Debate On Troops To Shift To Loyalty

Debate On Troops To Shift To Loyalty
February 25th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Debate On Troops To Shift To Loyalty

Debate On Troops To Shift To Loyalty
Philadelphia Inquirer
February 25, 2007
Pg. 1

Framing war opposition as lack of support for soldiers might be met with claims that bringing them home is utmost support.
By Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON - Support the troops.
Few phrases in American politics sound so innocuous but sting so much.
Republican backers of the Iraq war have revived a tactic from the Vietnam era, trying to put Democrats on the defensive by accusing critics of President Bush's decision to send thousands more troops to Iraq of failing to "support the troops" there.
This line of attack could explode this week, when Congress returns from a short recess. The Democratic majority will shift tactics from seeking nonbinding antiwar resolutions to trying to limit troop deployments and curb funding for the Iraq war.
Historians, political strategists and linguists say that questioning Democrats' loyalty to the troops is probably the best leverage supporters of the unpopular war have left.
"What that reflects is the aftermath of Vietnam and what happened to the Democrats," said Stephen Hess, a George Washington University professor and Brookings Institution scholar who worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. Although polls show that solid public majorities oppose the war, Democrats still can be portrayed as undermining the troops.
The Bush administration and its congressional allies, however, are open to countercharges that they have overworked the Army and Marine Corps, failed to provide troops with adequate armor, and neglected serious problems in how the military and the Veterans Administration are caring for wounded warriors.
Democrats also can argue that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home, said Frank Luntz, the pollster and language consultant who shaped the Republicans' 1994 "Contract With America."
Democrats, however, still fear being branded anti-troop, experts say, for reasons as esoteric as the nation's residual guilt over how Vietnam veterans were shunned and as practical as the memory of the 1972 presidential election, when Democratic antiwar nominee George McGovern lost in a 49-state landslide to Richard M. Nixon.
"If you're seen as anti-soldier, you're in trouble," Luntz said. "We may have issues with the Pentagon, but as a nation our respect for the troops is back to where it was before Vietnam."
Luntz said the best counterpunch for antiwar Democrats seeking to blunt attacks that they don't support the troops is: " 'You support them by bringing them home.' That's probably the best line they have at this point."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) have repeatedly pledged not to endanger ground troops. They have stood with Iraq veterans in photo-ops and news conferences.
But Democrats are still hypersensitive to the phrase. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland went into a rage on the House floor recently after Rep. Heather Wilson (R., N.M.) implied that the troops could be left hanging.
"Do not hide behind the troops!" Hoyer barked. "Do not assert that anybody on this floor does not have every intention and commitment to supporting to whatever degree necessary our young men and women!"
And Senate Democrats stopped debate rather than reject a Republican resolution that said troop funds should be protected. They feared that approving it might pressure them into giving Bush whatever war funds he seeks, and they know that they may have to put strings on those funds to force a change in Iraq policy - which, of course, would expose them anew to charges that they don't "support the troops."
Vice President Cheney is ramping up the troop rhetoric. In an interview Wednesday in Japan, he told ABC News: "I do think that the important thing here is that we support the troops and we support the strategy, that we give it a chance to work."
Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan is telling GOP donors that Democrats want to "gradually take away the resources our men and women need to fight the terrorists in Iraq... limit reinforcements and possibly even close the bases that offer support and shelter for our troops."
Even Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, a Republican known for his long opposition to the war, has called on House Democrats' top defense appropriator to drop plans to tie conditions to war funds.
"Any attempt to 'starve' the war as a way of bringing it to conclusion... would be wrong," Jones wrote to Rep. John P. Murtha (D., Pa.). Jones wrote that he promised "our brave men and women in uniform that I will never vote to cut off funding for our troops in the field."
Before Vietnam, the mantra to "support the troops" was not a political weapon.
"During World War II it was 'Support the troops by buying war bonds,' " said James S. Olson, a history professor and Vietnam expert at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.
That changed with the birth of the Vietnam antiwar movement.
By 1966, about a year after massive numbers of U.S. ground troops began going to Vietnam, Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas held highly publicized hearings critical of the war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That's when "you began to have critics of the antiwar movement charging that the movement itself was causing American soldiers to die by encouraging Ho Chi Minh," Olson said.
Now Republicans accuse war critics of emboldening Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
"It's a very difficult argument to counter," Olson said, "because what you have to say is, 'Yes, I see that my opposition could be making it more difficult for the troops, but I am so against it that I have to.' "

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