The Armed Forces Day of Reckoning

The third Saturday in May has, since 1950, been designated Armed Forces Day. Harry Truman, who was the president at the time, remarked that the U.S. military was “vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.” On the occasion of the first Armed Forces Day while he was president, Dwight Eisenhower stated: “It is fitting and proper that we devote one day each year to paying special tribute to those whose constancy and courage constitute one of the bulwarks guarding the freedom of this nation and the peace of the free world.” Since today is Armed Forces Day, it is perhaps the best day to say — as unpopular as it may be — that rather than contributing to the peace of the world, the U.S. military has become the greatest force for evil in the world. Instead of being a force for peace, the U.S. military, through its numerous wars, interventions, and occupations, is a force for instability, death, and destruction. Yes, I know, I am a liberal, a communist, a Quaker, a pacifist, a peacenik, a traitor, a coward, an appeaser, an America-hater, and an anti-war weenie. Prior to the creation of Armed Forces Day after the unification of the various branches of the military into the Department of Defense, each branch of the military had its own special day. Army Day was April 6, Navy Day was October 27, Air Force Day was August 1, and Marine Corps Day was November 10. Only Marine Corps Day is still observed. Although the Coast Guard also participates in Armed Forces Day, it has its own day (August 4), and is actually part of the Department of Homeland Security. Like perhaps many Americans, I did not realize that May 20 was Armed Forces Day until I was sent a Patriot Petition via e-mail from The Patriot Post, advertised as “The Conservative E-Journal of Record.” The e-mail encouraged me to: Please join fellow Patriots and sign the Petition to pray for our Armed Forces and let them know you stand with them as One Nation Under God. Please forward this invitation to friends, family members and fellow American Patriots. Please sign this Petition to pray for our Armed Forces and forward this invitation to friends, family members and fellow American Patriots. We intend to collect as many petition signatures as possible so that brave Patriots in uniform know that we stand behind them, united in prayer. Let your voice be heard! Please join fellow Patriots in support of the Petition to pray for our Armed Forces. The petition is called “A Call to prayer for our Armed Forces,” and reads as follows: We, your fellow Americans, resolve and commit to pray for you, our uniformed Patriots standing in harm’s way around the world in defense of our liberty, every day. We further resolve and commit to pray for your families awaiting your safe return. We thank God for you, your courage, tenacity and vigilance. The words of George Washington’s First Inaugural Address are fitting: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” We, the American people, then turn that trust to God, who in His sovereign wisdom gave us the freedom we enjoy. You Patriots — American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen — have plowed the ground for liberty. We remain the proud and the free because you have stood bravely in harm’s way, and remain on post today. For this, we, the American People, offer our heartfelt thanks. We commit to continually pray for you and your families. I agree. We should pray for the men and women in the U.S. military. The Bible says that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” should “be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1). But how should we pray for them? Should we pray that God bless the troops while they drop their bombs, throw their grenades, launch their missiles, fire their mortars, and shoot their bullets? Should we pray that the troops are protected while they injure, torture, maim, and kill others? Should we pray that the troops are successful when they drive their tanks into a city and reduce it to rubble? Why not? What do you think has been happening in Iraq for the past three years? Yes, we should pray for the troops. We should pray that the troops come home. We should pray that the troops come home now. We should pray that the blood of not one more American soldier is shed on foreign soil. We should pray for the healing of the thousands of U.S. soldiers who have been injured in the senseless Iraq war. We should pray for an end to this unconstitutional, immoral, and unjust war. We should pray that Congress ends funding for this war. We should pray that Bush leaves office a disgraced commander in chief. We should pray that young, impressionable students are not ensnared by military recruiters. We should pray that pastors stop recommending military service to their young men (and women). We should pray that families stop supplying cannon fodder to the military. We should pray that the troops actually start defending this country instead of every other country. We should pray for a change in U.S. foreign policy that can make this all possible. But as long as the U.S. military is garrisoning the planet, there is another group of people that we should pray for: the people our armed forces are putting in harm’s way. Pray that they will not be at home when the bombs start dropping and the bullets start flying. The U.S. military is not “plowing the ground for liberty” or “standing in defense of our liberty.” The military, as the coercive arm of the U.S. government, is at once the world’s policeman, bully, and troublemaker. The United States has, for over a hundred years, intervened in the affairs of other countries in every corner of the globe. This has been documented by a number of individuals in a variety of places. Zoltan Grossman of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, has compiled a partial list of over 100 U.S. military foreign interventions from 1890 to 2006. Global Security has a report of U.S. military operations broken down into five periods from the eighteenth century to the post cold war period. At the 2002 annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association in Savannah, Georgia, one of the papers documented 176 U.S. military operations since the Cold War. Although the Department of Defense admits to having 702 military installations in foreign countries, it has been documented by Chalmers Johnson that this number is far too low and perhaps actually numbers around 1,000. I have recently chronicled the presence of U.S. troops in 155 countries or territories. No wonder former U.S. Attorney General William Ramsey Clark has said that “the greatest crime since World War II has been US foreign policy.” I don’t often agree with Martin Luther King Jr., but he was right when he said during the Vietnam War that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.” And Murray Rothbard, the twentieth century’s greatest proponent of liberty, was certainly correct when he claimed that “empirically, taking the twentieth century as a whole, the single most warlike, most interventionist, most imperialist government has been the United States.” Professor Grossman has astutely characterized U.S. military interventions:

  • First, they were explained to the U.S. public as defending the lives and rights of civilian populations. Yet the military tactics employed often left behind massive civilian “collateral damage.”
  • Second, although nearly all the post-World War II interventions were carried out in the name of “freedom” and “democracy,” nearly all of them in fact defended dictatorships controlled by pro-U.S. elites.
  • Third, the U.S. always attacked violence by its opponents as “terrorism,” “atrocities against civilians,” or “ethnic cleansing,” but minimized or defended the same actions by the U.S. or its allies.
  • Fourth, the U.S. often portrays itself as a neutral peacekeeper, with nothing but the purest humanitarian motives.
  • Fifth, U.S. military intervention is often counterproductive even if one accepts U.S. goals and rationales.

How much wiser were the Founding Fathers than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice! If more Americans heeded the wisdom of the Founders, a militaristic United States would never have been tolerated. It was James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” who warned the country back in 1787: A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people. George Washington likewise warned against “those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” He believed that “the great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.” He counseled that our true foreign policy should be “to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” Here is Thomas Jefferson’s “Quaker” foreign policy: Peace has been our principle, peace is our interest, and peace has saved to the world this only plant of free and rational government now existing in it. However, therefore, we may have been reproached for pursuing our Quaker system, time will affix the stamp of wisdom on it, and the happiness and prosperity of our citizens will attest its merit. And this, I believe, is the only legitimate object of government, and the first duty of governors, and not the slaughter of men and devastation of the countries placed under their care, in pursuit of a fantastic honor, unallied to virtue or happiness; or in gratification of the angry passions, or the pride of administrators, excited by personal incidents, in which their citizens have no concern. I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment. And I am not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of Europe, entering that field of slaughter to preserve their balance, or joining in the confederacy of Kings to war against the principles of liberty. How well I remember the outrage in this country when the U.S. government shot, gassed, and burned men, women, and children in 1993 at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. So why no outrage when the U.S. military does the same thing in other countries? The only explanation is that many Americans, and especially many conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians, are blindly in love with the U.S. military. It is my hope and prayer that this Armed Forces Day serve as day of reckoning as to the true nature of the U.S. military. The troops must be brought home, not just from Iraq, but from every corner of the globe. The military must be scaled back to coincide with a return to the noninterventionist foreign policy of the Founders. U.S. soldiers should be limited protecting our shores, guarding our borders, and patrolling our coasts. The peace of the world depends on it.