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No More Worshiping of the Military

Photo by The U.S. Army | CC BY 2.0

I was in the grocery store a while back when, after my items were tabulated, the checkout clerk asked, “Would you like to contribute to the Wounded Warriors fund?”

I glanced at the line of people to my left — a little cross-section of America — and feeling a little skeptical about how they’d respond, I said, “No I don’t think so. I’d rather put my money towards some anti-war organization working to try and make sure that there are no more wounded soldiers, and to relief organizations that are supporting the hundreds of thousands of victims of America’s illegal wars abroad.”

The clerk looked a little taken aback and muttered “okay,” but to my surprise, nobody spoke up in the line. I was expecting at least one person to call me out as a “terrorist supporter” or a “commie” or who knows what, but instead there was just silence.

Maybe people were thinking about it. Maybe they just didn’t know how to react.

But in any case I think it’s past time that we on the anti-war left started making it clear that this glorification of American wars, the thanking of people in uniform for their “service,” and the blind acceptance of the prevailing argument that everyone in the military is “defending our freedom,” has to be challenged at every opportunity.

Look at the map of the globe. According to Nick Turse, writing in the Nation magazine and quoting information from Ken McGraw, a spokesman for troops are fighting in the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, US Special Forces are stationed in 177 countries, and on any given day are conducting missions — actual or training missions — in 80-90 of them. As we saw recently with the deaths of several Green Berets in Niger, even members of Congress with a need-to-know responsibility, like those on the Intelligence Committees and Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate, don’t know (or claim they don’t know) where all those operations and those Special Forces are.

As well, US troops are fighting hot wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, most of them completely illegal, like most of the Special Operations actions, and the drone wars in a host of other countries from Pakistan and Yemen to Somalia, Sudan and, of course, Syria again.

Not a single one of those operations involve anything that remotely threatens the security of the United States, nor are those troops — regular or Special Forces — in any way “defending our freedom,” which is not under serious threat by any country in the world which cannot be addressed by foreign and domestic police and the FBI.

There are terrorist groups that might like to blow something up in the US, but actually, the threat of terrorism has only grown exponentially the more war-making the US has engaged in. Even many military experts say that the US drone killings and the special ops attacks abroad, which tend to kill more innocent people than actual “terrorists,” only produce more angry people willing to try to take revenge on Americans within their reach, so that approach is clearly doing nothing to “defend” our freedom or our safety.

Meanwhile, many of the people deemed to be terrorists are actually more accurately described as “freedom fighters” themselves. Take the Taliban. We may not agree with their medieval religious views, particularly about women, but the fact is that they have never sought to attack America as terrorists, foreign and especially domestic, have done, but have been fighting to drive foreign fighters — primarily American, out of their country. (While the US refers to Taliban attacks on US forces and private contractors in Afghanistan as “terrorism” they are actually acts of war by an armed national resistance.) Indeed the Taliban more closely resemble our own celebrated anti-colonial rebels of 1776 than they do the terrorists of Al Qaeda.

Furthermore, if the truth be told, the US, through the Pentagon and the CIA, has long been providing arms and training to Al Qaeda-linked groups in both Libya and Syria for years, and actually created or helped create Al Qaeda in the first place. How is that “defending our freedom”?

National security is a lot of things. The intermediate range nuclear missile treaty negotiated by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 represented a huge improvement in the national security of both the US and the USSR, and didn’t involve any fighting at all. The same could be said about the recent agreement negotiated by the Obama administration and the government of Iran, guaranteeing as it does (at least so far despite opposition and threats by the Trump administration not to honor its commitments), that Iran will not seek to develop nuclear weapons for at least a decade.

The evidence clearly shows that national security is far better achieved by intelligent diplomacy than by war.

The current Korea crisis provides a good example. The fact is that over half a century of overt and aggressive hostility by the US towards the mere existence of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea to Americans) has led not to more security for either the US or its client state, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), but rather to the DPRK’s long and ultimately successful effort to protect itself by becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, with both nuclear bombs and missiles capable of delivering them across the Pacific to US targets. How’s that for “defending our freedom”?

Had the US, years or decades ago, agreed to finally negotiate an end to the Korean War, instead of leaving it in an unstable limbo with no formal conclusion, all the while calling for an end to the government in the north, the government in Pyongyang would never have felt it necessary to achieve nuclear power status.

If we had wanted to convince Kim Jong-un of the urgency of the DPRK’s becoming a nuclear power, we couldn’t have done it better than by launching an undeclared war to oust the leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafy, from power, brutally killing him in the process—a campaign that destroyed one of the most modern states in Africa or the Middle East and left it in a state of bloody chaos, spreading deadly weapons all across the Middle East.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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