Gar Smith / The Berkeley Daily Planet
(September 11, 2020) — Donald Trump has been mercilessly attacked for denigrating the combat deaths of members of the US armed forces. As we have all recently learned, during his November 2018 visit to Paris to mark the centennial of the World War I Armistice, “hallowed ground” where more than 116,000 US military personnel died, “Cadet Bone Spurs” (a fellow who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War with a record five deferments!) refused to take a 90-minute drive to join other world leaders at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in a commemoration of the Allied dead. Instead, Trump asked: “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” Trump went on to mock the 1,800-plus Marines killed in the Battle of Belleau Wood as “suckers.” Presumably by not dodging the bullets or (as in Trump’s case) dodging the draft.
No president has ever uttered such a disgraceful dismissal of “America’s fallen heroes.” Just listen to what 98-year-old WWII survivor Pvt. Dan Crowley has to say:
Trump scurried to cover his suddenly exposed flank by conscripting Breitbart to mount a campaign of support from the right-wing website’s uniformed readers. That effort generated proclamations of support from 700 veterans. In response, the veterans at Common Defense pointed out that Breitbart’s tally of vet votes constituted a mere “0.00038% of America’s veteran population.” Alex McCoy, a former Marine who serves as political director of Common Defense, declared: “We are proud to be a grassroots movement of ‘losers and suckers’organizing to #EndForeverWar, defeat Trump, and win a country where liberty and justice truly is for all.”
Common Defense has now posted its own anti-Trump appeal to enlist thousands of “suckers and losers” who a willing to put their names on the line in opposition to Trump’s ruinous reign.
But what if Trump is not totally wrong?
Were Hundreds of Thousands of Dead Americans “Suckers”?
It could be argued that young men who feel the urge to enlist in the US Armed Forces have been “suckered” — by the words of our leaders and the militarism and “exceptionalist” propaganda engrained in our culture. These forces include — war-glorifying Hollywood blockbusters, up-armed TV serials, patriotic anthems, comic books, Bowderlized history texts, point-and-shoot videogames, and ultimately, by faked casus belli provocations and outright falsehoods used by multiple presidents who have “lied us” into war.
Remember “Remember the Maine,” The “Sneak Attack on Pearl Harbor,” The “Tonkin Gulf Incident,” Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “Weapons of Mass Destruction”? And trigger for the Global War on Terror: “The 9/11 Attack,” in which the alleged sky-jackers (and much of their financing) were ultimately traced to Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan.
So, anyone who enlisted to “defend the homeland” in response to “fake news” provided by the government in Washington (no matter how brave, patriotic, and self-sacrificing they may have been) could fairly be seen as individuals who had been “suckered” into service.
Condemning Trump While Defending America’s Wars
So it’s painful to hear the Democrats responding to Trump’s cruel insults by gearing up the engines of patriotic hoo-haw — complete with sloganeering about ‘brave soldiers fighting to defend our country.”
Defend our country? The US hasn’t defended our country since the War of 1812. Instead, the US has spent most of its 244 years invading other countries — “from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”
According to a study by historians Christopher Kelly and Stuart Laycock, the US has invaded 84 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations and has been “militarily involved” with 191 — a staggering 98 percent. There are only three countries that have never felt the pressure of a US military boot — Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein. The US even has troops stationed in Antarctica, the only demilitarised continent in the world.
Here is a partial list of countries invaded by the US:
In the two decades since September 11, three presidents have used the 9/11 attack to justify 41 military adventures targeting 19 other nations. According to Win Without War, America’s “endless wars” have killed 800,000 people around the globe, “driven by the Pentagon, egged on by corrupt multi-billion dollar defense corporations and arms dealers, and funded by warhawks in Congress.”
And Donald Trump agrees.
As the Commander-in-Chief told reporters on September 7: “The top people in the Pentagon . . . want to do nothing but fight wars so all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay healthy.”
Of course, Trump also likes to trumpet his ability to strike billion-dollar arms deals with foreign countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel. Even more troubling is the prospect that Trump may have a personal interest in conflict — one that poses a conflict-of-interest.
We have yet to see Trump’s income tax statements but we do know that, prior to becoming the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, he had money invested in Raytheon, a weapons contractor that builds Tomahawk missiles for the Pentagon. On April 6, 2017, Trump ordered two US naval vessels to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at targets inside Syria. Each missile cost US taxpayers $1.87 million (FY2017). Because each missile fired had to be replaced, Raytheon’s stock surged after the attack.
The False Propaganda of “Sacrifice”
As even Fox News reported, Trump also criticized the Vietnam War, stating: ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.” While that’s a fair assessment of the war itself, it’s a pretty harsh judgment to impose on the 359,226 Americans killed and injured during that brutal US war of aggression. Unfortunately, Trump failed to condemn the political system and military complex responsible for the deaths of 2,000,000 Vietnamese civilians.
The Hypnotic Words of War
It’s worth noting how the nomenclature of war is used to mask the reality of death — another tool employed to “sucker” soldiers, their families, and supporters.
The familiar phrase “loss of life” is a cruel euphemism. A soldier does not “lose” his life and cannot recoup a “misplaced” existence. Other war-culture sucker-slogans include “laying down your life,” “making the ultimate sacrifice,” and joining the ranks of “the fallen.” To call soldiers “fallen heroes” makes it sound as if their deaths were the result of some clumsy misstep on the part of the soldier. (“Johnny tripped over a landmine.” “Frank fell victim to a sniper.”)
Most soldiers do not freely hand over their lives as a gift to “God and country.” They have their lives taken from them. A soldier who saves his companions by throwing himself on a live grenade can clearly be called a hero. A soldier who believes in his cause so deeply that he is willing to sacrifice his life for God and Country can also be called a martyr. Depending on which side of the battle line the sacrifice occurs, the individual can be called “a heroic patriot” or “a suicidal terrorist.”
So Much for “Suckers.” Now Let’s Talk About “Losers”
If you want to talk about “losers,” how about the thousands of maimed soldiers who lost hands, feet, arms, and legs during their service? Not to mention those who lost their lives (407,000 killed and 25,000,000 wounded in WWII; 58,220 killed and 304,000 wounded in Vietnam; 3,502 dead and 20,719 wounded in Afghanistan — as of May 2020.)
These victims of war are clearly “losers” in Trump’s mind. He has expressed a craving to preside over massive military parades in Washington as long as they exclude any disfigured Purple Heart winners with missing limbs. “Not a good look,” Trump says. “Nobody wants to see that.”
Even when they return from Washington’s wars (or non-combat assignments at more than 800 US bases in foreign countries), many American soldiers find themselves to be “losers” even after they’ve been mustered out of the service. More than 9% of all adults experiencing homelessness in the US are military veterans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 40,056 veterans are homeless on any given night.
How War Celebrates “Victors” and Forgets the “Losers”
In his criticism of Trump’s insults, Joe Biden cited his son Beau, who spent most of 2009 serving at two US military bases in Iraq. “He wasn’t a sucker. The servicemen and women he served with, particularly those who did not come home, were not losers,” Biden said.
But Beau Biden’s bravery and his motivation as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard did not protect him from becoming a “loser.”
Beau Biden lost his life due to glioblastoma multiforme, a form of brain cancer that some doctors have linked to exposure to toxins released by Pentagon “burn pits.” The younger Biden was stationed at Baghdad’s Camp Victory and at the Balad Air Force Base in Iraq — both of which hosted large burn pits that routinely incinerated plastics, chemicals, paints, solvents, batteries, tires, and medical wastes.
During a PBS interview, Biden spoke of reading Joseph Hickman’s book, “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” which featured an entire chapter on his son’s brain cancer and its likely link to his military service.
“That stunned me,” Biden said. “I didn’t know that [during his service in Kosovo and Iraq] . . .he was co-located in both times near these burn pits.”
Beau Biden did not die during an act of heroism on the battlefield, Instead, there’s a strong chance that Beau Biden died from unnecessary exposure to preventable Pentagon pollution.
Joe Biden has spoken eloquently of the death of his son. Unfortunately, in less eloquent terms, Beau Biden’s military service turned him into a “loser” — one of thousands of sick and dying US veterans who inhaled the deadly smoke pouring from the Pentagon’s incineration sites.
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