The War Culture and Veterans

13315565_983413988440227_3266484451880158017_nCalls for supporting our troops and honoring veterans and military personnel are ubiquitous and loud and it has become one of those concepts people take for granted and unanimously agree on and rarely ever question, the assumption being that these men and women have “served” our country and deserve our respect, veneration and support.

Everything is “support the troops.” It has become a punctuation mark on nearly every advertising campaign and seemingly every sporting event. “Support The Troops” and “God Bless America”; you can hear those phrases repeated at anything from a car lot commercial to an NFL or even our local minor league hockey games.

Stating that you do not support our troops and the military is seen as sacrilege; as a heinous and cold hearted thing to do,  next to kicking puppy dogs and toddlers. In some parts of the country, not blindly accepting the alleged War On Terror is seen as unpatriotic.

I often read that whether one agrees with the reasoning for engaging in war,  no one deserves our respect more than the people who served, fought, died or were seriously wounded as a result of war. I read a comment once stating that “regardless of what the intention is, good or bad, giving yourself up for your nation’s ambitions is pretty respectful.”

I disagree.

Intention matters. Our nation’s ambitions matter. Why one joins the military and why one’s military engages in armed conflict matter very much. In fact, I would argue that this is one instance where intentions and motives should matter the most. Joining an armed organization that has massive firepower capabilities with deadly consequences for other human beings, especially civilians, should not be taken lightly. It is a big fucking deal and it matters.

If the reasons as to why do not and should not matter, then we had no business prosecuting  SS officers back in Nuremberg after WWII. But we did becasue we believed that blindly following orders and not asking why was neither a valid excuse nor acceptable.

More importantly, I disagree with this notion that our troops deserve our support no matter what. Supporting troops is an endorsement of war and armed conflict. Such seemingly innocuous  endorsements in turn set a bad example for the citizenry and especially children, because they teach them that violence and armed conflict are not only necessary and needed but also heroic and admirable, ultimately normalizing and glorifying war as something inevitable.

“Support Our Troops” or war in general are not something that should be romanticized and worshipped. Dying is not glorious. Being maimed and traumatized for life is not grand and heroic. Coming back an emotional, physical and spiritual wreck becasue you fought wars of choice and opportunity to further someone else’s agenda or fill their pocket books, as has been the case for all of the wars this country has fought over the past half a century, are not grand things. They are not admirable and laudable. They are contemptible.

War is bloody, devastating and brutal and everyone loses, one way or another. Even the “winners.”

Casualties and collateral damage and thus the loss of human life are not acceptable. They should never be taken as just a normal thing one must live with.

It’s easy to stand for a few moments and chant “USA! USA! USA!” and put a yellow ribbon sticker on your vehicle, than it is to try to understand the horrors of combat and the lasting traumas our troops have to endure, not to mention those whom our troops end up injuring, maiming and killing in the line of duty.

When I hear someone say those troops performed a service to our country, I have to ask: what service?  And for whom? For me? Killing and displacing people or adding fuel to internal feuding wars while bankrupting us internally are not a service performed for us. They do not do us any good.I am not benefiting from a fiscally bankrupting US military involvement all around the world. Involvement and meddling that gave rise to Islamic extremism in the Middle East and such things as the Islamic State Group. Those are not things that I consider benefits brought to me by our military. Those are devastating disasters I distance myself from and that I do not like committed in my name and with my taxes. I am most certainly not thankful for them or the military or the fucking troops.

Now I understand the need for military action at some point. I am not naive to believe we never, ever need it. But wars should be fought for defense only, instead of employed strategically in order to wear down and threaten those who do not agree with us or who pose potential threats or in order to change the balance of power in a region to our  favor etc.

Fighting countries hardly even capable of mounting a defense, never mind a real attack on our country, is not heroic and bold. It is cowardly and cruel. Adding fuel to internal conflicts, arming and training rebels to serve our cause regardless of the long-term consequences are not things I support about our military and, by extension, about our troops.

Take the Iraq war, for example, and calls to support our troops there:

First of all, the Iraq war was not a draft, those men who went, joined voluntarily. No one made them.

Secondly, the Iraq war was a fraudulent war to begin with. We had no business being there. It was a war sold to us via lies and manipulation, still is, and the troops are hailed as heroes when what they mostly did is engage in the indiscriminate killing of locals and various other war crimes, ultimately leading to the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men and women. Men and women who were victims of the regimes that oppressed them and for whom US invasion and intervention brought nothing but more chaos, instability and death.

US troops are being ordered to commit atrocities so vile that the only way many of them can cope with the horror of what they have done is by killing themselves.

Examples of atrocities aided directly or indirectly by US troops in Iraq include;

– Orders to slaughter “all military age men” during some operations;

– Torturing detainees – many of whom had never engaged in combat and were totally innocent – at grisly prison camps across the country;

– Raping and torturing children at the infamous Abu Ghraib detention facility while they shrieked in terror. Women forced to watch later begged to be killed.

– Sodomizing detainees with chemical lights and broom sticks;

– Indiscriminately firing upon and killing journalists and children from the air;

– Massacring entire groups of unarmed Iraqis, including children and the elderly in Hadith.

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing,” wrote Daniel Somers, an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide following an arduous battle with PTSD that was caused by his role in committing “crimes against humanity,” according to the soldier’s suicide note – adding that him living “any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand.”

Our military involvements for the past forty to fifty years (i.e since the end of Vietnam) have been voluntary recruitment, not drafts. In case of a draft, I cannot blame people for going. They had no choice. But when there is no draft and you join the fucking military voluntarily, then that makes you an accomplice in the devastating and bankrupting war machine .

Of course, I am not surprised that the war machine and the powers that be and which profit from endless war would send such, almost subliminal, messages to people, trying their hardest to normalize war and gain support for what is really a futile, dangerous and devastating endeavour.

And in a way they have to, right? And with they I mean the politicians, warmongers and the highly profitable military industrial complex. In order to convince people to join a military organisation and give their life for whatever dubious cause, you have to embellish and romanticize, obfuscate and blur the lines. You have to say you support and honor the troops and praise them as heroes performing a service to our country. You have to tell them they are doing it for a grander cause. Who doesn’t want to be a hero? Who doesn’t want to believe they did something for a grander cause?

By creating a romantic appeal for war and by hailing those the war machine uses to fight those wars, as heroes who are “fighting for our freedoms”, the military industrial complex and the war mongering politicians who do their bidding, create public support for a war machine that has been devastating on many levels.

The last legitimate war the US fought was WWII. All wars after that have been wars of choice and opportunity; of political posturing; from Korea to Vietnam to the Gulf War,  to Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa,  Eastern Europe: all fraudulent wars of choice and opportunity aimed at enhancing our dominance in the world. Gaining allies here or starting wars there for political gain and so we can come out on top; so we can keep militaries and defense contractors funded at the expense of everyone else.

Heck we have taken the manipulation so far that we are now calling the War Department euphemistically the “Defense Department.”

The individuals who go to war and die or who are alive but have come back damaged and broken, aren’t heroes. They are pawns at best; fools who were duped and manipulated by the war mongers and defense contractors to believe that war is good and that dying for oil or political dominance or strategic advancement,  was a good thing.

At worst, they are trigger nervous thugs, miscreants and losers who are  looking for an outlet to live out their murder-lust and sociopathy (see Chris Kyle)  while at the same time sticking it to what they perceive to be Muslim scum, as payback for 9/11.

Our troops and veterans don’t exist and are funded in a vacuum. They exist and are funded within the context of our foreign policy objectives and our military actions. To say that the reasons for wars should not matter when it comes to supporting our troops is short-sighted and harmful.

The truth is, our troops are not heroes. They are not doing this country and its citizen a great service. Killing, raping,  pillaging and displacing thousands of innocent people for every one bad guy, is hardly a heroic act.

All the Memorial Day crap and “Support Our Troops” slogans are a way for the government and the military industrial complex that it is beholden to, to not only create a culture of war but to also normalize war as inevitable, needed, and heroic with the ultimate goal of creating support for it. And that is something I, as pacifist who opposes military action unless strictly for defensive purposes, oppose.

I do not support our troops because I do not support our wars. And one cannot be divorced from the other.

War is horrible, devastating and harmful and at the end of the day, we will not be able to solve out problems with tanks, drones and via war fare. We will,  however, be able to do so via diplomacy, cooperation and thus peaceful means. Those are also the avenues and channels we must explore and exhaust before a call to arms.

By supporting our troops, who at this point are nothing more than glorified contract killers if you ask me,  we become accomplices in their crimes. Not to mention that if we were to really support our troops, we would first have to see how they live and what they are going through; something that is not particularly compatible with all the feel-good, romanticised notions everyone has about war.

I think it was about time we took a step back and asked ourselves whether supporting the troops, and thus war,  is the kind of culture and society we want to have.

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  1. #1 by Merrell on May 30, 2016 - 8:29 PM

    I started out actually agreeing with this post, until I managed to read the entire thing for its content.Its pretty obvious you have never served in the military, from your post and how you oppose any form of military service. But its also pretty obvious you don’t actually know very much about the military, or about “war culture” as you call it.
    The fact of the matter is “diplomacy, cooperation and thus peaceful means” Don’t always work. To use diplomacy and cooperation you need to have some form of something in order to entice the other side to cooperate- and that something is usually a gun in your back pocket.
    You make a good point about the prosecution of Auschwitz guards. Putting on a uniform does not divorce the individual from moral accountability. But have you stopped to consider why those prosecutions were able to be conducted in the first place? It was overwhelming military force that crushed Nazi Germany- not diplomacy or cooperation, and thusly freed its victims from horrors to come.
    “Killing, rapin,g (sic) pillaging and displacing thousands of innocent for every one bad guy, is hardly a heroic act” Okay, this is the part where you really went off left field. In war, civilians are sometimes killed, although assuredly not on the 1000:1 ratio you ascribed. Pillaging doesn’t happen, I’ve been to Afghanistan, and there’s nothing to pillage. I think that’s more of a Viking era concept. As for rape, or any other form of sexual assault, that’s a good way to get sentenced to prison.
    Despite these exaggerations and misrepresentations, your original point is not wrong. There is a hollowness at the heart of most of the “Support our Troops” bumper stickers, and it is a hollowness born of freedom from sacrifice. The all-volunteer military has made that possible. I encourage you to continue thinking critically, yet at the same time, refrain from passing moral judgement until you have all the facts.

    • #2 by popreflection on June 2, 2016 - 12:59 PM

      As I have pointed out, the last legitimate war the US fought was WWII.

      As to pillaging, raping etc: if you believe that is just some sort of exaggerated fantasy I am writing down, I highly encourage you to educate yourself on our involvement in the Middle East over the past 25 years and especially since 2003 and what our troops have done there. I wrote about Robert Bales who after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, crept away to two slumbering villages overnight, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the 16 killed were children and 11 belonged to one family.

      Then there is Chris Kyle, a dirtbag psychopath who in his book remorselessly bragged about killing children and women from rooftops. And we made a movie about that guy and he is heralded as a hero.

      Then there is William Langewiesche who talks about the murder of of four Iraqi prisoners, a war crime.

      Then there is Iraq war veteran Daniel Somers who committed suicide following an arduous battle with PTSD that was caused by his role in committing “crimes against humanity,” according to the soldier’s suicide note.

      Somers’ suicide note is a powerful indictment of the invasion of Iraq and how it ruined the lives of both countless millions of Iraqis as well as innumerable US troops sent in to do the dirty work of the military-industrial complex.

      “The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity,” wrote Somers. “Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.”
      Somers also complains about how he was forced to “participate in the ensuing coverup” of such crimes.

      These are just some examples to the point. So yes, these things are not isolated, they did happen and far worse.

      Then there is drones and how many they killed….

      There is also the creation of the Islamic state thanks to our meddling and the radicalization of the opposition there. We created the breeding ground that gave rise to these murderous extremists and fanatics.

      In the larger sense, yes war is pillaging and destroying. And that was not just in reference to Iraq but to all wars. When I talk about war I dont just mean 2003 onward, I am talking about all war and what they entail.

      These things are very real. They are not exaggerations or misinterpretations as you claim. They are the truth. Please educate yourself on what the war machine has done to not only us as a nation but to those troops as well as the people we go to war with. If anything. I have understated what is happening and it is you who has this rosy picture of war as some noble act freeing people. It is not.

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