“Just so you know,” Natalie Maines told a London audience last month, “we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” But in an interview with Diane Sawyer Friday, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks responded to fan backlash by claiming that although she is opposed to the war in Iraq, she feels “regret for, you know, the choice of words,” and that the Dixie Chicks “support our troops 100 percent.”
But, you know, that is not, like, possible, Natalie.
To mollify would-be critics, members of the fashionably anti-war aristocracy routinely toss the public slogans like, “we support our troops.” Their tone is one of moral condescension, as if it were obvious that no contradiction exists between opposing U.S. military action in Iraq and simultaneously supporting U.S. troops–and that only a philistine could possibly think otherwise. The implication is that pacifists are “infinitely” compassionate individuals for whom the issue of war is purely intellectual. War, such an attitude suggests, is some-sort of disconnected abstraction one is free to either oppose or support, and the decision to protest a war has no bearing in reality and no relevance to those who are actually fighting it.
But pacifists–even the Dixie Chicks–know this is hogwash. If war had no consequences in reality, no one would bother to make a big fuss about it when it happened and Sean Penn would have time to protest the rape of the Constitution instead of the bombing of Baghdad.
“War is killing,” pacifists decry. And it is.
What they ignore is that since “war is killing,” soldiers are killers. In fact, taxpayers spend hordes of money training them to stab, shoot, or blow-up as many enemies as possible. And since there is no draft, U.S. troops are not only killers, they are killers by choice. Sure, some of them may have enlisted just to get some extra college money and aren’t too keen on sending Tomahawks whizzing through the streets of Baghdad, but not one of them is seriously morally opposed to the idea. If they were, they would refuse to fight, or they would go AWOL.
But being a killer isn’t always bad. Killing Germans as they march into Warsaw, for example, is not bad at all. It’s heroic, even. Killing Jews while goose-stepping into Josefov, however, is not just killing; it’s murder. And in case the Dixie Chicks forgot, murder is bad.
Soldiers are not exempt from moral judgment. The German who claims, “I was just doing my job” deserves no forgiveness, especially if he voluntarily joins the Nazi Party. By offering himself as a tool by which Hitler can commit genocide, the German soldier goes from being a killer to being a murderer. The Polish soldier who conquers him in self-defense, however, is a savior.
There is an irrefutable distinction between killing a Nazi and being one: motive. Those who fight a morally justified war deserve the support and praise of onlookers, but those who fight an immoral war are thugs deserving of nothing but scorn–and high-speed lead poisoning. Which side a soldier is fighting on matters, and it matters a great deal.
“There is not a correlation between not wanting a war and not supporting the troops,” the Dixie Chicks contend. But there is. Opposing the war in Iraq is a moral condemnation of all those who are fighting it. It is a declaration that U.S. troops are on the wrong side. It is an accusation that they are murderers rather than heroes.
If that is what Maines means by “support,” she can keep hers.
Pacifists from the Berkeley Hills to Beverly Hills proclaim that the war in Iraq is wrong. They roll around on the streets at major intersections in moral outrage over alleged American imperialism, and they draw swastikas on images of the president. But if Bush is no better than Hitler, then U.S. Marines are no better than SS Stormtroopers and they deserve contempt, not support. It is time that the anti-war crowd found the guts to admit the implications of the anti-war message. The Dixie Chicks are not just “ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas,” they’re ashamed that U.S. soldiers are from the United States.
They ought to be ashamed of themselves, Entertainment Weekly photos notwithstanding.