Posts Tagged guns

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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People Who Advocate For Guns Really Want to Use Them

I have this theory, or suspicion really, that people who keep defending  the Second Amendment  – which allegedly gives every Tom, Dick and Harry the unlimited and unmitigated right to own guns (it does not) – and who keep advocating for gun ownership by citizens so that we may all “defend” ourselves against them evil government forces that may come after us, especially under Obama, and rapists, murderers, burglars, gays, lesbians, atheists, walkers, socialists and all those other bad, evil elements out there who try to get our guns and Bible and ruin our American way of life blah blah yawn, actually secretly hope that they really may have to use that gun one day.

All this “I want to be able to defend myself” crap is just that and a huge lie to cover the fact that these people are really secretly hoping that they may have to pull that trigger one day.

It is abundantly clear why the NRA is making people paranoid to get them to fight for more gun ownership: they have gun-industry backing and are pretty much the personal marketing/PR arm of gun manufacturers in this country.

But your average Joe who is all fired up about owning guns to allegedly protect himself from evil forces etc,  really just seems to be someone who loves guns and worse, someone who does see value in harming, injuring and even murdering people.

And such individuals have gotten into the habit, thanks to the NRA and its fear mongering, of using the Second Amendment and “safety” as an excuse to be able to carry around these deadly tools.

One such individual is Markus Kaarma, a man from Missoula, Montana who shot and murdered 17 year old Diren Dede after setting a trap for intruders by intentionally leaving the garage open and placing a purse in clear view.  After motion sensors detected someone in the garage, Kaarma shot Dede. While Kaarma has since been charged with first degree murder, he is already invoking a Stand Your Ground-like defense.

Kaarma is not the first to claim he was justified in killing someone after setting a trap. A Minnesota jury rejected Byron Smith’s argument that he was standing his ground when he made it look as though he wasn’t home, and waited in the basement with food and water until two teen intruders descended, and he shot them dead. Audio recorded by Smith depicted him toying with the victimsafter he shot them, according to the New York Daily News, saying “you’re dead.” He also likened them to “vermin.”

Both men said they had been victims of burglaries, and were aiming to protect themselves. And while Kaarma may fail in his attempt to claim that eliciting an intruder constitutes self-defense even under expansive self-defense laws that remove any duty to retreat, the emergence of traps is the latest example of the sort of vigilante justice individuals are attempting to justify under expansive self-defense doctrines pushed by gun advocates and the NRA.

The NRA-backed law passed in 2009 not only added a Stand Your Ground provision but it also expanded that law by allowing self-defense inside the home. While it once only authorized deadly force against an intruder who was acting in a “violent, riotous, or tumultuous manner,” the new law allows deadly force by an individual who “reasonably believes” the force is necessary to prevent assault or a forcible felony. The 2009 law also shifted the burden of proof and presumes that the shooter is innocent, according to Gary Marbut a Montana gun lobbyist who has written model state laws.

“Stand your Ground” laws and all the other lobbying for gun-ownership-galore the NRA has done to make gun ownership attractive and desirable, have created a culture where gun ownership and murder “in self defense” have slowly been turned into hunting licenses that allow people to murder for sport.

Not to trivialize the matter by drawing parallels to movies,  but this reminds of the move “The Purge” (which I highly recommend you see when you get the chance) where the active agenda has become not self defense but a “Pro-active” hunting scenario.

Setting up a  trap, baiting it, waiting for some “prey”, literally prey, to enter and then proceed to shoot and kill another human like some rabid dog while afterwards invoking the “Stand Your Ground” provision is a truly heinous and dangerous pattern that has been emerging.

The basic requirement of a civil society is that access to firearms and overwhelming force are limited by law and a social contract limiting the use of those forces. By allowing both unlimited access to weapons and a host of justifications for using them, we are breaking the most basic elements of our social contract that make us a “civilized” and democratic society.

The real tragedy here is that fear mongering and proselytizing  groups such as the NRA , militia style groups and vigilantes have constructed a mind set that signals to people that it is ok to shoot to kill with no accountability for our actions, which is exactly why Kaarma and the likes of him have been invoking Stand Your Ground laws to retroactively justify the murders they committed. When you set the groundwork and create all these provisions and loopholes under which it is “ok” and “legal” to kill, people will then also use those to live out and justify their actions.

Again, guns do not make us a safer, better society. Guns are for thugs, criminals and uncivilized peoples and societies and the idea that if law abiding citizens get to carry a gun around with them to church, school, government buildings, bars, night-clubs and a host of other public places, we would then all be a better, safer society is one of the biggest lies ever perpetuated by the gun lobby. Not to mention that carrying a gun would certainly not have helped someone like Diren Dede who was ambushed and trapped like an animal by a man living out his murder lust under the guise  of “self-defense” and the Second Amendment.

This heinous social experiment that is costing people their lives must stop.

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Stabbing vs. Shooting

On Tuesday, a 16 year old student at Franklin Regional High School in the Pittsburgh suburb of Murrysville went on a stabbing spree, leaving at least 19 students and a school security guard injured.

I did not know what the exact circumstances of the incident were, but I do recall that I was relieved beyond description when I noted the words “knife” and “stabbing” in the headline. I knew, even without having to read the article in detail, that a knife attack most probably meant no massacre and that no one was actually brutally killed, which would have been definitely the case had the perpetrator owned a gun of some sort, which he then could have easily pointed at a crowd to pull the trigger to cause a carnage.

I’m sure that in the next few days and weeks we’ll be hearing all sorts of familiar refrains by gun advocates who, undoubtedly, will take this incident to “prove” to us that the issue is really not guns but a violent culture in general and how gins can save us and that the gun is being unduly vilified blah blah blah.

The thing that people who advocate for guns galore seem to absolutely not get (or refuse to get) is that no one is arguing that limiting and severely regulating guns is going to make us a less violent society.

The issue is, however – and I cannot repeat that often enough – that guns make the violence that occurs in society bloodier and deadlier. Case in point, the incident above:  if that kid had a semi-automatic on him, the NRA can bet its gun-holding King James Bible that we would be counting bodies now, not injuries.

And that, in a a nutshell, is the difference between guns, on the one hand, and knifes, a fist, an ax, a chainsaw, a car and whatever other tools out there than can be used to hurt someone, on the other hand.

Guns are dangerous because it is so easy to point one at a crowd –  from a distance no less – pull the trigger and cause devastating damage.

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Quote of the Day

I assumed that after 70 people were shot in a movie theater and then just a few months later 20 first-graders were murdered with an assault rifle in an elementary school, that the absurd gun laws in this country would change, but nothing has happened.” […] “The gun lobby in America, led by the NRA, has bullied this nation’s politicians into cowardly silence. Even when 20 young children are blown away in their classrooms. […] More guns doesn’t mean less crime, as the NRA repeatedly tries to tell you. It means more gun violence, more death and more profits for the gun manufacturers.”

Piers Morgan, on his last day at CNN, where he was bullied and fired from his job thanks to the NRA and gun lobbyists who did not like the all too sane message about the terrible gun industry and gun culture that he was delivering.

Great America. Now go hire some conformist, gun aficionado in collaboration with the NRA so that we may have more Sandy Hooks and Aurora, Colorado mass shootings.  Twenty children were brutally massacred because guns have become ubiquitous symbols of our landscape but that was not enough of a wake-up call for our cowardly politicians and so-called leaders as clearly there are more children and innocent bystanders to be massacred so that some greedy jingoists with a nervous trigger-finger and paranoia about some government take-over and end-of-times scenario can distribute and carry more guns.

Women cannot get abortions because aborting a fetus is murder and life is scared blah blah blah but the same people who make the argument about valuing life have no problem seeing guns distributed to every man, woman and child so they may take lives at any time under the auspices of  “self defense” of course, while those who die innocently, such as the children in the Sandy Hook shooting are brushed off and pitied as unfortunate victims of everything, but guns.

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Nothing Has Changed

What is it called when you go through the motions of decorum and supposed action and assert that you care about something – be it a person, a cause, a terrible act of violence committed against someone – say how sad you are about it, urge everyone how badly and direly things need to change, even hold speeches and make announcements but without any real intention of actually changing things?

This is how I feel on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre of 26 people – most of whom were children.

Here we are, a year later, and basically nothing has changed in terms of gun laws in this country. Wal-mart still offers two-for-one deals, you can still buy all the arsenal you want online or in person and no one will as much as care to think twice why you need it. Nothing. Guns are still available galore and even our President, who seems to have shed his last piece of backbone at the door, only had this half-assed, dispassionate thing to say in his radio address today:

We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for.

Obama also observed a moment of silence and lit candles at the White House in honor of the victims.

How swell of him.

The gun lobby in this country is so strong and our legislators so beholden to them and the gun manufacturers that line their pockets, that even the brutal massacre of children did not present the breaking point prompting our lawmakers to enact true, meaningful gun-regulation legislation. Obama cares about and supports making communities safer but is clearly not able and/or willing to do what it takes to make them safer because I can promise you that half-assed, generic speeches about how the children are our future and how we need to teach them well and help lead them way mean diddly if those half heart-warming speeches are not backed up by meaningful legislation aimed at addressing the root cause.

Those children are dead because the NRA has made obtaining guns in this country easier than obtaining a checking account.

The only reform that did come out of this was background checks which means absolutely nothing because both the Sandy Hook assailant and the Colorado one  – and in fact most of the shooting assaialtns – did not have criminal backgrounds that would have alerted anyone in the first place. In fact, the Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza took his mother’s guns – rendering the whole background check as a condition for gun ownership quite frankly a useless piece of legislation seemingly more intent at keeping the critics quiet by giving them the illusion of victory and that something was done – even if that something was as meaningless as Obama’s first term.

Money Speaks Louder Than The Lives of Children Lost

As long as money is worshiped more than the lives of kids, you can have the entire nation stay silent for a month in memory of children lost to gun violence and still there would be no legislation coming from our leaders – Republicans and Democrats alike – in support of controlling this out-of-control society’s love affair with guns. Let’s face it, the NRA is just a tool of gun manufacturers, and those foolish enough to back the NRA in it’s war against America’s kids and therefore this country’s future, are used like so much spent shells in a shotgun.

That money, coupled with support of ignorant sheeple is the backbone that breaks the back of all common sense and decency is nothing new. See climate change, for example. The evidence of it happening is right before us, just as the evidence of gun violence is right before us in widescreen, in all it’s bright and gory and vivid technicolor 3D, but our leaders just don’t want to touch an issue when profits come before life, and this from the party that claims to be pro-life.

The GOP speaks of focusing on the mentally ill (a vulnerable and already marginalized segment of our society, the majority of whom are not violent) rather than guns, at the same time Republicans play the paranoid card and use it get their constituents “crazy” with a buzzing in their heads about black helicopters hovering over their constituents homes ready to jump out and take everyone’s guns away. It’s money however that the NRA uses to back these republicans and money gun manufacturers uses to load the guns that the NRA uses to help shoot down legislation the NRA even once supported–universal background checks.

Gun Lobby At a Glance

According to Opensecrets.org,  the National Rifle Association accounts for about 60 percent of what gun rights interest groups spent on lobbying in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012. The other gun rights advocates include the Gun Owners of America; the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms; The National Shooting Sports FoundationSafari Club International;Boone & Crockett Club, a group that aims to preserve a “hunting heritage”; and The Ohio Gun Collectors Association.

The NRA alone has spent more than ten times as much as gun control interest groups on lobbying in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012.

Gin control

For gun rights groups, 2012 was the most active election cyclesince 2000. They contributed a total of $3 million to candidates, 96 percent of them Republicans, through mid-October. That also makes 2012 its most Republican election cycle, with 2000 and 2002 close behind with 93 percent of contributions going to Republicans.

Even after Newtown, when a flush of new money was injected into lobbying efforts on both sides, the anti-reform effort was spending $12.2 million to gun safety’s $1.6 million — or about seven times more. As Gallup data shows public support for gun safety correlating broadly to years where reform efforts were well funded, the necessity for gun reform of competing, dollar for dollar, with its opponents has never been more urgent.

When it comes to financing their lobbying efforts, anti-reform forces have a much better system in place. First of all, the NRA and other groups that spend directly on federal lobbying themselves receive massive financial support from the gun manufacturing industry. In other words, the anti-reform movement benefits from having a large, lucrative industry — one with a financial stake in opposing new safety regulations. If there were a single industry that were docked dollars and cents every time someone was shot in America, then maybe the reform movement would have a similar sponsor. But there isn’t, and this might be one advantage the NRA always keeps.

However, industry backing is just the icing on the cake. The NRA already has a national, grassroots fundraising operates that alone can sustain millions of dollars in annual lobbying. It received $100 million (approximately half of its budget) in 2010 from voluntary contributions alone. The NRA also has agreements with many gun manufacturers and retailers where they receive a contribution with every gun sale. Additionally, the NRA Foundation gives out thousands of community grants every year, benefiting everything from gun safety programming to the Boy Scouts and no doubt contributing to the loyalty they enjoy from their base. The NRA doesn’t have to rely on current events or outrage to finance their federal lobbying efforts; they have a financing machine that allows them to have an institutional presence in Washington.

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But you know, children are our future and we need to make communities safe in America blah blah yawn – let’s pick up a candle, light it and stay silent for 15 minutes and then our legislators can all go back and collect blood money from the NRA and the gun manufacturers pretending that the blood spilled in Sandy Hook or Colorado or during any of the gun violence incidences wasn’t on their hands since they did hold a vigil and talk about the importance of keeping our communities safe and even went after the mentally ill as clearly those suffering from mental illness are the problem as opposed to gun manufactures, their lobbying arms, the NRA, and the corrupt politicians  – including Obama  – who are beholden to them.

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