Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Veterans Day reading

One thing you learn after living outside the United States for awhile is that other countries do not fetishize soldiers and military service quite like Americans do, their cultures being nowhere near as militarized. Televised sporting events, for instance, do not begin by saluting the brave men and women abroad helping kill poor foreigners for Our Freedom. Uniformed military personnel aren't used to sell shitty beer at half time. The armed forces aren't billed to potential recruits as a more glamorous version of ITT Tech.

In the land of the free, by golly, we sure do love The Troops, don't we? We Americans salute their service even as a solid majority of us concede that the war in Iraq was, if not a grave crime, at least a mistake -- oops! we just killed a couple hundred thousand A-rabs -- and agree that the occupation of Afghanistan is a waste of (American) lives and money.

This love is curious for a nation that likes to bend over and blow itself for being the world's most free and ruggedly individualistic. And it's dangerous: how many people have chosen to become the American empires hired guns because they were led to believe it was a just and honorable profession?

It's not, mind you, that I think we ought to shout "baby killer!" and hock a loogie at anyone in uniform -- generals and recruiters, sure -- but neither should we heap praise on those who have chosen a profession that just in the last couple decades has asked them to kill people in at least a half-dozen unjust wars from Panama to Pakistan. That decent, upstanding men and women sometimes join the military and become part of the evil enterprise of empire should be lamented, not lauded, lest other impressionable young people come to the conclusion that there's any honor in mass murder.

But I've said this before. Humor me this holy Veterans Day and check out some of my past writings on the topic of America's wars and the saluting of the rank-and-file soldiers who make them possible:
 -- "That anti-patriotic feeling": It is said that soldiers don't decide the policy, they just follow orders. Fair enough. But is suspending one's conscience in the service of an immoral act a praiseworthy move?

-- "On 'supporting the troops'": The U.S. women's soccer team took time during a recent match to, literally and rather creepily, the American troops in attendance for their "service." But their service isn't an abstraction, so shouldn't the decision to salute them be based on the reality of what it actually entails?

-- "'Unconditional' allegiance is for machines, not people": Liberal blogger Adam Serwer says we "should support servicemembers unconditionally because their service is unconditional." I call bullshit.


  1. "bend over and blow itself" cost me some cheap grocery label coffee and a the rag I had to use to wipe it up

  2. This is usually one of the most depressing days of the year. All the weird, mindless idiocies come out in all the empty slogans.

    A representative Facebook comment:

    I'll never appreciate war, but I'll always respect warriors. Don't let politicians or profiteers muddy the fact that there are men and women who have bigger balls than most as they suffer bombs and bullets as part of their daily routine.

    I wonder if we could convince the Occupy clowns to camp out in war-torn areas, because then they'd REALLY be making a difference.

    This (journalist's) illogical, mockable bit of brilliance got five "Likes".

  3. jcapan3:05 PM

    "A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things they have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil."

    "How to Tell a True War Story," Tim O'Brien, 1990

  4. I applaud your bravery. Those who are really courageous and free are those who challenge, not acquiesce to the state. It would seem elementary that by becoming a voluntary agent of the state, it is perhaps the antithesis of freedom. The insanity of these people 'fighting' for freedom by (happily) joining the very thing that enslaves them is maddening. These people are lost.