EDITORIAL: Occupy the veterans

Confused protest movement thinks U.S. military is on its side

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One of the more curious aspects of the “occupy” movement has been its obsession with the military. The demonstrators keep trying to convince the public that the troops are on their side. On Nov. 2, people claiming to be veterans staged a march through Wall Street. Periodic rumors sweep the twittersphere that “the Marines are coming!” to protect protesters from law enforcement. Pro-military sentiment is clearly not unanimous, however. Last month, two Occupy Boston stalwarts spat on and threw a water bottle at a female member of the Coast Guard. Brave souls - try that with an infantryman and see what happens.

The pro-vet storyline became more prominent after Oct. 25 when occupier and former Marine Scott Olsen was injured by a tear-gas canister during a demonstration in Oakland, Calif. Word went out that veterans, particularly Marines, were outraged at the violence inflicted on one of their brothers. “If online reaction is any indication, it’s not a stretch to think Olsen’s injury could be the start of something very big,” Matthew Fleischer wrote in FishbowlLA. “We have a lot of military combat veterans in this country who haven’t been treated very well since they left the service. No job prospects. Inadequate medical coverage. If they take their anger offline and into the streets, the OWS [Occupy Wall Street] movement will become an extremely potent, and WELL TRAINED force.”

There is something disturbing about a supporter of this supposedly nonviolent movement relishing the prospect of deploying a “potent and well trained” unconventional armed force in America’s cities. But the narrative came to an abrupt halt when it was revealed that Mr. Olsen had previously run a website called IhatetheMarineCorps.com, which featured the banner, “My name is Scott Olsen and I hate the Marine Corps more than you. Prove me wrong.” No proof necessary, you win.

Others apparently see the military playing a more sinister role. Donny Deutsch rambled on MSNBC about the occupiers needing a “Kent State” situation, “a climax moment of class warfare somehow played out on screen.” He said he was “not saying someone has to get killed,” which makes little sense because it was the shooting that made Kent State infamous. You won’t create a counterculture anthem singing “no dead in Ohio.”

The harebrained hope for military intervention seems to stem from the occupiers’ desire to recreate the Arab Spring in America. In Egypt, the army protected the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and was the decisive force in overthrowing the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps the occupiers think something like that can or should happen in the United States, but it’s a stupid comparison. Egypt was a military dictatorship and Mr. Mubarak suffered an internal coup. When occupiers expect the U.S. military to play a similar role, it shows that they are ignorant of Egyptian politics, don’t understand the role of the military in this country, and are completely mistaken about whose side the troops would be on if they did show up.

The occupiers will have a long wait for the cavalry to ride to their rescue. A study of veterans’ views released by the Pew Research Center last month showed that veterans are more likely to be Republican, more likely to be highly patriotic, “are happy with their lives overall,” and “express high levels of satisfaction with their family life in particular.” Besides, veterans are already showing up at occupier demonstrations in force. A 2009 survey of more than 1,000 urban policemen reported in “Criminal Justice and Behavior” revealed that 35.4 percent of law-enforcement officers had prior military service. If the occupiers like veterans so much, they should love the police.

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