• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Only Way to Honor Veterans is to Stop Producing Them

I offer a post-Memorial Day reflection on a holiday I have never liked.  I propose instead a sober, fearless national examination the other 364 days each year on our endless imperial wars, with the last Monday in May reserved for a day off to experience what life might feel like without them.

I also deplore focus on America’s war dead rather than the far, far greater numbers America has killed in our nearly continuous wars of choice.  The aggregate death toll in Southeast Asia in the 1970s inflicted by direct, indirect and proxy US aggression and political destabilization in Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia was approximately 7,650,000.  The US death toll was 58,220, a ratio in our favor of 132/1. In our gratuitously justified “War on Terror” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Physicians for Social Responsibility estimated 1.3 million Muslims killed while some 6,800 Americans have died, a ratio of 191/1. And that estimate excluded our destruction of Libya and ongoing proxy war on Syria with an American death toll limited to four in Benghazi and probably a few Special Forces “advisers” in Syria. Our victims deserve at least six to ten months of continuous memorial days to one day of ours, and our appropriate national mood should be not grief but remorse.

Public support for US wars depends upon racist propaganda: abstract categorization of other people with dehumanization of the category, what 19th Century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called “invidious distinctions” that obliterate others’ personal identity, dignity and value. Bewitched by invidious language, well-meaning but naive recruits to fight our imperial wars return irreversibly traumatized by indelible, inescapable memories of the people – not “gooks,” “hajis,” “ragheads” or 10-year-old “enemy combatants” – they have killed and/or seen killed. For memorial day reflections I recommend video testimonies at the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings in Silver Springs, MD, archived at the IVAW.org website and Democracy Now! For memorial day realism, the talk there by Jeremy Scahill remains as relevant today as it was eight years ago.  And the talk by Dr. Dahlia Wasfi (at 13:50) memorializes Rachel Corrie, a war hero and victim without weapon or uniform.

Throughout living memory our country has displayed a repeated dysfunctional cultural script, not a moral growth curve, not cultural maturation. In a 1933 speech, the once most decorated Marine in US history, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, recounted, “I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

“During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

In his 1935 book, War is a Racket, Butler continued, “A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.”

Butler’s experience-based understanding is conceptualized by Princeton political theorist Sheldon Wolin as “inverted totalitarianism” where industrial capitalism controls the state rather than 1930s fascism where the state dictated the industrial agenda.  Now facing imminent, catastrophic climate change with human and most other life hanging in the balance, we must starve the military-industrial beast and shift our resources to massive alternative energy development, planetary reforestation and soil restoration, and other climate change abatement measures. To do so we must dismantle the propaganda machine propelling resources into self-degrading international violence.

Every high school in America should assign Butler’s short book as homework before, over or after the Memorial Day holiday weekend, followed by lessons disclosing to every prospective military recruit the bloody truth of our monstrous, unbroken record of post-WWII violence and wholesale violations of international law.

Similarly, on MLK day, more important than the “I have a dream” speech, students should study King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech where he declared our country “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Nearly a half century later nothing has changed.  New generations must question why, arise against war, and do so quickly.

Less innocent than they appear, holidays typically serve mythic agendas. Heroic tales supplant essential facts and perspectives we desperately need. The truth of America’s relentless imperial militarism necessary to radically shift our priorities is never told.

The only meaningful way to honor veterans is to stop producing them by dishonoring war.

More articles by:

Jack Dresser, Ph.D. is National vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon  

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail