May 25, 2015


When I was growing up, my father never took my sister and I to attend Memorial Day parades. We brats loved a parade, so we couldn’t understand how he was such a party pooper. His explanation was that he wasn’t going to join in a cheering session for the USA’s military might. I’m quite a bit older now and realize that my dad was right.

Of course, that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t honor the service men and women who’ve defended their country. I personally don’t think that many of our military missions are always defending our country. But it isn’t the job of troops to question where they are sent. That’s our job. As we honor the fallen, we must acknowledge that we’ve fallen down on our responsibilities to them in that respect.

I wonder if members of the military would rather we “honor” them by waving flags and eating hot dogs one day per year, or if they’d prefer that we’d take a hard look at some of the challenges they face. Don’t you see a lot of those commercials to help vets financially? Those programs exist for a reason. Many vets go one to lead productive lives after they serve. But it’s no secret that many struggle to find work, many homeless are vets, many vets commit suicide and many vets are stricken with PTSD and other psychological ailments. And these are luckier than the ones who were killed in battle.

In our once a year celebration, it’s all stars and stripes and big brass bands. George W. Bush famously forbade images of soldiers’ coffins on the TV news in a blatant attempt to keep us in rah rah sis boom bah mode and not think that young men and women were actually dying in Iraq. And though most everyone in this country would claim they “support the troops”, they don’t support them enough to slam the government agency which was caught lying twice recently about how long vets must wait for military care. The truth—that vets must sometimes wait for six months for the care that they are promised—doesn’t indicate that we support the troops as much as we like to say we do. And that's the promise made to our military: that we’ll take care of you if you’re brave enough to put yourselves in harm’s way. And of course our “support” doesn’t include taking a hard look at which politicians always vote to de-fund veterans’ hospitals because they don’t believe in big government. We always have the money to go to war, but somehow it’s big bad government overspending when we need to allot funds to care for the injured. Which is why I totally agree with Bernie Sanders when he says that if you can’t afford to take care of veterans, then you can’t afford to go to war. And admit it—most of you who claim to support the troops have no idea what US strategy is in most of the places we’re currently fighting. You support the troops, yet you can’t even describe what their mission is most of the time.

As we honor the fallen, there’s another huge area where the United States citizens have fallen down in our line of duty. To question our government, given it’s rotten track record, any time it says it wants to go to war. And acknowledge that  the US’s default position is war. The rest of the world knows it, but war propaganda all over our media clouds the issue here at home. We’re the most violent bullies on earth and we can’t even see it. No better example of this is Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. Obama is a war president presiding over the longest war in US history in Afghanistan, where’s he’s fudged the date to withdraw countless times. Obama is still in Iraq, fighting secret drone wars and arming Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen, lining up US tanks in countries which border the Ukraine and lord knows what else. He won his laughable peace prize for engaging in negotiations with Iran. The lunacy of this is the the US only dreams it has the moral authority to do negotiate such a deal when we’re the only country to ever actually nuke another nation. In our rush to get the defense industry paid back for their campaign contributions, we often go to war not to defend the US, but to defend private corporations who profit from modern day human sacrifice. This is the American way, and I can’t help but wonder if soldiers would make the same choice to serve if they knew that they were laying down their lives to enrich the already super-rich. Maybe some who serve see war as an adult video game where it’s fun to take out real life targets. But I can’t believe that most would sign up to defend us against an enemy isn’t actually a threat to this country.

As horrifying as ISIS is, George W. Bush’s military efforts lead to the conditions which created this terrorist group when we invaded Iraq and destroyed that country for no reason. So now we have a new, more savage enemy than Al Qaeda to send troops to face. Despite claims that there would be no boots on the ground, Obama sent boots on the ground to Syria recently. (Oh, you didn’t hear about it? That’s the war propaganda in our media downplaying or even ignoring it as they honor a retiring late night host and devote an entire news cycle reporting on a train wreck.) These troops in Syria could remain in the US with their families. And the madness is that no matter how horrifying the images of ISIS burning people alive or beheading them are—ISIS is has no way to attack the US and there are plenty of wealthy countries in the Middle East with large militias of their own which could police their own neighborhood without US involvement. Yet the US readily jumps into combat to pay back the military/industrial complex. I wonder if the troops would prefer that we chant “Support the troops!” less and demand that we examine why we’re starting new fights and prolonging old ones? I know that’s a lot harder and less fun than having a cookout, but if you truly support the troops then they deserve this much from every citizen in this country.

And as we gear up for a presidential election, all Republicans candidates except possibly Rand Paul want more war. And the only winnable candidate the Democrats have offered so far  is Hillary Clinton, who is more of a hawk than Obama—the Nobel Peace Prize winner who is currently fighting two old wars he promised to get out of and he’s added new ones. So our choices are either a clear path to more war  with one party or a veiled path to war with the other. A large reason Hillary lost the last election is that she voted for the Iraq war and Obama didn’t. I know that some of you defend her because she got faulty intelligence. But if a drag queen knew the intelligence was faulty (aka falsified by our government) with no access to any government intel then Hillary should easily have known. The truth is that no senator with presidential ambitions voted against the war because America wanted to avenge 9/11—even if we attacked the wrong country. I don’t see any viable candidate on either side pushing for peace—despite the American people claiming that they’re weary of war. When did our elected officials stop representing us? Or did they ever actually start? While many people make their presidential picks based on which candidate they’d like to have a beer with, who we choose as commander-in-chief has very real, life-threatening consequences for our men and women in uniform. Will we pick another hawk like George W. Bush who ignored warnings about terrorists using airplanes as weapons to strike US targets so that he’d have an excuse to attack Iraq under falls pretenses? Or will we pick a candidate who will, as Obama did, present himself as an anti-war candidate intent on drawing down wars, only to renege on his promises and start new ones? Or elect a female candidate who seeks to override any mistrust Americans may have in a “weak” female president by being tougher on defense? Soldiers’ lives and health hang in the balance.

My dad was right—it’s time that we look at what a warlike nation we are. It says so much about our priorities that we’d rather plunge other countries which aren’t even a threat to us into chaos than fund American’s failing education, create jobs, invest in clean energy for the health of our planet, secure benefits for our needy, or fix our crumbling infrastructure, Not to mention ensuring that veterans don’t wait anywhere near six months to receive medical attention ever again. Saying “Support the troops!” is a lot easier to say than actually supporting them and making sure their needs are met after they serve. And making sure that they serve only when absolutely necessary. So enjoy your barbecues today. I can’t help but think that the troops you claim to support would appreciate it if you took the time to use your brains and your votes to keep them out of more unnecessary battles.