What should you say to a screaming Eagle? I don’t mean the Screaming Eagles of Minnesota State from the old TV show “Coach”. I mean those super patriotic counter-demonstrators, a subset of people from groups like the “Gathering Of Eagles,” who want to create conflict in order to discredit their antiwar counterparts. What we should say depends.
Before we answer the above question, let’s take a look at these Eagles. We should look both at what antiwar protesters have in common with them and how they are different. First, to their credit, like the antiwar protesters, these screaming Eagles are out promoting their cause rather than joining the ranks of America’s Idle. This is an important point because it is apathy that is our biggest obstacle in stopping the war.
Second, like us, these Eagles have a great appreciation for the troops who have been asked to sacrifice so much. These Eagles may not be able to perceive our words as supporting the troops; that is fine. But that does not mean that we should not appreciate their respect for our troops.
Third, like the antiwar protesters, these Eagles feel that their set of principles is what’s best for the country while the principles from the other group pose a danger.
In addition, we need to extend a bit of understanding of the dissonance we provide for them. The paradigm supported by these Eagles is what got us through WWII. It is the same paradigm that some have held for over 60 years. We have to remember the tension that people face, and the energy that is required to change when a person is presented with new thinking.
Having said this, we should point to logical weaknesses of and our differences with these Eagles. A major fault in their thinking is in how they measure patriotism and support for the troops. They use their kind of patriotism and support for the troops to judge whether the antiwar protesters are patriotic and support the troops. It is a variation on an old theme; that theme is the glass half-empty mentality. What they see lacking in us and abundant in them is what they use to describe the whole glass. While these Eagles support the mission, we do not, and thus they conclude that we do not support the troops. While these Eagles support the President’s policies, we do not and thus they conclude that we are anti-American. And while these Eagles salute the flag, we sometimes burn it in protest of our foreign policies and thus they conclude that we are not patriotic. As a result, these Eagles tend to see themselves as patriotically pure while they see us as a corrupting influence. This incites a passion to punish in some Eagles.
Second, these Eagles engage in a certain fallacy when defending our country’s use of the military. That fallacy is the argument that if our troops are honorable, then the mission given to them is honorable also. This reasoning fails both in its premise and implication. We know from the reports from Abu Graib to the assaults on Fallujah to Haditha that not all of the troops have acted so honorably. In addition, the movie “Ground Truth” gives us reports from some of the troops themselves regarding wrongful actions. Then when we consider that leadership providing the troops with their mission is civilian and is prone to corruption, the honorability of the mission can only be seen as being independent from the honorability of the troops. In addition, one only needs to consult the works of Marine Corp. Major General, Smedley Butler, to show that this contention by these Eagles is wrong (http://www.fas.org/man/smedley.htm).
We should also add that these Eagles have little concern regarding the opinions of the Iraqis concerning our continued presence. While for the past 2 years, the percentage of Iraqis who want the American troops to leave is around 80%, these Eagles think Iraqis feel differently or they focus on the opinions of gung-ho soldiers who want to stay until the “job is done” In addition, these Eagles seem unaware of the pressures our own government is putting on the government of Iraq to let our oil companies obtain access to much of the oil that is in Iraq. This has been continually reported on in Democracy Now and is the subject of a recent article by Kevin Zeese.
How should we talk to a screaming Eagle? That depends first on where you are. If you are protesting in the street perhaps the best way to answer Eagles’ taunts is to sing rather than to argue. And we antiwar protesters should have a more than adequate library of songs from which to draw. When protesting in the streets, the most important argument to win is not the argument of words but the argument of behavior. Those Eagles, and not all do so, who engage in taunting and making wild accusations, want to win this argument by getting us to react in discrediting ways.
Now if you wish to win the argument of words against these Eagles, it is best to engage these Eagles on the internet on their discussion boards. There, the best way to state your case is to use logic and list observable benchmarks. And above all, perhaps we should ask ourselves how would people like Martin Luther King or Gandhi talk to these Eagles.