities. The class that provided the strong leadership that made victory possible in World War I and World War II failed America in one of the crucial battles of World War III—Vietnam."
I don't know about you, but that sounds like a lot of "aid and comfort" to me. The result? A proud army, one that won nearly every battle fighting in the just cause of aiding an ally against communist aggression, came home defeated and shamed. Those that made it possible practically redefined the word treason -- in more ways than one. 58,000 to be exact.
Nearly thirty years later American soldiers are again in harm's way. They are engaged in a just cause against Islamic terrorism. They have deposed one of the bloodiest and most sadistic dictators since the end of the Second World War.
Recently, Senator Edward Kennedy called Iraq "President Bush's Vietnam." Former vice-president Gore claimed that President Bush "betrayed" America’s trust by going to war with Iraq. Media pundits and mavens by the score gleefully report every casualty and declare that we are in a "quagmire." Presidential hopeful Kerry, who gave aid and comfort to our enemies thirty years ago, continues to do so by declaring that the President lied about "WMDs", while failing to remember that he, too, believed the intelligence briefs and expressed the need to remove Saddam.
Meanwhile, in the Arab press, where we, our country and our soldiers are regularly demonized, these "American patriots" are quoted by those recruiting the terrorists to kill us.
In early March, Al-Jazeera, the network favored by terrorists everywhere (especially Osama Bin-Laden), picked up Kerry’s banner. They have said, "[Kerry] has suggested Bush's handling of the campaign is "f****ed up." They’ve repeated Kerry’s charge that the Bush Justice Department has stigmatized "innocent Muslims and Arabs who pose no danger." and directly quoted him as saying, "Bush misled Americans on the degree Iraq posed a threat."
Terrorists watch the news, too. In fact, Senator Kennedy's attacks on President Bush are so popular that radical Imams are quoting him in sermons meant to encourage attacks on our soldiers. Shiite terrorist leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who has been stirring up trouble in Iraq and recently called for the killing of U.S. soldiers, likes what Senator Kennedy has to say so much that he is using it in his speeches:
"Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers... I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis."
That, too, sounds like "aid and comfort" to me. Teddy and Kerry must be proud.
And what happens if you try to point this simple fact out to these people or their supporters? What happens if you try to tell them they are wrong for speaking out in this manner? You are labeled as unpatriotic. You are called a Nazi. You are trying to stifle "free speech."
During the Vietnam war, protestors felt safe denigrating soldiers and spitting in their faces. But this tactic backfired. Eventually the left suffered a backlash because of this behavior. Today, the first thing out of a war protestor’s mouth is the qualification "I support the troops, but not the war." That statement is supposed to immunize them against criticism as they trash the President, the war effort, the mission, and our soldiers' accomplishments in setting a nation free.
How can you support the troops while providing their enemies with ready-made propaganda? How can you support the troops while giving aid and comfort to their enemies? How can you support the troops if you continually and publicly call into question their mission, their leadership, their accomplishments?
You can’t. The perception of public division here encourages our enemies around the world. It motivates them. It gives them hope for victory. In short, it gives them "aid and comfort." And it chips away at the morale of our own troops.
Talk to the troops in Iraq or those who have just returned. They are constantly dismayed by the fact that our media only wants to show dead coalition soldiers, ignoring all the schools that they've re-opened, the children vaccinated, the public works restored, and much, much more.
Recently, the same terrorists we are fighting in Iraq blew up a train in Madrid. They did it 2 days before a national election. They did it to alter the outcome of that election so that those who supported us in Iraq would lose. It worked. The Socialist candidate was elected and he immediately called for the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.
Since then, attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq have been increasing until they exploded in Falluja, where four American civilian contactors were murdered and their charred bodies dragged through the streets by a cheering crowd. Later that day five Marines were ambushed and killed by a roadside bomb in the same city. On hand and ready to film it all, even before the firing began, was a news crew from Al Jazeera -- the same network that thinks so highly of Senators Kerry and Kennedy.
After seeing the dramatic political results effected by a terrorist attack in Spain, foreign terrorists from Syria and Iran have joined holdouts from Saddam's regime in a bid to produce the same results in the upcoming U.S. elections. And why not? After all, if you watch the news and read the papers here, you’d think that most Americans oppose the war; that Iraqis are worse off now than under Saddam; that we're only after the oil, etc. We even have a sorry, show trial "commission" set up to blame the President for 9/11 and give Democrats a shot at the White House in November.
So, they might as well kill some more Americans. After all, what have they got to lose? And just look at the upside!
Can we afford to allow the left to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and turn Iraq back over to the thugs and murderers who ran it before? Will we allow the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers to be thrown away yet again?
Today, there are dead Americans and coalition soldiers in Iraq because some who fancy themselves "patriots" can't keep their mouths shut.
In the wake of Pearl Harbor there were serious questions about what President Roosevelt knew and when he knew it. Many believed, and still do (and not without evidence), that he knew the attack was coming and allowed it to happen so as to kick-start America’s full participation in the war. There was a Senate investigation into the matter only one year after the attack. It was held behind closed doors and the findings sealed till after the war.
They knew what we seem to have forgotten. Supporting the troops means supporting them, their mission, and their leadership -- especially in public. If you disagree, keep it private. Or, at the very least, don't broadcast it to the world so our enemies can re-print or re-broadcast it for their propaganda. Got a gripe? Write your congressman, the president, whomever. If they get enough letters of opposition, if the mission is unjust, if they think they will lose the next election by not bringing our troops home quickly enough, they'll make it happen. In the meantime, the country needs to show the terrorists and the Saddam holdouts that we are united against them.
It is not a violation of your First Amendment rights if I ask you to put a sock in it while my daughter is in uniform and a target for terrorist thugs. It is my right. And it is your obligation as a fellow citizen not to say anything that would encourage terrorists to keep on fighting even one day more.
"A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the city. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears no traitor; he speaks in the accents familiar to his victim, and he wears their face and their garments and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the plague." – Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Orator - 106-43 B.C.
"Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." - The Bible: New Testament, Matthew, 27:3.