Sympathy not the same as support

First, before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge that Lisa Yanity’s opinion is worth a thousand times mine on the subject of anything having to do with soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan — especially how they think or feel. I’ve never had the chance to serve, and therefore know nothing about how a soldier, especially one who’s been in combat,  really feels.

So you should give greater credence to what she has to say on the subject of soldier morale than anything I might speculate about. And to encapsulate what she said for those too lazy to click on the link, she said it doesn’t bother her for people to say they support the troops but not the war. She still feels supported.

I believe her completely when she says that. But I can’t imagine myself ever feeling the same way  in her circumstances.

Note that I say "imagine," because that’s all I can do, not ever having been in such circumstances. Perhaps I would, upon being shot at, undergo such a shift in perspective that I would no longer care whether a person supported what I was doing as long as he showed his personal approval of me and my fellow folks in uniform.

But I doubt it. I strongly suspect that if somebody tried to pat me on the back sympathetically and tell me I’m a fine fellow right after complaining about what an awful thing our country is doing "over there," that person would be courting frostbite from my cold shoulder.

I just can’t see feeling all warm and fuzzy inside if someone said to me, "Oh, you poor thing, risking your life in my place. You have my support. But remember that if you get killed or maimed for life, it’s all for nothing. In fact, your presence in Iraq makes me feel less safe." Maybe I would, but I just can’t see it.

Somehow, I don’t think getting applause instead of being spit upon in
airports would do it for me. I think I’d expect a little more from the folks back home. I might even think I deserved more. I know Lisa Yanity deserves more.

15 thoughts on “Sympathy not the same as support

  1. Mary Rosh

    Your stupidity and laziness contribute in great measure to your failure as a journalist, but it is your lack of integrity, beyond anything else, that has defined you as a failure both as a journalist and as a human being.
    A soldier agrees to follow the orders he is given, without considering whether he agrees with those orders or with the policy behind them. The soldier, in his role as soldier, does not take a position on policy. He executes the policies set by his superiors, and carries out the orders he is given, without considering their wisdom or lack of wisdom.
    That is what we honor when we support soldiers. Their gift to us, their willingness to carry out their orders. They affirm their belief in their country, and their faith in us, by undertaking to carry out their orders while suspending judgment on those orders. They depend on us to exercise vigilance over the wisdom of the policies they are asked to carry out. It is our duty to our soldiers to constantly scrutinize the policies that place their lives in jeopardy. We honor the gift our soldiers give us when we examine the polices for which they are asked to give their lives and make and express our judgment over whether those polices should be continued or changed.
    You, on the other hand, spit on our soldiers. You don’t care about our soldiers. You see our soldiers only as human shields to be used to deflect criticism of the policies you support. You don’t care how many of our soldiers die; all you know is that you and all the other chickenhawks like you have created a fantasy that the United States can, by force of arms, make Iraq into an earthly paradise.
    Now that your fantasy has been proven to be a lie, you don’t have the courage to argue for it. You won’t say, this is why we should continue to fight in Iraq, this is what we can achieve, these are the means to achieve it. No. You seek instead to exclude the arguments of those who oppose your views by shielding your views with the bodies of our soldiers and making the disgusting claim that anyone who disagrees with you dishonors our soldiers.
    What a laugh, you talk about what you “would” do, “if” you were a soldier. As if there were ever any chance that you would undergo the hardship and danger you urge upon others. With you and the other chickenhawks, it’s never the subjunctive, always the indicative.
    Loyal Americans honor our soldiers for their faith in America that motivates them to undergo hardship and risk to carry out the policies set by their leadership. Loyal Americans honor our soldiers by seeking at every turn to insure that the only policies our soldiers are asked to risk their lives for are wise and necessary polices.
    You, on the other hand, by treating our soldiers as mechanisms to be used to short-circuit disagreement with you, treat them with a contempt that they do not deserve, but that you do.

  2. Lisa Yanity

    Mr. Warthen,
    I enjoyed your blog but I wanted to share a few things. I don’t see the support as sympathy. If I should get killed or maimed it would not be for nothing, it would be for the right to disagree, it would be because I took an oath and it was my responsiblity to carry that oath out. My personal views on the war have not been disclosed nor will they on my blog but the pride I have for being a soldier should be evident. I am not here to get applause in airports, those are just an added benefit and it does beat being spit on or having rocks thrown at me. I am here to do a job I said I would do. I guess that is the glass half -full outlook I have. Focus on the positive. I also know that some of my fellow soldiers feel the way you imagine that you would feel. Each of us sees this experience in our own way. Thanks again for your support. I look forward to seeing you again when I get back.

  3. Dave

    Those who serve like Lisa Yanity are perhaps the pre-eminent reason why the USA is the greatest nation on earth. In very few nations on earth have the soldiers been graced with such a love of freedom and liberty that they would risk life and limb to attempt to bring those same values and principles to a small country on the other side of the planet. That type of self sacrifice and service for a higher ideal is beyond commendable and literally priceless.

    Those of us who fully support the war can understand the thinking of those who do not support military activity as it proceeds today. What is not understandable are comments from people like Sen. Dick Durbin comparing our military to Pol Pot or Stalinist regimes. Also, it is hard to comprehend the complete exaggeration and magnification to the world of the juvenile silliness at Abu Graib prison conducted by a few renegade idiots who unfortunately were not closely supervised by their commander. The people with an agenda like that to me have crossed the line and denigrate all soldiers of our armed forces.

    Many on the anti-war side continue to propose that we pull our troops out of the Iraq effort right now. They do not have the will or wisdom to finish the job and win. If these people ever do get the upper hand politically in this nation, it will be the downfall of all of us. We still have troops stationed in Japan, Germany, Korea, Bosnia, and other locations. Is it so hard to understand what their mission was and why troops were (are) still there? The naive among us think that we can win a few battles, declare victory, and walk away and live happily ever after. It never has worked that way and never will. Anyway, thank goodness we have Lisa Yanity and others like her serving this country.

  4. David

    It is always wise to remember that soliders have opinions also and not all agree with everything they are asked to do, including in this current war.
    My cousin is a 1st Lt in the Army and is in Iraq now. He is professional enough to never let it slip out what his personal feelings are on any task assigned to him. He simply does his job and doesn’t offer his personal opinion on the matter.
    However, as someone that has known him his entire life and that has had the opporunity to talk to him “off the record” he has many opinions on what he is being asked to do right now in Iraq. Some are very supportive of our efforts and some of his opinions make me wonder if Daffy Duck isn’t running the show in Iraq.
    But, he doesn’t look to America as a whole to support him or attack him. He told me about 6 months ago that he looks to his fellow soliders and his family back home for the support he needs. That is whose opinion matters to him and that is all he needs. Of course he can’t speak for anyone else and never pretends to. But as long as his family offers him the support he needs, that is all that he requires.

  5. Phillip

    I read Lisa Yanity’s column yesterday in the State and found it to be one of the most moving, clear-headed statements I’ve read to date among the all the tons of verbiage hurled back and forth between pro-and-anti-war folks. It couldn’t have been said better by any of our Founding Fathers, were they on hand to comment on the current situation. As others above have said, it was the kind of thing that makes me very proud to be an American.
    Brad, I can understand your point of view to the extent that, yes I too imagine that serving in a war zone would probably make me also lose a bit of dispassionate tolerance for dissent towards the mission I was on. But I’m not sure I really understand what is at the heart of your column. What are Americans supposed to do when they genuinely feel that our leaders are embarking on a misguided course? Once soldiers are deployed, must we be silent? What if that rule were followed always throughout history? Would mankind be better off? Is that the world you really dream of? Is that what the horrors of the 20th-century have taught us?
    Maybe I have a different perspective on this since I am the offspring of a US-German marriage, and have a father who rose to Capt. in the Army serving in North Africa in WWII and had an uncle who served in the German cavalry at the Russian front and a grandfather in the German navy also. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I am NOT comparing US in Iraq in any way to Nazi Germany). What that experience has showed me is simply that good people have been part of, cogs in the wheel if you will, military endeavors that history has come to judge anywhere from ill-advised to outright evil. (I know we don’t have a draft, but we did in Vietnam and to a great extent many who serve now do so from the lack of other economic options) The extent to which a democracy can voice dissent from its leaders’ military initiatives can truncate military adventurism earlier than might otherwise happen. Obviously others feel that this Iraq war effort itself will save lives in the long run. No one can know for sure.
    I view Vietnam veterans with respect and gratefulness for their service even as I grieve for the tragic misguidedness that led us into such a horribly wrong war. In spite of revisionist views (and I get the feeling from little hints that you share those) history is coalescing around that understanding of the Vietnam War. In this case, however we’re in the middle of it, so we just don’t know. I’m well aware that circumstances are very different with Iraq. So I hope that in this case I’m wrong about this war, I would love to be proven wrong. The truth is it will take much longer for all this to sort itself out than any of our lifetimes will last.


    The ability of a service person to disassociate the politics from duty is mandatory. Unfortunately, a few seem unable to do that. I have often read Lisa’s post and enjoyed each of them. I can relate to most.
    My experience in Vietnam, as a volunteer, taught me quite a bit about our government. When I returned home, no airport welcome, no parades. I didn’t care, at least I got home. I remember coming home and calling from California to my family in Charleston. I was told I couldn’t come into Charleston, the airport was under curfew. I had to come into Columbia and wait until the next morning to get to Charleston. Nice welcome.
    I do not support the war. I have always supported the service men and women who have volunteered. I want them home, but I know that can’t happen because we opened a Pandora’s Box in Iraq. I think their lives are being wasted.
    I saw it before the “Shock and Awe”. I instinctively knew it would take decades to accomplish the mission. Ultimately, I expect a fundamentalist leadership being elected, then democracy in any form will disapear.
    I am not overly educated, I have a four year degree. Yet, I could easily see the writing on the wall. Maybe that’s because having been in war I learned to filter out the rattle of sabers.
    I do not believe democracy is a one size fits all form of government for the world. I believe some countries must have a stong authoritarian leader to control the populace.
    The mindset of the middle east isn’t easily understood by westerners. On the other hand, they have no idea what our government form is. The either like or dislike our policies.
    IMHO we made a mistake with this war. But we do not make a mistake supporting our service men and women.

  7. Dave

    Phillip, When you write about history of the Vietnam war coalescing toward the Walter Cronkite type thinking that America was wrong all along and lost the war, I have to disagree. The US Military WON the Vietnam conflict decisively but the American left and the media convinced the US public that it was a loss. Not surprising, the left is trying to accomplish the trick a second time in Iraq. While we have suffered over 2,000 tragic deaths the Iraq terrorists death are estimated anywhere from 100,000 and up. In Vietnam, our pullout while winning ended up causing the slaughter of possibly 2 million innocents in Nam and Cambodia. If we voluntarily “lose” in Iraq, Al Qaeda and the Bathists will slaughter a million or more innocents there. I partly agree with VNVIET about on the logic that any victory in the Middle East could take decades. That is what we inherit when dealing with Muslims, a people who for centuries have been taught that they must not and cannot think for themselves. The tradition has always been that the sheik with the biggest and sharpest sword rules. Very hard to change that culture. I had the occasion to teach a contingent of about 15 Syrian students and government managers over 10 years ago at a US University. USAID had funded the education program. At one point they had brought up the question of where was I hiding the US military. I told them there were no military anywhere near the city where I was teaching. Still not believing, I took most of them in a large van on a complete tour going anywhere they wished to go. They were still suspicious since in Syria the military is pervasive as well as the secret police. This is the same group of highly educated Syrians who emphatically told me the French had really won the WWII with the US only providing some material aid. So, their vantage point of understanding anything about truth and history was nearly bizarre. I think the Iraqis are very similar and so democracy is not an easy concept to understand in their culture.

    One common point of agreement is the value of our soldiers to our own society. But to me they are fighting a very noble and honorable cause that will be remembered in history for all time.

  8. Mike C

    As others — to include the proprietor — have pointed out on this blog, to really support the troops one should let them finish the job we sent them to do. That means sticking around in Iraq and Afghanistan until those nations can protect themselves.
    Those who push for a speedy exit from Iraq blithely ignore the consequences: Iraq would fail, Iran and Syria would gain additional prestige and power, and US influence would wane worldwide. How do you think our troops, no matter what their personal opinion regarding the invasion of Iraq, would react to them apples?

  9. Nathan

    Guys, Lisa can no more be said to speak for the opinions of all soldiers and Hillary Clinton or Condi Rice can be said to speak for all women. I respect her view on criticism of the war. Like Brad, I have no idea how I would feel because I have never been in that position. I do know that I have heard many people on the radio say that it does hurt morale amongst the troops.
    I think that there is place for respectful debate about the war, the reasons for war, and the way the war is being waged. I think that the Democrats have too often crossed the line and attacked the troops (see Dick Durbin), been dishonest about the pre-war intelligence (see pre-war comments made by Democratic leaders who now say Bush made it all up), and want to use the war as a political football(see last weeks Senate shutdown).
    My question is this: If we accept that Lisa doesn’t speak for all (doesn’t she say as much herself), and we know that the dishonest attacks on Bush and the troops may damage the morale of some troops, and we think that this may damage thier ability to perform,why risk it? If one American soldier dies because of anger built by Screamin’ Dean’s latest stupid comment, that is one too many.

  10. Steve

    >If one American soldier dies because of anger >built by Screamin’ Dean’s latest stupid >comment, that is one too many.
    As opposed to how many innocent Iraqi women and children have been killed by Chicken Hawk
    George’s latest stupid policy, right?

  11. Dave

    What Bill Clinton as commander-in-chief allowed to happen to the military and to all of us in Mogadishu had severe and yet unknown impact. Bin Laden himself referenced the weakness of the US from what his cohorts observed in that incident. The democrat party as we know it today should never, ever command our armed forces again. Their utter weakness in both foreign and domestic security should be reason enough for that. Now we are beginning to see what weakness like that causes as 300 cities in France are under a siege by Muslim thugs and anarchists. Vive la multiculturalism, oui!!!!!!!!!!!! Non.

  12. Nathan

    Steve, I guess I see your point. I just didn’t think of it that way. Perhaps we should have left Sadaam there so he could have them raped and tortured before they were killed. Yeah, that sounds like a good strategy. I’m sure that all of those women who voted in thier elections would have preferred that. While we cannot discount the Iraqi lives lost, we must also accept that many more lives have been lost because of peace-niks who consider all right and peaceful in the world as long as the American Empire isn’t in action somewhere. Let dictators murder, rape, and torture. But don’t let the US fight to save them. How sad.

  13. VNViet

    Why is it that “WE” have to save the world? Better yet, if it’s the poor Iraqi’s, then what about all the other leaders that so similar with their peoples? Should we start the draft and send out the troops? Oh wait! They don’t have resources we want.

Comments are closed.