With the recent passing of Veterans Day, social media, TV shows, and commercials were singing the praises of the brave men and women who defend America. Reading or listening to some of the praises heaped upon them, one would think that America would long ago have been overrun by barbaric hordes intent on enslaving and pillaging the entire country. Yet, such statements betray a lack of critical thinking on the part of those from whose lips such profuse praise pours forth.
When people thank soldiers for their service, does anyone stop and ask what the service being rendered is? Are the soldiers stopping hosts of invaders from sweeping in and destroying life as we know it? Are they repelling seaborne invaders making landfall on the East Coast? Clearly not.
Rather these soldiers are either on garrison duty domestically, deployed internationally to maintain the United States’ so-called strategic interests in places like Germany, Japan, Korea, Bahrain, and Italy, or they are fighting insurgencies in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, in order to spread American global hegemony.
The story goes that the troops are hunting down dangerous terrorists and enemies of the United States, who would attack us here at home. Yet, why would people want to attack us? If confronted with this question, many people would simply reply that terrorists (communists, fascists, and whoever else needs to be fought) hate us for our freedoms and our ways of life.
Such an answer is certainly convenient. The American way is supposedly the way of justice, freedom, and prosperity. Since anyone who opposes such things is clearly evil, saying America’s enemies hate us for our freedoms and way of life automatically dehumanizes them.
However, like most things in life, the reality is more complicated. The truth is that very few of America’s enemies wish to harm the inhabitants of the United States because our way of life and the freedom we enjoy.
Few people would be willing to die because of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, or because Americans have freedom of religion and a cosmopolitan society. People are willing to die to defend themselves, their families, and their society when they perceive it to be under attack. And it is very clear that many of the people who wish to harm the United States perceive themselves to be under attack.
Because most Americans continue to believe that their enemies are motivated by hatred of what America is, rather than what America does, they misunderstand our enemies. Because American’s fail to see the negative effects of their own government’s foreign policy, and how it contributes to increased hatred of the United States, they continue to make the same mistakes again and again.
Thus the current situation in the Middle East is no surprise. Hundreds of billions of dollars, and thousands of lives, have been lost, and the Middle East is now a more dangerous place than before the War on Terror began. And we are now told that defeating ISIS may take decades.
If you really care about someone, you tell them the truth. And the truth is that rather than protecting America, soldiers are making America less safe by carrying out the self-serving foreign policy of the political establishment. American soldiers are being used as pawns to promote an endless cycle of violence, in the Middle-East and elsewhere, which benefits no-one but the special interests who profit from war, and the political lapdogs they support.
General Smedly Butler, one of the most decorated Marines in history, once declared: “I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers” In his booklet War is a Racket he summed up war as being an instance in which “a few profit—and the many pay”.
That is the hard truth that people must face if they really want to support the troops. The truth that they are not making America safer. The truth that the soldiers who have died, have died in vain, for no purpose other than to continue the cycle of violence in order to profit the military industrial complex. Unless people are willing to accept these hard truths and do something to change them, then American soldiers will continue to have their lives stolen from them so that the few may profit at the expense of the many.
Zachary Yost is a Young Voices Advocate who works in the D.C. area.