Or why I can’t afford a cell phone
Maybe you noticed that I was writing for Crooks & Liars for a minute there. Well, that’s done. They found out that I once wrote an article called “Fuck the Troops” — apparently, they couldn’t be bothered to Google my name before bringing me aboard. They wanted a mea culpa. I wrote one. I wrote something, anyway. That was three weeks ago. Instead of having the ovaries to just fire me, they ignored me, likely wishing I’d just drop dead from fatness.
I finally got a hold of them tonight, and I still don’t know what they thought about the article. Rather than a decision about my fate at C&L, or thoughts on making my “mea culpa” what they wanted, all I got was an earful about what an asshole I am. Their unprofessional behavior over the past weeks seemed a transparently passive-aggressive firing. Ignore, then berate, and hope I’d quit. And I did. I quit.
Before getting into…whatever the hell I’m going to say, here’s the full “mea culpa” I submitted:
Make Love to the Troops
“Why is an assholes like Ian Murphy…writing for this site?”
- C&L commenter djytg
“I don’t really see a way forward without a mea culpa.”
- C&L head honcho, and former Duran Duran saxophonist, John Amato
“Maybe we can just make a video where you dress up like Uncle Sam and beat the shit out of me.”
-Ian Murphy, 1st Amendment Terrorist
Let’s pretend that some make-believe organization, I dunno, gunned down 15 defenseless men, women, and children in cold blood. Let’s say that same organization also burned scores of women and children alive with incendiary chemicals. And, hell, let’s say this organization also slaughtered 100,000 innocents in one country alone, and tortured thousands of people in shadowy prisons around the world, hypothetically, of course.
It would seem wholly uncontroversial to – hypothetically – say, fuck those people. Right?
Well, as you know, we don’t have to pretend such an organization exists, and that they did those things. They do; they’re called “the troops.” But as it turns out, saying, “Fuck the Troops” is generally frowned upon. The socially acceptable thing to do, I am told, is to “support the troops.” I find this incomprehensible.
Did I mention that 5 of “the troops” raped a 14 year-old girl then executed her, her parents and younger sister, and then burned down their house? Or how about the time “the troops” handcuffed about a dozen people in Ishaqi, Iraq– including a 70 year-old woman, a handful of toddlers, and a 5 month-old infant – and shot them in the back of their heads? Or how they sometimes rape female troops? Or what about how they use goddamn flying robots to murder civilians?!
Sorry. The purpose of this article isn’t to document the US military’s many crimes against humanity. The purpose of this article is for me to apologize, for saying “Fuck the Troops,” so that I can keep writing for Crooks & Liars. That’s what they want. And that’s what I want.
Before I get to grovelling, I think this whole thing deserves a little background:
I’d been submitting some version of that piece to my then-editor at The BEAST, Al Uthman (his dad once served as Saddam Hussein’s dentist, but that doesn’t matter right now), since 2006. I’m told I did this because I hate America. But I don’t always believe what I’m told. I was mostly just frustrated, as I explained in the article, by members of the ‘liberal media’ being against the actions of the troops, and then thanking them, for their service. I did, and still do, see this as a logical disconnect.
Anyway, after attending a Ralph Nader campaign stop in Buffalo (more evidence that I hate America?), I returned to the BEAST office. “You’re the most hated man in America!” screamed an intern. “Congratulations!” He and Uthman were poring over the death threats, and dreams of homoerotic beat-downs, on Free Republic, Little Green Footballs, and some other sites. Someone even posted the Google satellite image of The BEAST office, like they were calling in an airstrike or something.
We received hundreds of emails from people who wanted me dead. And I still get a few every time I do something newsworthy. After the Scott Walker prank call, Fox News (via Daily Caller) “broke” the news…that was on my Wikipedia page. When I ran for Congress, a day didn’t go by that I didn’t have to talk to someone about that article. So it should come as no surprise that when I recently started blogging for Crooks & Liars, it came up again.
The C&L brass were unaware of my very serious crime before bringing me on board. And having been absolutely immersed in it, seeing my ugly mug on Fox, etc., I failed to inform them of the
thousands of people I tortured and killed article I wrote, presuming they already knew. And now Amato wants a mea culpa, or I’m out. Seems strange to me to draw attention to this, but the idea, I think, is to give me an opportunity to self-flagellate, so when the article invariably comes up again (Attention, Andrew Breitbart!) he can point to this post and say, “Gee whiz, he’s super-duper-sorry.”
And I am sorry about that article. I feel terrible for writing that. I do. I felt terrible before writing it. I did. And I’ll feel terrible if I apologize. I will. But as it turns out, I’ve totally changed my mind about stuff like this. I now love it when people representing my country torture, kill and rape stupid brown people from dumb parts of the world. I mean, that 5 month-old had it coming. It probably would have just grown up to be a terrorist, anyway. You know?
I’ve also completely changed my mind about the Nuremberg Defense. I mean, shit, if the Nazis used it, it must be OK! Just following orders, you say? Well, that’s good enough, for me, Lynndie England! I now, apparently, and totally sincerely, support the shit out of you and your wonderful human pyramids of shame.
And, I mean, “the troops” may be professional murderers, but in this economy it’s a living….
Now that I’ve gotten my requisite snarkasm™ out of the way, I do have some genuine regrets.
I regret the article wasn’t funnier, and the points more fully fleshed out – both the satirical and serious. I regret that I didn’t use more swear words. I regret that I didn’t use more detailed descriptions of war wounds, or dead Iraqi toddlers, or the story of some vet with PTSD swallowing a bullet in a rat-infested VA hospital. I regret referencing a poorly caricatured left/right paradigm. But mostly, I regret that I have to keep talking about this.
Look, I’m not a total monster; I know the burden of responsibility, for our ill-advised occupation of Iraq, falls squarely on the lying administration that lied us into war, and a media that was incapable of reporting the facts. I’m a real liberal; I’ve shed real tears, on more than one occasion, for not just the senseless slaughter of Iraqis, but also the senseless death of American soldiers. It’s a monumental tragedy. And I feel bad, for every kid that got sucked into participating in the illegal war, and all the families that lost someone. I do.
And the language of the piece was unfortunate. I guess I should have titled it “I do not support the troops.” And perhaps the first paragraph, which is all that right-wingers quote, shouldn’t have been so over-the-top. Or more over-the-top – to show that it should be taken with a teaspoon of satire. But, the foul language seemed appropriate to me at the time. Saying “fuck the troops” seemed just as meaningless as saying “support the troops.” But, and maybe this is my worst crime, a well-reasoned, measured article called “Don’t Support the Troops” would have been read by no one, and I wanted people to read it.
(And I’ll never tire of the irony of some people being more offended by the word “fuck’”than they are that Bush et al murdered thousands of Americans. But that’s another topic entirely.)
Another point I made in the original piece was that the phrase “the troops” was invented for the Gulf War. The PR magic behind the phrase is that only a maniac wouldn’t support them. They’re Americans! And even if you hate the war, you support them. SUPPORT THEM! Whatever that actually means. If it means having sympathy, then I do support them. But when I wrote that article, I ignored those feelings, for the purpose of making a point.
This mea culpa isn’t turning out so well. At this point, if you’re even reading it at C&L, it’s probably more of a resignation letter. I guess it’s up to Amato to decide my fate. But I frankly don’t regret writing that article. It could have been better, sure, but every time I have to talk about it, I also get to reiterate the main point of the piece: individual responsibility matters. Free will. And all the ethical implications. You’d think libertarian America would be OK with that idea. And if you think of the poor kids who were fooled into this as victims, unable to choose a different path, then you cannot also thank them for their service. It’s a pretty straightforward logical position. No?
I support some troops. Stephen Funk and the few, brave soldiers like him who refused to fight in Iraq. Those people are heroes to me. The military is not necessarily evil, and that organization has the capacity to do good things, like aid hurricane victims in Vermont, etc. But when the orders are obviously immoral, I can only “support the troops” with the balls to say, no, I won’t do that.
I haven’t received a death threat in a while, and years have passed without one violent email coming my way – about that article. But one of the common rebuttals to my article is that “the troops” protect my 1st Amendment rights, so I should, therefore, not use it. Another was that free speech should have its limits. I disagree with those ideas. First, I simply do not understand how the military protects my rights. We’re still being spied on by the NSA, a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. And now we have DHS involved with crushing the 1stAmendment rights of the righteous dissenters occupying Wall Street. Where are the troops? Why aren’t they protecting our rights? Oh, that’s right, because that’s a jingoist fantasy. The only way to protect our constitutional rights is to use them.
But I still get emails from people who want to thank me, for having the balls to say what no one else would. Admittedly, I’ve gotten fewer of these than death threats, but as the years go by, they are catching up.
Well, it looks like Obama’s going to make good on Bush’s promise to bring the troops home by 2012. And that’s pretty great. If I genuinely hated them, I reckon that I’d want them to stay there and die, for no reason. Maybe I don’t hate America after all. Of course, we’ll still have a bunch of private contractors there – including armed mercenaries. Am I supposed to support them, too? I don’t know how this works.
So there you have it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry people can’t handle what I wrote. I’m sorry I have “Headline Tourette’s.” I’m sorry we live in a country where condemning people who’ve done terrible things is out of bounds. I’m sorry I’m not a better writer. I’m sorry that I’m not sorry. I feel awful about it, but I can’t, in good conscience, thank an Iraq War vet for their service. I’m sorry. Were I to rewrite that article, would I still call it “Fuck the Troops”? No. Although with the repeal of DADT, it seems a less taboo position.
I don’t know if you C&L fans will read this article or not. I don’t know if I explained myself sufficiently to continue blogging here or not. I don’t know how much dissent is allowed around these parts. I just don’t know. But, for the record, I think this whole thing could’ve been more easily resolved by Amato dressing like Uncle Sam and beating the shit out of me.
Since I wrote that, some relevant troop-related stuff has gone down: that bad-ass marine yelled at the NYPD, troops have been leading Occupation marches, and Iraq War vet Scott Olsen got shot in the head with a teargas canister at Occupy Oakland. I support the shit out of those troops. They have the right idea: this country’s elite have used them as cannon fodder, and when they come home there are few economic opportunities. To oppose this is a moral action.
At the same time, and this is just me being the interminable dick that I am, it shouldn’t matter one fucking bit whether it was a civi or a vet that got shot in the head. That particular display of brutality would’ve gotten press, regardless, but there’s a deference paid to vets that gives Olsen’s story such a cookie-cutter narrative: Man fights for country, country shows thanks by cracking his skull.
I hope more vets get involved in the 99% movement. And I hope that kid heals up nice. But Olsen didn’t fight for his country in Iraq. He fought for the same big business bastards who’ll turn a profit any way they can — imperialism, liar loans, credit default swaps, ridiculous fantasies of a flat tax. He willfully participated in Halliburton’s illegal, immoral conquest of an oil-rich nation, which posed absolutely no threat to America. That still seems fucked up to me. Standing up to the Thugs in Blue in Oakland, however, really is fighting for the country.
I know a troop or three, and they’re some of the smartest, coolest people I know. I admire them greatly, but not for having been in the military. That’s all. The one troop I know actually contacted me to thank me for writing that article. The second troop I know thought I was nuts for writing it, but agreed with my points. The third troop I know said he wanted to punch me in the head when he read the first paragraph, but he kept reading, and stopped wanting to punch me in the head.
I don’t know how many different ways to rephrase this one simple idea: there’s nothing brave, admirable, or praiseworthy about murdering foreigners because of corporate propaganda. And I’m talking about the “good apples,” not the “bad apples” who, I dunno, collect the fingers of Afghans they’ve killed, which is a real thing. Sorry to repeat myself, but the brave and admirable thing would’ve been to disobey those orders.
Iraq won’t be the last war the 1% concocts for profit. I hope it’s the last time the 99% fights it for them. But if they do, I hope there’s some careless freak out there, with nothing to lose, who’s willing to say fuck those people. And that person must truly have nothing to lose because succeeding in America requires a craven ability to self-censor. No matter how much sense it makes to condemn people, for doing repugnant things at the behest of obscenely moneyed interests, you just can’t speak that kind of truth to a nation of crooks, liars, and cowards.