"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

November 11, 2008

What Is "Good" About Our Military?

It is wrong the way so many American veterans are mistreated by our government once they've served their time, and it is a moral problem for all of us since we are the ones who elect our government. Just look at our dysfunctional V.A. Hospital system for an obvious example.

However, I do not feel pity or compassion for U.S. soldiers killed or wounded in combat unless they were involuntarily drafted in the first place. Anyone who signs up for military service at the recruitment office simultaneously signs away their right to righteously complain about getting shot or otherwise wounded by "enemies". They only have the right to complain about their mistreatment by their country after their service, and only because their country failed to uphold its part of the signed recruitment contract.

As long as we Americans continue to glorify the existence of soldiers, we will never embrace the pursuit of peace. We are, ironically, a War Nation. We spend nearly half of our taxes on the maintenance of a monstrous military machine that far exceeds its need in this fractured and idealistically complex world. We create enemies (e.g. Iraq and Iran) so that we can justify the military's existence and the profit that it brings to the wealthy. We blindly glorify our troops with flags and parades and fireworks and the label of "honorable".

Somehow, we've equated "honor" with killing faceless humans. Nothing is more dishonorable than murdering a fellow human whose face you cannot see. Nothing is more uncivilized than allowing oneself to be ordered to murder without first determining for oneself if this human target is trying to kill you or just trying to defend himself/herself.

The order to kill this faceless enemy was made by a pack of white, wealthy corporate barons thousands of miles away (in government buildings) who did not come with you to first examine the persons, at whom you point your weapons or bombs, to see if they are a threat to your and my existence.

Tell me this: When was the last time our military fired at a foreigner who was crossing our border and threatening to kill us? I would say that it was about 67 years ago at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, long before most of us were even conceived. Has anyone attacked us at our borders since? No. We are securely protected by two peace-embracing nations on our northern and southern borders, and by two massive oceans to our east and west.

Attacks by terrorists, by the way, is not a military issue, but rather a police issue. 9/11 was not brought on by another nation's military but rather by a group of nation-less, criminal thugs. As Bush has now so infamously proven, you cannot fight criminals with a military. Defeating criminal activity requires police action and law enforcement expertise.

We do not train our soldiers, as a top priority, to be peacekeepers, but rather to be killers. Our culture is controlled by a wealthy class, which incessantly strives to falsely advertise to the poor and otherwise gullible youth that the military is somehow good and "patriotic". It is "good" to teach yourself how to kill others. It is "patriotic" to consider your country as somehow intrinsically superior to any other on the planet. Thus a dutiful, mostly lower economic class allows itself to buy the false notion of the military as something good and wholesome and American. But that is exactly what the ruling class wants because it serves only their own self-interests.

Until we Americans realize that we are being hoodwinked by a group of amoral corporate barons whose wealth and influence have no match, and until we finally reject their power and lies, this endlessly destructive cycle of youth-patriotism-military-"honor"-death-injury-PTSD-homelessness-poverty-youth will not cease. Ironically, we are a cowardly and hypocritical nation for claiming that organized killing is wrong while simultaneously refusing to advance beyond such incivility and unchristian behavior.

I think that it is finally the time in our history to reject a military trained to kill and instead have a small, technologically efficient force of peacekeepers and philanthropists with the mission of ONLY maintaining or restoring peace and human rights on our troubled yet hopeful planet. The first step in achieving such a moral state is the rejection of the archaic and horrific military machines created and supported by the wealthy ruling classes of the world and especially of America. Yes, it will make us more vulnerable, but more importantly it will make us truly honorable.

Yes, we can. And, for the love of all that is good and right, we should.

(cross-posted at DailyKos)


Anonymous said...

Good luck with this sentiment. Any criticism of US soldiers will get you fucked for sure on the right wing "progressive" blogs. Even the mild criticism you level here.


Keith Craker said...

Desert Storm veteran. I can see you're trying to make a point about embracing peace instead of constantly preparing for war, and using the military for diplomatic and/or police actions is the wrong way to go, so I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but - damn - the first sentence of your second paragraph is nothing but epic douchebag, harkening back to the time when Viet Nam vets were spit on and called "baby-killers" in airports. I volunteered, and in doing so, I helped guarantee my brother and cousins wouldn't need to be drafted; my sacrificing my liberties to serve my country guaranteed your continued right to post your opinions; and the nightmares I'm still having helped guarantee the freedom of thousands of people I've never and will never know.

You've never heard a soldier complain about being wounded by the enemy or claim any honor for having ended a human life - no one knows better than a soldier that war is destructive, wasteful and ugly. But it's our job to defend our country, our Constitution and our way of life, so that's what we do, to the best of our abilities, sometimes with our lives, always with our souls.

I don't expect a "thank you" and I don't expect a parade, any more than any other soldier who has served or is serving does; and from you personally, I don't want any pity or even compassion since, by your own words, you have little to spare. Having risked my life so you can enjoy the freedom to tell me how I don't deserve pity, compassion or glorification, I would like a little respect. I think that's the least you can do.

DavidByron said...

Well now I feel like I have to answer that pack of lies. Where to start?

Although the right wing lie repeated by the militarist here has been debunked countless times the fact is soldiers are "baby killers". A million dead in Iraq. Perhaps three million if you count from the first gulf war on. A genocide that makes this gentleman the moral equivalent of a Nazi on concentration camp duty.

And he objects to being called "baby killer" though that is precisely what he is, and far more. Why does he object to the simple truth?

Is it because he couldn't stand himself if he didn't constantly lie to himself about his so-called honor and puff himself up and brag? Let us count the lies he claims for himself:

(1) helped guarantee no draft
(2) sacrificed his liberties
(3) served his country
(4) guaranteed others rights
(5) never complains
(6) never claims honor
(7) nobody knows better war is bad
(8) defending his country
(9) doesn't expect a "thank you"
(10) risked his life
(11) deserves respect

Eleven lies (I may have missed some) in as many sentences I think. You'd think this man was saving lives instead of brutally taking them. You'd think he was an unpaid volunteer. You'd think he was helping instead of destroying peoples lives.

What an ego is on this man.

Why is "baby killer" bad? because its very hard even for him to explain why it is so virtuous to murder babies. To explain how he is defending America from babies. To explain how a baby would threaten to take away Americans' rights or why murdering babies is something that is brave, dangerous and heroic.

Keith Craker said...

It's not a right-wing lie. I'm not a right-wing troll - I voted straight-line Democrat in all the Presidential elections since 1992, and that was while in the Army. It was being in the Army - actually seeing the world and how certain politicians preached one idea while acting on another - that helped move me to a Liberal mindset instead of the Conservative one I'd been brought up with living in a suburb in Texas. I can't wait for President Obama to patch up the Constitution I risked my life to defend after the shredding Bush-Cheney gave it.

You listed 11 so-called lies, but never explained why they were lies, just said I had an ego and couldn't face the truth of my actions, then compared me to a Nazi. Now, I always thought the first rule of flaming was the first person to invoke the Nazis automatically lost the argument, but I'll ignore that one for now; the unable to face the truth part irks me, though.

Here's the truth: my actions caused the deaths of people, directly and indirectly. Some of those people were trying to kill me, some weren't; some knew what they had gotten themselves into, some didn't; some had volunteered and some had been forced to man a post by a government that had literally put a gun to their heads. I was lucky: Desert Storm was relatively clean with few civilian deaths - OIF and OEF have had much more collateral damage, which is one of the reasons why 1 in 4 returning soldiers suffer from PTSD. Those people are dead now, and that's part of the burden I've been carrying for the last 18 years, nearly half my life. That's the truth.

There's no draft because people like me volunteer to sacrifice our liberties and our safety to serve our country, a tradition that's kept the nation safe and guaranteed your right to call me a Nazi for 230 years. And since I remember wearing a flak jacket for over a month and ducking for cover during those Scud attacks, it's safe to say I risked my life doing my job. The Iraqis were literally raping and pillaging Kuwait when we drove them out, so yes, I did save lives. This is also the truth.

Maybe I would like a "Thank you;" maybe I do complain that there are too many people who use the military as a punching bag for expressing otherwise valid views on needless bloodshed and destruction; and maybe I do cling to one piece of honor, not for what I did - kill an indigenous people - but why I did it - to help free another sovereign nation while serving my own. Maybe telling myself that helps me sleep at night. Calling those lies is harsh, but maybe accurate, so I'll grudgingly concede you may be right, I may have been a bit grandiose - as for the rest, please tell me where I'm wrong, how I'm lying, then explain how you know without having been there yourself.

DavidByron said...

Someone was reading your comment and they said to me, "You know he thinks you meant that Nazi stuff rhetorically".

No, the Nazis are a legitimate case here because uniquely they were held to account for their actions. They were accused and put on trial in a court, which although many said it was victors' justice, was as close as this world has got to a clear minded look at exactly what war is.

And the result was they judged that war itself was the greatest crime humanity has, because it encapsulates all the lesser crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity within it.

And the people of the world reacted against the destruction and horror of that war by creating the UN charter which outlaws war -- makes it a crime to engage in starting a war. So that is why Nazis are basic to these discussions because war has, in enacting the UN, become the distinguishing feature they are best known for.

Now we started talking about the Iraq war and you point out, that "Desert Storm was relatively clean" and I agree. At least it seemed so at the time. Later on of course we found that the US provoked the Iraqis to attack Kuwait and deliberately blocked peaceful settlements of the situation there. Later on we found that the US buried alive thousands of Iraqi conscripts trying to surrender and in general refused to allow Iraq to withdraw peacefully. Later on we saw that the evidence of Ira 'raping" Kuwait was manufactured in large part. Later still we see that it was the first battle in a twenty year on-going genocidal attack on the Iraqi people to thoroughly conquer them and break them as a people and a nation.

But at the time the justification appeared straightforward; Iraq invaded Kuwait and defending an ally is a legitimate use of force. Many countries agreed as did the UN security council. So specifically I wouldn't accuse you of war crimes merely for participation. I would not suggest you are in fact a criminal for simply going there (without regard for any specific incident you might have engaged in).

I would make that accusation against the soldiers in Iraq today. However the original diary (above) and my last comment didn't make that point, nor did anyone call those soldiers criminals until just now.

Back to the Nazis briefly. How did that war start? The German people were suffering from world war 1 where much of their country had been seized and handed to other countries like Poland. The war started as Hitler claimed Poland attacked Germany. Poland and Germany border. In fact at the time Germany was bisected by Poland which occupied some formerly German territory. Border clashes had become not uncommon. Poland attacks Germany so Germany invades Poland. The UK and France honor their treaty obligations by declaring war on Germany. The UK invades Norway (neutral) and Germany invades Belgium and Holland and Denmark (neutrals) in jockeying for position.

What I am saying is this: the Nazis get a bad rep but they were at least as justified as you were in traveling half way round the earth to Kuwait. Of course later we find Hitler fabricated the attack by Poland.

Nevertheless war crimes were held for the crime of war itself and Germans were found guilty. Famously, "Just following orders" was specifically rejected as an excuse for participation.

You claim to have been defending the US. In fact Iraq was in no position to attack the US and had been a US ally. The Nazis were (they thought) defending against an army on their border, a country occupying part of their nation. If they had said they were defending Germany they'd have a far better case to be speaking truth.

That was a bloody war indeed and for Germany, existential. Their culture, their nation was at risk. That is not true of the US is it? Your country has never been seriously threatened by any attacker. Your country has never known large scale war (except civil war).

In some sense the Nazis exemplified the sort of concept of service to country and sacrifice that you pretend to have. The situations were very different.

Basically in the US in modern times being a soldier is just a job. A well paid one. Dangerous? Not as dangerous as say deep sea diver or construction worker or logger. You don't sacrifice liberties, you get paid. You're not defending your nation. You're working for corporate America essentially. Wars of choice. (I assume you've read War is a racket by Major General Smedley Butler?) Beating up little 3rd world countries that -- lets face it -- haven't got a hope in hell against the US military. Beating them up for profit. And always fighting in strange corners of the world far from home.

You are not serving your country. You are not helping America or Americans at all. If anything you make things a bit worse by bringing disrepute on your nation and framing the US as a war-like country. The militarisation of American society tends to be destructive of American rights in fact. Again, look at the Nazis. War is not good for human rights.

Who actually helps protect American rights?

People like the ACLU. People who fought for Civil Rights -- often attacked and sometimes shot by the US military of the day btw. How is it that you confuse the US army with a civil rights organisation? Are they similar? No.

You say nobody knows better than a soldier that war is bad. I think the victims of soldiers know it better. I think the millions of Iraqis with a dead family member or no home know it better. I wonder if any of them suffer from PTSD? But of course for them there is no "post" trauma is there? because their trauma never ends.

I think that covers it except for, "helped guarantee no draft". Most people think the volunteer force was created to make it easier not harder to go to war. If a country goes to war then conscription is a good thing because it prevents trivial uses of the armed forces because of the outrage from citizens in threat of being drafted over some bullshit corporate war. For this reason there is no danger of any draft for these corporate wars. That would bring the wars into the light you see and they need to keep them a bit on the down-low, a bit we-know-its-happening but we don't-know-much-about-it. Because the general public needs to see as little as possible of real war if the propaganda image of honor and service and protecting rights is to be maintained.

Keith Craker said...

First off, being told you actually compared me to a Nazi doesn't help your case.

That said, to be intellectually honest, there is a lot of truth in your response - war for profit, manufactured reasons for going to war, conscription preventing trivial uses of the military, keeping the public in the dark - all on the money. It is obvious that you've given this a lot of passionate and objective thought, and what's probably going to surprise you is that I agree with a lot of your argument, as you make good points. I don't think you're wrong as much as I think you're left of target. Beyond the nitpicking stuff (Well paid? Not dangerous? No sacrifice? Are you kidding?), I also don't know if I can make that argument to someone who's never served, even to the original poster, Mike, who later commented on DKos he'd been a military brat but didn't say anything about serving himself. And I don't mean that as a slam, but as an acknowledgment of a rarified life experience that is incredibly difficult to explain to someone who hasn't been there. Lord knows, I never thought I'd respond to a posting by actively comparing myself to a Nazi, but that's the one place where your argument is dead wrong - yes, the situations with Germany and Iraq were and are very different, but the concept of service and sacrifice is exactly the same. Exactly. It has been since the first tribe went to battle against another to keep from being driven away or taken into slavery or killed. It's a concept that been held in the heart of any who's ever served their country, from the Ancient Greeks to modern day.

Rail against corrupt leaders who lie us into war and get their corporate buddies rich while innocent civilians die in the streets and you'll get no complaints from me - I've fought against the Iraqi invasion from the start and I'm tired of my brothers and sisters dying or coming home broken and maimed from a conflict that never should have happened. But the military is a tool of the government - soldiers, sailors and marines are not deserving of this ire you give them while hating on their leaders. Around here, they say "Don't hate the player, hate the game" - I would ask that you not hate the soldier, hate the war.

For the sacrifices they make and are willing to make - whether or not you agree with the legitimacy or degree of that sacrifice - service members deserve your respect.

It's either that, or you need to take the oath, grab a weapon and man a post yourself.