What If the Emperor Had No Soldiers? Re-thinking: "Support the Troops"
By Mickey Z. / worldnewstrust.com

“Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe. ” - Arundhati Roy

I've been to a handful of recent antiwar demos, all of which were inspired by the evolving situation, re: Syria. I've heard accurate condemnations of Obama, Kerry, Assad, Putin, etc. One thing I haven't heard: any mention that U.S. saber-rattling is made possible by those who enlist to be paid to wage illegal and immoral wars, interventions, invasions, and occupations.

Reality Check #1: There is no American Empire without the cannon fodder we call “our troops.” They push the buttons, pilot the planes, staff the ships, write the codes, guard the prisons, launch the drones, design the missiles, and so on... and so on.

We rightfully aim our rage and invective at the masters of war, but seem to shrink at the prospect of calling out the volunteer warriors who make it all feasible.

There are simple, almost knee jerk methods by which the idea of unconditional support for our (sic) soldiers during war can be questioned. The easiest involves any variation of this query: Would it have been acceptable for the people of Nazi Germany to support "their boys" even if those same folks did not agree with Hitler's maniacal methods?

However, in the name of toning down the emotional potency, here's a different challenge: Let's say you're opposed to morally indefensible and scientifically fraudulent institution of vivisection. Would you be amenable to "supporting" the scientists (sic) performing lab experiments? Surely they are "just doing their job" and "following orders" as much as any U.S. marine in Afghanistan.

Or what if you're an activist fighting to end exploitative labor practices? Is it acceptable to expose and condemn the CEOs of Nike and The Gap but still hang yellow ribbons for the men and women who handle day-to-day operations of a sweatshop in, say, Vietnam? They're just as "stuck in a bad situation" as the soldiers who ran the show at Abu Ghraib, right?

When it comes to our (sic) troops, we often hear justifications like this: Don’t blame them soldiers; they only volunteer because they lack any other feasible economic options.

I wonder if the same economic excuse making would hold water for those who opt to become gang members: the poor black kid who “enlists” in the Crips, the poverty-stricken Hispanic who “enlists” in the Latin Kings, or any underprivileged kid anywhere in America who “enlists” in any of the myriad mafias and crime syndicates.

These kids also face a stark choice -- being destitute or choosing a uniform and weapon -- but no one hangs yellow ribbons for them. Of course, there are two primary differences between the kids I just described above and those who volunteer to join the U.S. military:

  1. The U.S. military is far more dangerous and deadly than any gang or Mafia family.
  2. The U.S. military is considered legal.

When I say “more dangerous and deadly,” I'm also referring to the reality that the U.S. Department of Defense (sic) (DoD) -- the interventionist institution formerly known as the War Department -- is the biggest polluter on Planet Earth, for example, releasing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined.

Reality Check #2: True environmentalists don't support our (sic) troops.

To add insult to injury, the world's worst polluter -- the entity wrecking havoc upon the landbase that makes all life possible -- also gobbles up 54 percent of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

But it takes more than obscene amounts of money to keep this criminal enterprise afloat. It also takes more than the volunteers willing to be paid to wage illegal, immoral, and eco-system destroying wars. The DoD will be able to maintain its crime spree as long as most of us continue to unconditionally support those troops.

Then again, in a society as warped as ours, “support” doesn't even mean “support.”

Define “Support”

While most American citizens -- even if they identify as “antiwar” -- are manipulated, harassed, coerced, and guilted into hanging yellow ribbons, generation after generation of U.S. military personnel have suffered a distinct lack of support from their own government (and the corporations that fund it). Our (sic) troops are just as controlled and exploited as the U.S. citizens programmed to worship them.

Yellow ribbons, flag-waving, repressive laws, peer pressure, and loud chants of "USA" don’t qualify as support. Rather, this is self-policed obedience orchestrated by a corporate-dominated state.

Here’s something else that doesn’t qualify as “support”: Radical activists being awestruck by the veterans within their ranks.

Veterans -- whether they are activists or not -- don’t need such superficial backing when realities like this exist:

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of suicides among people serving in the armed forces has jumped more than 25 percent since 2005. In 2010 alone, 454 service members killed themselves in combat zones.

Life doesn't get easier for those who make it home. About one-third of the adult homeless population is veterans and,according to the VA, is 95 percent male, mostly likely to be: single; hail from an urban area; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders.

People of all ethnicities may sign up to defend (sic) the land of the free (sic) but 56 percent of all homeless vets are African American or Hispanic (despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population, respectively).

More VA stats:

  • 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.
  • Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness.
  • Only 8 percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly 20 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans.

Another 1.5 million veterans, says the VA, are considered at risk of homelessness due to "poverty and lack of support networks."

Yes, you read that correctly: "lack of support networks."

Despite the government’s demonstrated unwillingness to truly support volunteer soldiers, Americans continue to enlist -- and this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

  • We grow up watching war movies and playing with guns.
  • We're surrounded by war memorials and war monuments, and are taught to obey and fear those in uniform.
  • We witness the demonizing of those who oppose war.
  • Our media is overrun with militaristic fervor.
  • Our tax dollars finance war and pro-war propaganda.
  • Our government passes laws designed to thwart dissent.

Even if we miraculously remain immune to wartime spin and propaganda -- even if we don't buy into the story that America has been dragged into conflict after conflict and perpetually left with no choice but to wage a humanitarian war against a savage enemy -- we still face the guilt factor of the "support the troops" peer pressure, e.g. no matter what we think or how we feel, once the actual fighting begins, all Americans must unite behind our troops to insure their safety through victory.

Reality Check #3: The "support the troops" mantra specifically ignores any real examination of who those troops are, what those troops are doing in war zones, what happens to them when they come home, and why many of us don’t want them waging war in the first place. In other words, when we're told to "support the troops," we are, in essence, being compelled to support the policies that exploit those troops.

Inform the Troops

Whether the vets you know were drafted back in the day or more recently volunteered, they need far more tangible supportthan bumper stickers, campaign slogans, or idealistic hero worship.

In turn, what the entire planet needs is a culture that values dissidents infinitely more than it values mercenaries… and this is where activism can become even more of a game changer.

For example, from the official OWS Declaration of the Occupation of New York City:

  • They have squandered our public treasure, over half of federal discretionary spending, into the military and security state, while waging immoral and illegal wars opposed by the people of the United States and the world.
  • They have wasted trillions of dollars on these wars, much of it spent on contracts outsourced to private mercenary corporations directly affiliated with members of government.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism abroad, maintaining a military presence in dozens of countries, and hijacking the economies of dozens more.
  • The have colluded with governments and companies in torture and murder in direct contradiction with the Geneva Convention.

It is precisely because "the nation's wealth" is "wasted on war" that so many Americans actually volunteer to kill in the service of the 1%. The point many seem to be missing is just how deep the socio-economic connections run:

  1. Those who volunteer are those who follow orders and commit atrocities.
  2. Without such volunteers, the United States would find it virtually impossible to brutally impose its will across the globe.
  3. The most common excuse employed to defend those who enlist is that they have no other financial options.
  4. If the excuse in #3 is accurate, then the struggle for economic justice directly correlates to any effort to expose and transform U.S. foreign policy.

If a more equitable economic climate were created, young Americans would no longer feel compelled to enlist solely for financial reasons (and by doing so, provide manpower for wars of empire). In such a scenario, those who do volunteer could then rightfully be exposed as willing accomplices to U.S. war crimes and maybe we can finally retire all those counterproductive "support the troops" stickers… and get busy with the counter-recruitment.

Let's Reinvent Veteran’s Day

“The antiwar movement has been so thoroughly discredited,” says author H. Bruce Franklin in Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. “One would never be able to guess from public discourse that for every American veteran of combat in Vietnam, there must be 20 veterans of the antiwar movement.”

Reality Check #4: The veterans of the antiwar movement are OUR troops. If you must fawn over someone, these brave individuals deserve it much more than defenders of empire.

Hmm, I smell an idea brewing…

What if we reinvented Veteran’s Day as a way to honor all the activists who fought before us and blazed a path?

Let’s re-cap:

  • Our activist comrades who were once members of the U.S. military should be welcomed into the fold but not fetishized.
  • Our struggle for economic justice can help offer the life-saving support veterans really need and reduce the likelihood more young Americans will volunteer purely for financial reasons.
  • Counter-recruitment is a valuable tool to further reduce volunteerism.
  • Our sisters and brothers already chewed up and spit out by the military machine need far more “support” than yellow ribbons and pious platitudes.
  • For every U.S. military veteran, there are countless more veterans of the antiwar movement who we can choose to remember on “Veteran’s Day.”
  • Antiwar means anti-war.

"Antiwar" isn't a useful mask to wear at an activist costume party. This label signifies one as being against all war (exceptclass war) and against all those who volunteer to be paid to help wage war -- no matter which political party has commenced the invasion, the bombing, the sanctions, or the covert operations.

As I sit here typing this, all life is under threat from ever-increasing military actions -- with the United States at the forefront of this global carnage. All the protests during all the wars have not been enough to even dent the machine. Thus, to fall back on old activist approaches is to passively accept more failure.

Educate yourself on and fully accept the realities of U.S. foreign policy and spread the word far and wide -- especially to those young enough to volunteer. If Americans learn the truth and refuse to enlist, the interventions -- and the inevitable atrocities -- will decrease proportionally.

Reality Check #5: Let's not fret about stepping on a few combat-booted toes when we have more important things to worry about. We have a fuckin' planet to save.

#shifthappens

***

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

© WorldNewsTrust.com -- Share and re-post this story. Please include this copyright notice and a link to World News Trust.

4.3 ·
2
What's Next
Trending Today
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 8,318 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
Van Jones: Only a 'Love Army' Will Conquer Trump
Tim Dickinson · 8,038 views today · Though it's important to fight Trump's policies, "it's at the values level that we need to do a reset," says Jones
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 7,775 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 7,130 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
How to Expose Trump's Dastardly Bait-And-Switch
Robert Borosage · 5,870 views today · Trump is not an economic populist, he’s just playing one on TV.
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 5,865 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 5,379 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 4,618 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
David Graeber: We Need a Revolution in the Way We Think about "Work"
4 min · 2,809 views today · David Graeber on the Value of Work. Does the world really need neuroadvertisers, PR researchers and branding consultants? Renowned academic and coiner of the ‘we are the 99%’...
Why You Should Stop Apologizing for Doing All That You Can
Kelly Hayes · 2,722 views today · I’ve noticed lately that a lot of allies and accomplices I talk to about NoDAPL and other struggles will name what they are trying to contribute to the cause, and then promptly...
A New History for Humanity - the Human Era
8 min · 2,101 views today · It is time to reframe how we think about our past. We need a new year 0 for humanity. But which one should we choose and why?
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 2,042 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 1,487 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Black on Black Crime Isn't a Myth
Donyae Coles · 1,461 views today · Let’s talk about Black on Black crime. Maybe you’ve heard about it on the news, specifically likely in regards to Black people murdered by other Black people. Perhaps you’ve...
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,433 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,379 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Asylum-Seeker Faces a Dangerous Deportation Back to Afghanistan
3 min · 1,303 views today · After an EU deal with Afghanistan, more than 80,000 rejected Afghan asylum-seekers are facing deportation back to that country. Alim says being sent back to Afghanistan could...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,223 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
It's The Damn Police
Walter Fields · 1,206 views today · From an early age Blacks are socialized to live defensively and to absorb the mental body blows that come from the day-to-day indignities that are hoisted upon us by the very...
There Is No One Right Way to Be an Activist
Tim Hjersted · 772 views today · There is no one right way to be an activist. There is no one right way to change the world. There is no one right philosophy of leftist politics. There is no one right reaction...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
What If the Emperor Had No Soldiers? Re-thinking: "Support the Troops"