Serving the Empire, Killing for Lies

We made it through another Memorial Day. Thankfully, most people think of it as just the start of summer. They don’t seem to use it as America’s political leaders have long wanted: as a day of reverence for America’s world domination.

In his radio address this past Saturday President Obama urged all Americans to “serve” the members of the armed forces “as well as they served us.” He called on us to remember the 5,400 Americans “who laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens” in Iraq and Afghanistan. He assured us that “the men and women serving this country around the world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home safely” (emphasis added). He also praised every war in American history as a hallowed effort to protect the nation.

Once again an American president lies to sanctify war.

Some questions should be obvious: how exactly are the armed forces today serving us or the country? And what are those men and women of the military doing “around the world”? Why didn’t Obama mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis killed by American forces in the latest operations?

Don’t say that American forces are protecting us. Those troops may be serving the government and the “private” component of the military-industrial complex, but that has nothing to do with average Americans, who would be far safer — not to mention richer — if the trillion dollars spent every year on military-related matters were simply left in the taxpayers’ pockets.

It is way past time that the American people started seeing through the nonsense. That isn’t rocket science. Consider recent events:

Fact 1: The U.S. government is using robot Predator planes to shoot Hellfire missiles into Pakistan (and Afghanistan). Innocent men, women, and children are being killed or maimed regularly.

Fact 2: A Pakistani-American tries to blow up a car in Times Square.

How much effort does it take to connect those two dots? Can we really comfort ourselves by thinking that Faisal Shahzad was just a fanatical Muslim — counseled and trained by bad guys “over there” — bent on killing innocent Americans because he hates our way of life?

You have to be a damned fool to keep believing such balderdash.

Presidents and secretaries of State want us to believe that the U.S. government (which they conflate with “the country”) did nothing to provoke the crimes known as “terrorism,” which they then use to excuse all manner of violence and violations of liberty. (Strangely, Predator attacks don’t meet the official definition of “terrorism.”) But the facts refuting that ridiculous claim are readily available. Any curious American — an oxymoron? — can easily find out just how much U.S. regimes have done to create hostility and a desire for revenge in the hearts of Muslims. Start with the CIA operation in Iran in 1953.

The apologists for U.S. policy will say it was all done for peace, democracy, and prosperity. Then why does it always bring war, death, broken bodies, torture, misery, starvation, and disease? The war planners are not stupid. They see the results. They know what they are doing. Then they dupe others — too willing to be duped — into following orders and rationalizing their acts as necessary to national security.

Maybe this deadly con will never cease, but if it does it will be because we finally refused to pay respect to those who lead and fight the wars. We will have stopped believing that dying and killing for the empire is noble. In the movie The Americanization of Emily, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky has his protagonist say, “We shall never end wars … by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It’s the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers, the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows’ weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices…. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution.”

Remember that next Memorial Day.

SHELDON RICHMAN is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation ( and editor of The Freeman magazine.




Sheldon Richman, author of Coming to Palestine, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.