March 31, 2003

Strakon Lights Up

"Support Our Troops"


This year I let February 22 pass by unremarked, and I regret it. I'm not referring to the fact that it's the birthday of Old Father George. No, this year February 22 was the 60th anniversary of the guillotining, in Munich, of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

The Scholls, brother and sister, and their friend Probst were among the principal members of The White Rose, a group of Christian antiwar, anti-Nazi youths who understood that the criminal regime that ruled them would have to suffer defeat in the criminal war it was waging before their beloved homeland could have a hope of recovering — eventually — its "freedom and honor." (That phrase is from their fourth leaflet.)

They wrote and surreptitiously distributed five leaflets, but unfortunately Sophie Scholl's distribution of a sixth leaflet was less than surreptitious. A Gestapo informant observed her scattering copies into the courtyard from an upper gallery at the University of Munich, and then the game was up, and their lives were over.

"We must soon bring this monster of a state to an end," The White Rose wrote in their third leaflet. "The military victory over Bolshevism dare not become the primary concern of the Germans. The defeat of the Nazis must unconditionally be the first order of business." Though characterizing their approach as "passive resistance," the youths called for outright sabotage across the economy and throughout the culture, too. They urged people not to donate to the periodic war-drives: "The government does not need this money; it is not financially interested in these money drives. After all, the presses run continuously to manufacture any desired amount of paper currency. But the populace must be kept constantly under tension, the pressure of the bit must not be allowed to slacken!" (Did George Orwell read that last sentence before writing 1984?)

I honor the courage of the young men and the young woman of The White Rose. How much less courage is required of us, in a polite-totalitarian country where the penalties for dissent, though pervasive, are still (pace the gangster Ashcroft) largely informal and nonviolent! And how much easier the choice is for us than for those of The White Rose, who had to resign themselves to being overrun and ruled, for an unknown period of time, by the Bolsheviks and the Western imperialists before their country's "freedom and honor" could be restored. No Iraqi horde threatens to overrun and rule us.


Remarkably enough, the sheeple baaing their way to the various flag-waving country-music-warbling politician-infested "patriotic" rallies seem to understand something basic that escapes those verbally nimble activists who proclaim, "Support Our Troops — Bring them home NOW!"

In practical fact, what can Supporting Our Troops possibly mean besides Supporting Their War?

If the authorities, resorting to "impolite" totalitarianism on the home front, declared that all books critical of the regime were to be seized, would we tug our forelock, scuffle our feet, and meekly mumble, "Well, I oppose the seizure, but, you know, we've got to Support Our Police"? Nonsense. The police are the arm of the authorities: it is they and only they who make the pronunciamentos of the authorities more than empty wind. Just so are the U.S. troops in Mesopotamia the arm of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle: it is they and only they who make those villains' pronunciamentos more than empty wind.

As an anarchist, naturally I am no constitutionalist — like Lysander Spooner, I consider the Constitution "of no authority." But since almost everyone else out there is always bleating about the sanctity of the Constitution, I will observe that the war in Iraq is just as unconstitutional as a seizure of books would be. If this war is not illegal, there is no such thing as an illegal war. [*]

But leave aside the Constitution. The war is illegal and unjust in terms of nonstate legal theory and moral principle. Are we really to condemn the crime and celebrate the criminal?

The question would be more complicated if Our Troops were hapless conscripts — slaves dragooned abroad to murder other slaves. But they are not. They are careerist mercenaries, and the question is simple. Dead simple. If the troops of the United State will not leave Iraq voluntarily, we must — to Support Our Country — hope for their defeat.


I am sick and tired of the whole series of weepy mini-melodramas we're being treated to by both the networks and local stations, in which military family members moan about the dangers their loved one is facing in a distant land. One almost has the impression that the military individual was kidnapped from his home in the dead of night or press-ganged down at the mall, instead of deliberately joining a warmaking organization and freely turning his fate over to the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle. I'd feel some sympathy if one of those relatives would say, "I begged him not to get involved with that gang. I begged him not to go. He just wouldn't listen," but that's one thing we never hear.

As for the military members themselves who get banged up or captured in Mesopotamia, or in whatever exotic realm they invade next, they are in for little sympathy hereabouts, at least as sympathy is usually understood. I have more sympathy for heedless teenagers who wreck themselves performing stunts with snowmobiles. At least those clowns aren't going over into somebody else's country and shooting people. They're asking for trouble, but only for themselves. And they're not financing their heedlessness with money robbed from us taxpayers.

By way of contrast, the U.S. military member in Iraq isn't just asking for trouble — he's going halfway around the world to create trouble. And all on our dime. Thanks for nothing. It's remarkable: the Iraqis would present no threat to Americans if Americans would just stay the hell out of Iraq! The only Americans being shot, blown up, maimed, or imprisoned by Iraqis are the ones who have attacked and invaded the Iraqis' homeland.

What sympathy I do feel is really more of a lowering melancholia, an awareness that in a fundamental way the troops were lost before ever falling in battle. It is an awareness of tragedy, arising from the recognition that optima corrupta pessima sunt: The best, once corrupted, are the worst. I've used that saying before in my writing, and I will surely do so again. If you think about it, it could be the great motto for American history, fatally mixed and mangled and poisoned as that history has been with United State history. The military members who have gone to Iraq include some of the most resourceful, organized, focused, hard-working, courageous young Americans there are. And most loyal, too — to their freely chosen masters, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle. What a loss for the cause of liberty, justice, and peace!

The word tragedy has been made threadbare by overuse in our time, but if that's not a tragedy, I don't know what is.

March 31, 2003

© 2003 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.


From the first leaflet of The White Rose: "Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct."

And: "Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure!"

The full text of the six pamphlets of The White Rose may be found at The Pamphlets of the White Rose Society. — Nicholas Strakon, March 3, 2010

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