Two Reflections on Veterans' Day
November 13, 2015
Dan Sanchez / The AntiMedia & Jon Carroll / The San Francisco Chronicle
Commentary: Anti-war activists are sometimes scolded that they owe their freedom to speak out against war to the very soldiers they are criticizing. This is meant to silence opposition to war by making it appear self-contradictory. However, for a very long time, American wars have only been foreign wars, not fought in defense against foreign conquest of our homeland but, rather, wars of invasion and conquests of the homelands of others.
On Veterans Day, Who Should Thank Whom?
Dan Sanchez / The AntiMedia & AntiWar.com
"You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. (. . .) You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. (. . .) I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. . . "
– Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men
(November 11, 2015) -- Anti-war activists are sometimes scolded that they owe their freedom to speak out against war to the very soldiers they are implicitly or explicitly criticizing. This is meant to silence opposition to war by making it appear self-contradictory.
However, for a very long time, American wars have only been foreign wars. None of these wars (especially not the most recent ones) have been in defense against foreign conquest of our homeland. Rather, the wars were themselves invasions and conquests of the homelands of others.
Moreover, the wars have not diminished, but multiplied our foreign enemies. They have toppled non-threats, like Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and created new actual threats, like Al Qaeda in Iraq, which evolved into ISIS and Syrian Al Qaeda.Amid the chaos that U.S. wars have created, such groups have thrived and grown explosively.
Yet even so, the chief threat to our freedoms is our own government, not any foreign foe. And if anything, the activity of soldiers has contributed to, not defended against, that threat.
Randolph Bourne famously wrote, "War is the health of the State." By that he meant that foreign wars nourish domestic tyranny because they place people into a siege mentality that makes them more apt to give up their freedoms for the sake of the war effort. And indeed, the American national security state, from militarized cops to domestic spying, has metastasized under the cover of the War on Terror.
So, no, the activity of U.S. soldiers has not secured our freedoms, but eroded them. More specifically, contrary to the common argument discussed above, the troops are not busy protecting freedom of speech for all Americans, including those who are anti-war. Rather, by contributing to foreign wars, they make it more likely that someday the country's siege mentality will get so bad that speech (especially anti-war speech) will be restricted.
Since foreign wars are inimical to domestic freedom, it is those who strenuously oppose war who are actually fighting for freedom. If not for opponents and skeptics of war, we would have even more war than we do. And in that case, individual freedoms would have been even more infringed upon.
This is especially true for soldiers. If we were even more mired in war, soldiers would have longer and more frequent tours of duty and be more likely to be conscripted in a backdoor draft. They would also be more likely to face combat, and thus more likely to be traumatized, maimed, or killed.
It is anti-war, not pro-war civilians who truly support the troops. And it is anti-war activists who strive to secure the freedoms (and lives) of imperial troopers, not the other way around.
On Veterans Day, thank veterans of the anti-war movement for their service, especially if you made the mistake (perhaps with the best intentions) of enlisting in the war machine. But don't bother thanking them with words. The best way to thank them is by joining them in the struggle for peace. Then a year from today, from the bottom of our hearts, we can all thank you.
This article ( On Veterans Day, Who Should Thank Whom? ) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dan Sanchez and theAntiMedia.org. Originally published at theantimedia.org on November 11, 2015.
Thank You for Your Whatever It Was
Jon Carroll / The San Francisco Chronicle
(November 11, 2015) -- Oh, it was a rollicking good time. We had cheerleaders, we had football players, we had loud music, we had screaming fans. We also had a huge American flag, an honor guard of some sort, a moment of silence for the fallen. And the national anthem, sung by the Broadway star or the local 10-year-old prodigy -- guaranteed to bring a tear, if not open weeping.
This happened all over the country, every place an NFL game was staged. It was a Veterans Day extravaganza. The coaches were wearing khaki or camouflage outfits, with camouflage accessories, even camouflage headphones. And who could be cynical about it? It's our vets. We love our vets. Maybe not enough to give them adequate medical care or a good job, but still.
But every time you relax your guard and say, "At last, something I don't have to be cynical about," reality slaps you around.
Turns out the Pentagon has been paying NFL teams to create an appropriate patriotism-athon for the pregame festivities. All that solidarity with the troops was greased by money. The Pentagon believes that great spectacles of military sentimentality increase recruitment numbers.
The military has a little image problem. It needs to deflect the conversation away from Abu Ghraib and the bombed hospital in Afghanistan. Be a soldier! Everyone will love you. Look at the cheerleader, kicking high -- she'll love you. I mean, really love you.
Look, I'm a soldier fan, although not for conventional reasons. I believe that, like soldiers in many countries over many centuries, the United States armed forces have been sold a bill of goods. I feel bad for them, the way I feel bad for anyone who has been misused by their nation. They take the brunt of the craziness.
When people enlist, foreign policy is not their concern. They are sent to serve in various hellholes, because any country at war is a hellhole. Their enemies are shadowy. It is unclear in what way they threaten America. It's unclear whether anyone wants our soldiers there. And yet they fight, and yet they die. For nothing.
And they come to understand that. That's the terrible thing. What do soldiers inevitably talk about when they get home? Their buddies. The soldiers that they've been thrown together with, and have sworn blood oaths to die for. They are often united in their hatred of civilians, who don't understand. And they have all seen the same horrors and have scars, not all of them physical, that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
Most soldiers work behind the lines; they augment policies. They're not supposed to think about larger issues, but they do. Which is scary for the Pentagon, because Edward Snowden was also a guy who started to think. So the Army watches itself, the Navy watches itself, and each is watched in turn by others ... it's a poisonous atmosphere.
But here's a lovely jacket, decorated in colors that were designed to allow the wearer to hide in the countryside so she won't get blown up by a 60mm mortar that was stolen from an Iraqi army depot. Survival gear, made fashionable! Don't shoot me, I'm a patriot.
Who says football should be involved in professional soldiering? Who says soldiers are good role models? Let's ask the executives at the various football teams: Would you want your son or daughter to be a soldier? Or, if your son were a talented football player, would you advise him to enlist with the Marines? Country before career, right?
Roger Goodell did not serve in the armed forces. He has two daughters; it is unclear whether he's grooming them for a life in the military. His wife, Jane Skinner, a former Fox news reporter, also did not volunteer for military life.
Which is fine; I didn't volunteer either. But neither did I use the memory of fallen soldiers as an occasion for branding. Nor did I make active duty soldiers strut around so I could rake in a few bucks.
The late Pat Tillman was lionized by the NFL. He achieved hero status; he abandoned his lucrative NFL career and was sent to Afghanistan, where he died. By that time, he had become an opponent of the war, and of the military brass who got us into war. That last part wasn't mentioned.
Nor did any notable football stars say "me too" and rush off to the local recruiting station. No, they learned how to say "Thank you for your service," which is just as easy as "I'm sorry for your loss." Thank you for your service, not that I would have done something like that, but you did so I didn't have to, so thanks for allowing me to get on with my life while you did, you know, whatever.
Empty pomp, punctuated by moments of self-congratulation. Isn't the security state fun?
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.