Of course, Kenneth J. Theisen’s column appears in the Berkeley (CA) Daily Planet, where the city council declared war on the Marine Corps earlier this year. The activist with World Can’t Wait, a group that organizes anti-war protests around the country, explains why those who claim to oppose the war cannot possibly also “support the troops”. In fact, Theisen goes farther, comparing the American military to the Nazi war machine and claiming that our “occupation” of over 130 countries intends on maintaining the US as the sole empire on the planet:
In the recent political battle around the Marine recruiting station in Berkeley there has been much confusion around the concept or slogan of “supporting the troops,” but opposing the unjust wars of the Bush regime. Many who oppose the Bush regime wars also say they “support the troops.” Let me say it straight out—I do not support the troops and neither should you. It is objectively impossible to support the troops of the imperialist military forces of the U.S. and at the same time oppose the wars in which they fight.
The United States has over 700 military bases or sites located in over 130 foreign countries. The hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in these countries are not there to preserve or foster freedom and democracy as the Bush regime would like to claim, but to maintain U.S. imperialist domination of the world. The United States now spends more on its military than all the other nations of the world combined. ….
We need to expose that those in the U.S. military are trained to be part of a “killing machine.” While not every member of the military is an individual murderer, they are all part of a system that commits war crimes, including aggressive wars, massacres, rape, and other crimes against humanity, all in the service of U.S. imperialism. The bottom line is that even if these people are relatives or friends, you can not support the troops without also supporting the objective role that these troops play in the imperialist system. …
But to decide whether U.S. troops deserve support you must analyze what they actually do in countries occupied by the U.S. The wars these troops are engaged in have the goal of maintaining and extending U.S. hegemony throughout the world. They are unjust, illegal, and immoral wars. Can you support the troops in these wars? Why is this any different from a German in World War II saying, “I oppose the wars launched by Hitler, but I support the troops of the German army which are making these wars possible.” When the Marines in Haditha massacred Iraqis, including women and children, would it have been correct to say I supported the Marines who killed those people, but not the massacre? This would be ridiculous, but no more so than supporting the troops engaged in the war that made the Haditha massacre possible in the first place.
Granted, this kind of lunacy speaks for itself, and it usually comes with this much misinformation or more. We spend more than any other country on defense, partly because we have taken responsibility for securing much of the world’s sea trade routes. That requires us to maintain naval bases around the world. The argument that we spend more than the rest of the world combined relies on official reports of spending, but in the case of Russia and China, those figures are much lower than their actual expenditures.
As far as occupation goes, the only country where that description could rationally apply would be Iraq, and even that’s a stretch. Theisen fails to mention that we remain in Iraq under a UN mandate, and we have now begun to negotiate with the Iraqi government for a bilateral security arrangement where we will remain at their request. In the rest of the countries in which we have bases, they do not contribute in any way to the governing of these nations. We remain in Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea, and other places at the request and approval of their elected governments — and we would leave if requested.
But Theisen doesn’t want a rational debate. He has written a hate screed against the military and the American government that funds it. He tries to limit the latter to the Bush administration, but his Smedley Butler quote about being a “gangster for capitalism” reveals the political cast of Theisen and his organization. If all they wanted was the end of the “Bush regime”, that will come on its own in ten months. What they want is the end of the American system of government, replaced by another that will end what they see as the scourge of free markets and the free elections that have created this so-called empire.