It still happens every time I even mention the military in an article—or a blog post.
At the end of yet another one of my posts about those great military values, I made the statement: “And yet the myth persists that the military has special values and that military personnel are special people that we should thank for their service morning, noon, and night.”
Well, someone took offense at my sarcasm and wrote me this note (please forgive his spelling, grammar, and punctuation as you focus on his defense of soldiers). Although I try to personally answer every e-mail I receive, I felt that this one required more than just an individual response.
Sir ,Your sarcastic statement that military personnel are special people and that we should thank them morning,noon and night was offensive to me and I am sure to others.For someone to enlist in any branch of the military is a sacrifice, a commitment of time taken from their lives.Time that could have been spent in the comfort and company of loved ones , or just sitting around with some electronic handheld game. Either way the military does holds to standards, that I feel are held higher then civilian ones.For someone to make a commitment and take an oath to protect and serve for a period of time is not to be taken lightly.For when you sign away those years of your life you no longer have the freedom of being your own person ,you are now property of the U.S. Military , Property of the U.S. government. Lets face it ,being a civilian does not on its own make that person a good person.It does not mean that you are pure at heart , for that matter it does not make you good or bad , or free from pervasions .If some one breaks a law and is arrested and found guilty then , so be it.When someone makes the transformation from civilian to military , they do not come in as a virgin .For they have had a lifetime to form their personalitiy.Yet most do honor their commitment and perform without breaking laws and performing to the highest .None look to loose their life, yet it is a very likely scenario that is possible when put in harms way , when ordered to do so by their government. So yes I do truly believe that they are special and are due our respect ,and to be thanked many times over .I do not take my freedom fore granted .For I am humbled by their sacrifices and for the sacrifices made by their families .I know not If you have ever served. If you have not then you will never understand what a true sacrifice is.Why don`t you try to walk a mile in a soldiers shoes.
I have addressed all of this nonsense about the military in the various articles I have written about the military over the past ten or so years. These are all collected in my book War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy. But aside from that, since I am too old for military “service,” and not dumb enough to join the military, I will have to do the next best thing—take a virtual walk in the shoes of a soldier. But I don’t have to walk a mile; ten steps will do.
Step one: surrender. In order to begin going down the path to being a soldier, the first step one must take is not to think and reason, but to be willing to obey orders and submit to nearly total control over one’s life. As Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, said about military service: “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”
Step two: the Constitution. The next thing a man does on his journey to being a soldier is to walk by the Constitution. And not just walk by it, but trample and spit on it. The United States hasn’t constitutionally declared war on any country since World War II, yet U.S. soldiers have continually fought around the globe as the president’s personal attack force instead of defenders of the country against attack or invasion.
Step three: the Internet. Another thing a man does on his way to being a soldier is that he walks right by a computer with an Internet connection. If he took the time to stop and search, he wouldn’t have to spend more than five minutes online to find enough material about the evils of U.S. wars, foreign policy, and the military to make him want to declare that he is a conscientious objector.
Step four: military recruitment office. A visit to the local military recruiter’s office might result in attempted rape, involuntary servitude, sexual battery, molestation, intimidation, or threats—all of things have happened to unwary recruits. It will certainly result in lies about the role of the military and an absence of true information about military service.
Step five: basic training. While in basic training, in between being bombarded with the vilest profanity on the planet by a filthy drill instructor, a soldier has the opportunity to recite some even viler cadences. Things like:
“Rape and pillage burn the village! Yes we can!”
“One, two, three, four. Every night we pray for war. Five, six, seven, eight. Rape. Kill. Mutilate.”
Step six: deploy overseas. By doing so a soldier helps to maintain the U.S. empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe. By doing so he helps to carry out a reckless, belligerent, and interventionist U.S. foreign policy. By doing so he helps to support unwarranted, unjust, and unnecessary U.S. military interventions. By doing so he helps to create terrorists due to blowback against U.S. policies. In some cases U.S. soldiers also help to maintain the network of brothels that are located around foreign U.S. bases. And yet for all this, the threat from al-Qaeda, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, is not any less today than it was ten years ago.
Step seven: destroy, maim, and kill. Yes, this is what soldiers do. The only problem is that U.S. soldiers do it unjustly and unnecessarily. When a soldier destroys, maims, and kills in some foreign country, he does so to further the interests of the U.S. government, not to protect the American people.
Step eight: kill or be killed. When in the midst of fighting an unjust war for Uncle Sam, a soldier may be put into a position where he will have to kill or be killed. Although he may try to justify his actions by claiming that it was an act of self-defense, it is not self-defense when a soldier is an invader or occupier waging an unjust war of aggression against people who were no threat to America or Americans until he stepped foot in their country. The solution to the dilemma: don’t join in the first place.
Step nine: return from deployment. As soon as a soldier steps off the airplane on his return from deployment, he will be cheered for wearing a military uniform, thanked for his service, and praised for his sacrifice. Yet, to receive these honors is to perpetuate the lie that U.S. soldiers defend our freedoms when they do nothing of the kind.
Step ten: retirement. After getting out of the military, a soldier may (still) battle drug addiction, alcohol abuse, PTSD, aggression, depression, a brain-injury, and/or divorce. This is if he didn’t already commit suicide while he was in the military. More soldiers are dying from their own hands than are being killed by our “enemies.” The Veterans Administration estimates “that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes.” Although only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, veterans account for 20 percent of all suicides.
Just ten steps in the shoes of a soldier is enough to see that no thinking person who treasures liberty, peace, morality, decency, his family, and peace of mind would join the military no matter how patriotic he was.