This article was first posted on Straight Line Logic on Memorial Day, 2015. It will be published every Memorial Day for as long as SLL continues as a website.
You don’t fight for your country, you fight for your government.
The Golden Pinnacle, by Robert Gore
On Memorial Day, America remembers and honors those who died while serving in the military. It is altogether fitting and proper to ask: for what did they die? Do the rationales offered by the military and government officials who decide when and how the US will go to war, and embraced by the public, particularly those who lose loved ones, stand up to scrutiny and analysis? Some will recoil, claiming it inappropriate on a day devoted to honoring the dead. However, it is because war is a matter of life and death, for members of the military and inevitably civilians, that its putative justifications be subject to the strictest tests of truth and the most probing of analyses.
Millions have marched off to war believing they were defending the US, which implies the US was under attack. Yet, setting aside for a moment Pearl Harbor and 9/11, US territory hasn’t been invaded by a foreign power since the Mexican-American War (arguably—Mexico claimed the territory it “invaded” was part of Mexico), or, if the Confederacy is considered a foreign power, the Civil War. That war ended a century-and-a-half ago, yet every US military involvement since has been justified as a defense of the US. That has gradually attenuated, in a little noted slide, to a defense of US “interests,” which is something far different.
Only one of those involvements could, arguably, have been said to have forestalled not an invasion, but a possible threat of invasion: World War II. Watching newsreel graphics of Germany’s drives across Europe, Northern Africa, and the USSR, and Japan’s across Asia and the Pacific, it was perhaps understandable that Americans believed the Axis powers would eventually come for them, especially after Pearl Harbor. However, that was a one-off attack by the Japanese to disable the US’s Pacific Fleet. To launch an invasion of the US, Japan, a smaller, less populated nation whose economy depended on imports of vital raw materials, including oil, would have had to cross the Pacific and fight the US, and undoubtedly Canada, on their home territories. The Pearl Harbor attack, provoking America’s entry into the war, proved a strategic blunder for the Japanese. An invasion would have been ludicrous. Similarly, Germany, up to its eyeballs in a two-front war, couldn’t conquer Russian winters or Great Britain across the English Channel. How was it supposed to either cross the Atlantic, or the USSR and hostile guerrillas, then the Pacific, and attack the US? That, too, would have been ludicrous.
The 9/11 attack was also a one-off. A majority of the attackers came not from a US enemy but rather a supposed ally, Saudi Arabia. They received funding and other support from people in that country and perhaps its government. A conventional war against a “state sponsor of terrorism” might have required war against Saudi Arabia; it is still not clear how involved its government was. That option was never considered. Rather, the Bush administration performed metaphysical gymnastics and launched the first war in history against a tactic: terrorism. Although the jihadists who perpetrated 9/11 were self-evidently not the vanguard of an invasion, the terrorism they employed was deemed a threat to US interests in the Middle East, and to life and property in the US. However, none of our subsequent involvements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen have been necessary to maintain US citizens’ freedoms, the nation’s territorial integrity, or its lives and property.
There are undoubtedly many epitaphs on tombstones in this country to the effect: Here lies the deceased, who died defending America, and not one that reads: Here lies the deceased, who died defending American interests. However, the latter is in most cases more accurate than the former. Who decides the interests for which members of America’s military will die? Those considering entering the military today must look beyond the slogans, contemplate the risks of being killed, wounded, dismembered, paralyzed, or psychologically traumatized, and ask themselves: why and for whom are these risks being borne? You don’t fight for your country, you fight for your government. Is it worth risking one’s life for the US government?
In 1821, John Quincy Adams said America had not gone “abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” and while we wished those seeking liberty well, theirs was not our fight (see “In Search of Monsters,” SLL, 4/11/15). Since then, America has searched for monsters, found, and in some cases, destroyed them. However, as the poison of power has worked its evil on the minds and souls of those who possess it, the monsters have become more ethereal, apparitions conjured like creatures in the closet by children when they go to bed. The war on terrorism creates more terrorists, the monsters of choice since 9/11. The government still pays occasional lip service to “democratic values” and “civil liberties,” but allies itself with regimes which have no more fealty to those values and liberties than the “tyrants” the government opposes. “Defending America” and “Promoting Our Way of Life” have become transparent pretexts for American power and domination unbounded. As Adams so presciently warned, the search for monsters has turned the government itself into a monster, the biggest threat to Americans’ “inextinguishable rights of human nature.”
Those who have fought and died to defend America and its freedoms are noble beyond measure. Those who pay self-serving tribute to their valor, but make war and expend lives as means to corrupt ends are evil beyond redemption. Honor the former; expose and oppose the latter.
@ Robert Gore
There is a small, slim volume of immense power for those open-minded enough to read it. I am referring to “War is a Racket,” published in 1935 and authored by U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler (retired), a much-decorated Marine who was/remains one of the few two-time recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Butler, a men of unimpeachable military credentials, retired from the Corps in 1931 with more than thirty years of service as a Marine. Passed over for the post of Commandant, he retired as the highest-ranking Marine officer stationed in China, having seen combat in hot-spots all around the world
ranging from Vera Cruz to Haiti and many points in between.
Butler realized at the twilight of his career the extent to which he and his fellow Marines had been used by the politicians and big businessmen as enforcers for their interests. He also realized the hard truth that the great majority of wars are elective and not truly necessary or unavoidable.
There are many famous quotes from the book, but the following are two of the most well-known:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
“WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
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General Butler was one of the few who acknowledged for just what kind of “interests” the American military fights and dies.
I’ve tried to get people to read that book, they don’t want their eyes and minds opened, it’s easier to keep repeating the same worn out patriotic cliches than to educate oneself to truth.
I served off the coast of VN in ’73 (BLT 1/9) since then I’ve come to understand we’re nothing but death merchants for the MIC and it’s paid off puppets. This does not have to keep repeating itself if only people would think instead of engaging their false ego’s first.
That post gets better every year, and more clear. Got quite a few deads I memorialize every year, and one day, I’ll be among them. Not a fear, not a problem. Knowledge is said to bring sadness, and that’s mostly true. I really wouldn’t want to spend eternity being sad, or looking back, else what’s a heaven for? I think in His Wisdom, our Maker gave us the life-span we have as a matter of His Mercy. Those with the shorter life-spans seem to be a matter of that too. I really don’t know why I have been allowed to live this long, but I’ll find out. In the meantime, it’s been everything from great to horrific. Part of the tour. I think days like today were made for us to get back to reality, and to settle down a bit. At Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, small hills are covered with white tombstones, everywhere. One of them is my brother, Gary. His death hurt me more than the death of my own daughter. He was a damn good Joe. What’s it all about? I guess part of the answer is the question.
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“As Adams so presciently warned, the search for monsters has turned the government itself into a monster, the biggest threat to Americans’ “inextinguishable rights of human nature.”
Sure Robert, but…
What about the monster that your government created when it developed the second amendment?
And the terrible war it has created domestically in your country?
You dare not speak of that.
Very simply put the 2nd amendment is to ensure our right to defend ourselves against an intolerable government.
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The same old tired and anachronistic reply.
Since the second amendment was ratified, how many times have you had to defend yourself against the “intolerable” government?
Enjoy your work Mr. Gore. I’m in my early 70s, was in The Corps in the late ’60s, early ’70s. My wife was watching some star spangled cartoon on television tonight and asked if I wanted to watch. I told her no. As I exited the room I felt used. And I felt angry. Not much more to say other than it’s a hell of a thing to approach the end of your time on Earth, and feel as if you’ve been played.
It’s no consolation, but we’ve all been played, in many different ways. However, the stakes are higher for people who are or were in the military.
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Jan 10, 2011 War is a Lie
.In talks at San Jose Peace & Justice Center and in Santa Cruz, historian David Swanson revealed the truth behind the lies that led to the wars held sacred by many — the American Revolution, the Civil War and World War II.
May 16, 2014 90% of All Deaths In War Are Civilians