By Chris Bodenner

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A reader writes:

I saw this post and immediately thought to myself that Steven Salaita must not remember Vietnam or does not fully understand the history of the whole movement to express support for our troops. Whatever anyone thought of Vietnam, there’s no arguing that many Americans treated returning vets horribly. People who were against the war were unable to distinguish their hatred of the war and those who were unlucky enough to be sent into the battle, and so there was too much vitriol directed at the troops returning (and going to) Vietnam, despite the fact that they had nothing to do with the policy to continue and escalate the war.

The “support or troops” effort grew directly out of this unfortunate history and was intended to ensure that, regardless of how one feels about any policy decision to send our troops someplace, we don’t take it out on the soldiers who are only carrying out their orders.

There is no question that people sometimes conflate “support our troops” with supporting a broader war effort, which shouldn’t be the case. It is imperative that someone who opposes a war should still “support our troops” and offer them our thanks and gratitude for putting their lives on the line to protect the country. The movement has been so successful that the original purpose behind it has probably become completely lost on most people 45 and below, and anyone old enough to remember Vietnam doesn’t realize that half of the adult population has no memory of those bad old days.

Another turns to a different war:

When I was a junior in high school in 1990, the Gulf War was about to begin and many of us felt that it could go either way – quickly like Panama or more drawn out like Vietnam. So even though my family was conservative, all but the most ardent sons and daughters of the Woodstock generation found resonance in “Support Our Troops”. It was meant to bridge the gap, not to imply some sort of blind allegiance. Iraq had committed international aggression against Kuwait and it was obvious we were the only ones to smack them back into line. But more so, if it went horribly wrong (as the second Gulf War later showed), it meant our troops shouldn’t be rejected as the Vietnam generation had been.

(Above screenshot from the tumblr Six Word War, “Real stories from Iraq and Afghanistan in just six words.”)