Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Support the Troops?

The subject of this blog is US militarism, imperialism, the US National Security State (US NSS). The Pentagon's budget for 2011 is nearly $700 billion, the largest part of the government, which does not include the special appropriations for the wars, or for nuclear weapons (in the Dept. of Energy), or for the VA (the wounded soldiers constituting much of the $4 to $6 billion cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars alone). Despite this expense and this power, only a few minuscule organizations are devoted to examining them. The War Resisters League has an energetic but small headquarters in NYC. The old SANE/Freeze, now Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, and other groups resist Pentagon domination (see my PEACE MOVEMENT DIRECTORY). But no organization concentrates on the Pentagon and its imperial power. So this blog adds its voice of opposition to the Department of War (its proper name).

Warriors Are Not Heroes

Warren Stephens, owner of NW Arkansas newspapers and prominent warmonger, in 2009initiated a series of some 70 profiles, "Saluting American Valor: Selfless Courage at the Moment of Truth," telling stories "of men and women in uniform who were recognized for combat heroism during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan" (www.americanvalor.net). See my critique: “We Are Winning: Two Wars, Two Colonels, and a General,” Fayetteville Free Weekly (January 28, 2010). The final installment of the series appeared in December 2010.

Because "supporting the troops" once a war has begun is one of the chief causes of a war's continuation (Afghan War now ten years of waste and slaughter, Iraq War now seven), this blog will give it attention. In opposition, this blog will support those who oppose the illegal and unjust interventions and invasions, not those who sustain them. (See my "Veteran's Day Newsletter 2009.") These are the true patriots, as this book affirms: Woehrle, Lynne, et al. Contesting Patriotism: Culture, Power, and Strategy in the Peace Movement. Roman & Littlefield, 2009. Rev. Fellowship (Spring 2010). A deep grounding of the peace movement is its effort to reclaim the attribution of “patriotic” for criticism of the nation-state when it wages war. The book traces the many ways “in which major groups in the peace movement have advanced this cause in their publications over the past 20 years.”

Another recent book has directly confronted the catastrophe of "support the troops" automatism: David Swanson, WAR IS A LIE (2010, www.davidswanson.org), a handbook for opposition to US wars. Its fourteen chapers question fourteen major myths used by our leaders and the public at large to justify the wars (chap. 1, [US] "Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil," 2. [US] "Wars Are Not Launched in Defense.") I strongly urge you to read this book. I will be quoting from it frequently.

Here is a passage from Chap. 5, [US] "Warriors Are Not Heroes," p. 133. "Soldiers are praised to the skies....Generals are so effusively praised that it's not uncommon for them to get the impression they run the government. Presidents much prefer being Commander in Chief to being chief executive....But the prestige of the generals and the presidents comes from their closeness to the unknown yet glorious troops. When the bigwigs don't want their policies questioned, they need merely suggest that such questioning constitutes criticism of the troops....As long as the greatest honor one can aspire to is to be shipped off and killed in somebody's war, there will be wars. President John F. Kennedy wrote in a letter to a friend something he would never have put in a speech: 'War will exist until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.' I would tweak that statement a little. It whould include those refusing to participate in a war whether or not they are granted the status of 'conscientious objector.'"
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