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Support the Troops, and vice versa?

Beijing Spring 1989Do you remember the Beijing Spring of 1989? Students were protesting China’s authoritarian regime occupied Tiananmen Square and for a time successfully won over the soldiers sent in to expel them. Do you remember the images? Waves of People’s Liberation Army soldiers arrived, but as students and supporters blocked their way and pleaded with them not to brutalize their fellow citizens, the soldiers would join them, some even helping to persuade the next soldiers.

Civilian appeals to soldierUltimately we know the tanks came in. The Chinese leadership used hardened soldiers from the outlying territories, whose dialect was different from the Han Mandarin spoken in Beijing, who had more indoctrination than education, and were thus less susceptible to the entreaties of the demonstrators. Those troops ultimately beat and killed untold numbers of the protesters. Executions and imprisonments followed for the organizers who survived.

COLORADO SPRINGS- In what’s become the US totalitarian means of suppressing protest at past conventions and the FTAA, law enforcement manpower is supplemented by a state’s National Guard. The US military commanders responsible for securing the upcoming August DNC are preparing their soldiers to feel no sympathy for the street rabble they will have to confront. They know not to let their men succumb to sympathy for the nonviolent DNC antiwar demonstrators.

From what rural parts of Colorado does our National Guard plan to draw its ranks to ensure its soldiers won’t have anything in common with progressive/intellectual/working-class activists? Well, Colorado Springs of course!

Student is beatenThis is where the SUPPORT THE TROOPS mantra might begin to feel odd. Common people support their troops, but do the troops support the people? That’s hardly their training. Supervised by military intelligence trainers and contractors for the tasks of crowd control, the National Guard is conditioned to steel themselves against civil disobedience. It will behoove demonstration organizers to reach out to the guard community ahead of time, to communicate the message of peaceful patriotism we’ll be advocating in the streets.

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