A Loss For Wars

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Last Friday, news broke of an Army vet, suffering from PTSD, killing three staff members at the Pathway rehabilitation facility in Yountville.  The picture accompanying the story showed a group of sheriff’s deputies all dressed in camouflage uniforms.  My first thought was “this looks more like the Army than the police”.  It started me thinking about how militarized this country has become.  The police and sheriff departments have military uniforms, military weapons, and military vehicles and equipment.  Much of the equipment is given to them from the US government.

We have the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism, and the War in Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria/Somalia/Yemen/etc.  We have constant reminders that we are under attack, at risk from drug dealers, Hispanics, Arabs, Muslims, Chinese, Koreans, Iranians, and gang bangers of various colors.  The world is full of bad people, coming to get us.  Who is us?  Why, we are the good people who live in peace and honor, virtuous in our national collective mind.

Protecting us are valiant troops, and we must always remember to honor them, as they are willing to give their lives to protect us.  So we make it a point to attend Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day events, fly the flag where we can, and tell uniformed service members, “thank you for your service”.  After all, that’s the right thing to do.

Except for when it isn’t.

If we really cared about our service members, we would do our best to keep them out of danger, deploying them only as a last resort.  We would elect politicians who truly value the meaning of life, and the life of a soldier, a medic, a nurse, and so forth.  Whether it applies to a country in the Mideast or the house down the street, the philosophy of “barge in and start shooting” would change.

Instead, this country rolls along on a constant war footing.  While this results in a lot of money for the upper management of the weapon / security / logistics / equipment suppliers to the Pentagon, as well as other national security related companies and personnel, it doesn’t do that much for the military veterans.  The meat grinder takes them into the various theaters of operations, and then spits out chunks of legs, arms, minds, and bodies.  Thousands dead, tens of thousands wounded (maybe more), and hundreds of thousands of relatives affected.  Not to mention three therapy / staff members in Yountville.

Returning veterans, partly because there are so many of them, don’t get the proper care they need.  Relatives, family members, and friends & aquaintances all bear part of the burden of care.  Add in the emotional cost of kids growing up with missing or damage parents, wives and husbands seeing marriages fall apart, and parents losing their children.  What do you end up with?  A whole lot of damaged lives.  Compared to all that, a few empty words twice a year from politicians and some occasional thanks from the public is a drop in the bucket.  Some might say, in a way, that it’s an insult.

We have troops in over 75 countries, and both declared and non declared wars going on in numerous countries.  Until the public says “enough”, the wars will continue, and more of our “honored” troops will be disabled or dead.  As a country, I think that’s our Badge of Shame.

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IS AMERICA THE NEW FOURTH REICH?

While some may see American troops overseas as “protecting our liberty”, I get the uneasy feeling we are morphing into a hybrid 1984 / Fourth Reich. At home, we have picked scapegoats (Hispanics, Muslims, and Blacks), and are increasing surveillance and repression by the state. Overseas, we are marching into numerous countries and killing more and more people. A survey done a few years ago asked people worldwide who they thought the biggest threat to world peace was. The number 1 answer? The USA.

 

The War on Terror is going on 16 years. During that time we have watched pet videos on Facebook, debated about Caitlyn Jenner, railed about Obamacare and Russian hacking, and welcomed home thousands of dead soldiers and up to a million wounded ones (including brain trauma and PTSD). Of course, we thank those soldiers for their service (insert sarcasm here). Civilian deaths in the Middle East run as high as 500,000 or possibly more. We have performed large scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and small scale incursions in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. Our support (both financial and weapons) of various groups and various governments, as well as our own actions, have destroyed families, homes, towns, cities, and countries. We have brought pain and suffering, hunger and starvations, and disease. We have become a 1939 Germany Lite, in a way.

 

 Just as there were a lot of good Germans back then, there are a lot of good Americans now. We believe what we see on the news and what the government says, and we don’t go out of our way to seek alternate news sources. The Hispanics and Blacks at home, and the Muslims overseas…….well, they probably had it coming, whether it be abuse or death. After all, they are all a potential threat to our country.

 

The Lutheran pastor Martin Neimoller recited a famous poem back in the 30’s:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

The American people seem like they’re still in the early stages of speaking out. I feel like there’s an existing Warrior Culture promoted by the government and media. We glorify soldiers protecting us overseas, police protecting us here, and government protecting us everywhere. We don’t question why we would need protection and whether there are other ways to minimize threats. Nor do we spend much time examining whether our deeds are responsible for some of the problems. In the Gods of War we trust.

 Although this post is probably going to be read by a few people, I want to clarify my sarcastic “thank you for your service” comment.  I understand the sacrifice soldiers make, and I understand the desire to thank them for that.  What gets me a bit irritated is that this “thank you” by people and the government, indicates a concern for the soldier.  If that was the case, the government would take a whole lot more care in trying every available alternate path, before sending them out to do battle.  It would not use the military for regime change or political gain in other countries.  Unfortunately, that is not the case and has not been the case in previous wars.  Too many leaders see soldiers as cannon fodder to be used to achieve their goals, with not enough appreciation of the impact those deaths and injuries have on the families and communities across the nation.