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The Universal Soldier

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Last week on Democracy Now—which, I have to say, is irritating me more and more lately—I caught an interview with an Iraqi veteran who’s turned against the war. Halleluiah and Mazel Tov…but wait. This anti-war soldier, discussing the whys and wherefores of the war, expressed some opinions that almost made me throw my bowl of Cheerios at the television. He described incidents of American soldiers killing Iraqi civilians, claiming that he himself never engaged in such heinous activity and even tried to stop it. Then Amy Goodman asked him if he’d expected the war to go on this long. Why no, said he, adding, “I didn’t think Americans would be so apathetic as to let it go on this long.”

Yeah, that’s when I almost lost my Cheerios. Maybe my perceptions are skewed from living in the most progressive area in the country, but from where I sit Americans are jumping up and down, hooting and hollering and demanding an immediate withdrawal of troops. We elected a Democratic Congress last year hoping they’d do exactly that. They’ve been struggling and tugging and straining and fighting with The Nitwit and his battalions for months now, trying to end the madness. Last night they even pulled an all-nighter to try and pass legislation ending it. But any time members of Congress threaten to stop funding the war, they’re guilt-tripped out of it, accused of not supporting our troops.

I confess that every time I hear that phrase supporting our troops I feel nothing but confusion. I haven’t been able to figure out how to support the troops without supporting the things they do. The truth is—and I’m probably taking a big risk just saying this—I don’t support the troops. How can I, when some of those troops are wandering around Baghdad raping and killing civilians; a few have even shown alarming streaks of sadism. Just today I read a news story about a soldier on trial for killing civilians who said, in his own defense, that war ought to be fought the old-fashioned way, with soldiers left alone to shoot and kill at their own discretion.

So, no, I don’t support the troops. I place responsibility for the war primarily on the Administration and the corporate powers behind it. But I also can’t avoid placing responsibility on the guy who pulls the trigger…

The Universal Soldier

He’s five feet two and he’s six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He’s all of 31 and he’s only 17
He’s been a soldier for a thousand years.

He’s a Catholic, a Hindu an atheist, a Jain
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
And he knows he shouldn’t kill
And he knows he always will
Kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he’s fighting for Canada
He’s fighting for France
He’s fighting for the USA
And he’s fighting for the Russians
And he’s fighting for Japan
And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way

And he’s fighting for Democracy
And fighting for the Reds
He says it’s for the peace of all
He’s the one who must decide
Who’s to live and who’s to die
And he never sees the writing on the walls.

But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He’s the one who gives his body
As the weapon of the war
And without him all this killing can’t go on.

He’s the universal soldier
And he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him and you and me
And brother can’t you see
This is not the way we put an end to war.

Buffy St.-Marie
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