(The US Military-Industrial Complex makes huge profits decade after decade - mostly paid for by the US taxpayer - It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives - so thank a vet! - CL)
Depending on the context, the small word “why” can be totally innocuous or it can be just about the most subversive and even sacrilegious word one can utter. This is probably why I love this word so much: it’s ability to unleash tremendous power against all sorts of sacred cows and unchallenged beliefs. So, today I want to ask everybody why so many people feel the need to thank veterans for their “service”?
But first, let’s debunk a few myths:
First, let’s begin by getting myth #1 out of the way: the notion that Americans don’t like wars. That is totally false. Americans hate losing wars, but if they win them, they absolutely love them. In other words, the typical US reaction to a war depends on the perceived outcome of that war. If it is a success they love it (even if it is a turkey-shoot like Desert Storm). If it is a deniable defeat (say the US/NATO air operations against Serbian forces in Kosovo or the total clusterbleep in Grenada) they will simply “forget” it. And if it is an undeniable defeat (say Iraq or Afghanistan) then, yes, indeed, most Americans will be categorically opposed to it.
Next is myth #2: the truth is that no US serviceman or woman has fought a war in defense of the US since at least WWII (and even this one is very debatable considering that the US forced Japan to wage war and since the attack on Pearl Harbor was set-up as a pretext to then attack Japan). Since 1945 there has not been a single situation in which US soldiers defended their land, their towns, their families or their friends from an aggressor. Not one! All the wars fought by the US since 1945 were wars of aggression, wars of choice and most of them were completely illegal to boot (including numerous subversive and covert operations). At most, one can make the argument that US veterans defended the so-called “American way of life,” but only if one accepts that the said “American way of life” requires and mandates imperialist wars of aggression and the wholesale abandonment of the key concepts of international law.
Finally, there is the ugly dirty little secret that everybody knows but, for some reason, very few dare to mention: the decision to join the (all volunteer) US military is one primarily based on financial considerations and absolutely not some kind of generous “service” of the motherland for pure, lofty, ideals. Yes, yes, I know – there were those who did join the US military after 9/11 thinking that the US had been attacked and that they needed to help bring the fight to those who attacked the US. But even with a very modest degree of intelligence, it should have become pretty darn obvious that whether 9/11 was indeed the work of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda or not (personally I am absolutely certain that this was a controlled demolition) – this atrocity was used by the US government to justify a long list of wars which could not have possibly had anything to do with 9/11. Hey, after all, the US decided to attack Iraq (which self-evidently had nothing to do with 9/11) and not the KSA (even though most of the putative hijackers were Saudis and had official Saudi backing). Besides, even if some folks were not smart enough to see through the lies and even if THEY believed that they joined the US military to defend the US, why would the rest of us who by 2018 all know that the attack on Iraq was purely and solely based on lies, “thank” veterans for stupidly waging war for interests they cannot even identify? Since when do we thank people for making wrong and, frankly, immoral decisions?!
Now let’s look at another basic thing: what is military service? The way I see it, military personnel can roughly be split into two categories: those who actually kill people and those who help those who kill people kill people. Right? If you are a machine gunner or a tank driver, then you personally get to kill people. If you are a communications specialist, or a truck driver, or an electrician, you don’t get to kill people yourself, but your work is to make it easier for those who kill people to kill people. So I think that it would be fair to say that joining a military, any military, is to join an organization whose main purpose is to kill people. Of course, that killing can be morally justifiable and, say, in defense of your country and fellow citizens. But that can only be the case if you prepare for a defensive war and, as we all know, the US has not fought such a war for over 70 years now. Which means that with a few increasingly rare exceptions (WWII veterans) ALL the veterans which get thanked for their service did what exactly? If we put it in plain English, what fundamental, crucial decision did ALL these veterans make?
In simple and plain English, veterans are those who signed up to kill people outside the US for money.
Sorry, I know that this sounds offensive to many, but this is a fact. The fact that this decision (to join an organization whose primary purpose is to murder people in their own countries, hundreds and thousands of miles away from the US) could ALSO have been taken for “patriotic” reasons (i.e. by those who believed in what is most likely the most lying propaganda machine in history) or to “see the world” and “become a real man” does not change the fact that if the US military offered NO pay or benefits, NO scholarships, NO healthcare, etc. then the vast majority of those who claim that they joined to “serve” would never have joined in the first place. We all know that, let’s not pretend otherwise! Just look at the arguments recruiters use to convince people to join: they are all about money and benefits! Need more proof? Just look at the kind of social groups who compose the bulk of the US military: uneducated, poor, with minimal career prospects. The simple truth is that financially successful folks very rarely join the military and, when they do, they usually make a career out of it.
As somebody who has lived in the US for a total of 21 years now, I can attest that folks join the military precisely for the same reasons they enter the police force or become correctional officers: because in all those endeavors there is money to be made and benefits to enjoy. Okay, there must be, by definition, the 1% or less who joined these (all violent) careers for purely lofty and noble ideals. But these would be a small, tiny, minority. The overwhelming majority of cops, correctional officers and soldiers joined primarily for material and/or financial reasons.
By the way, since that is the case, is it not also true that the soldier (just like the cop or the correctional officers) has ALREADY received his/her “gratitude” from the society for their “service” in the form of a check? Why do folks then still feel the need to “thank them for their service”? We don’t thank air traffic controllers or logging workers (also very tough careers) for their service, do we? And that is in spite of the fact that air traffic controllers and logging workers did not choose to join an organization whose primary goal is to kill people in their own homes (whether private homes or national ones) which is what soldiers get paid for.
Let me repeat that truism once again, in an even more direct way: veterans are killers hired for money. Period. The rest is all propaganda.
In a normal sane world, one would think that this is primarily a moral and ethical question. I would even say a spiritual one. Surely major religions would have something relevant and clarifying to say about this? Well, in the past they did. In fact, with some slight variations, the principles of what is called a “just war” have been known in the West since at least Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. According to one source they are:
- A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.
- A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
- A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
- A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
- The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
- The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
- The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.
(Check out this article for a more thorough discussion of this fascinating topic)
Now Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas are hardly heroes of mine, but they are considered as very authoritative in western philosophical thought. Yet, when checked against this list of criteria, all the wars fought by the US are clearly and self-evidently totally unjust: all of them fail on several criteria, and most of them (including the attack on Iraq and Afghanistan) fail on all of them!
But there is no need to go far back into the centuries to find authoritative western thinkers who clearly denounce unjust wars. Did you know that the ultimate crime under international law is not genocide or crimes against humanity?
Nope, the supreme crime under international law is the crime of aggression. In the words of the chief American prosecutor at Nuremberg and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Robert H. Jackson, the crime of aggression is the supreme crime because “it contains within itself the accumulated evil” of all the other war crimes. He wrote: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
So from the 4th century through the 20th century, the people of the West always knew what a just war was, and they fully understood that starting such a war is the supreme evil crime under international law. But this goes beyond just major wars. Under international law, the crime of “aggression” does not only refer to a full-scale military attack. Aggression can be defined as the execution of any one of the following acts:
- Declaration of war upon another State.
- Invasion by its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State.
- Attack by its land, naval or air forces, with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State.
- A naval blockade of the coasts or ports of another State.
- Provision of support to armed bands formed in its territory which have invaded the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded State, to take, in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection.
Finally, it is important to note here that by these authoritative legal definitions, every single US President is a war criminal under international law! This, in turn, begs the question of whether all the wars fought by US soldiers since 1945 were indeed waged by a legitimate authority (as mentioned by Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas above)? How can that be when the Commander in Chief himself is a war criminal?
Let’s sum it up so far: we have folks who agree to become killers (or killer-assistants), who do that primarily for financial reasons, who then onlyparticipate in illegal and immoral wars of aggression and whose commander in chief is a war criminal.
And they deserve our gratitude why exactly?!
Maybe because so many veterans have been hurt, maimed, traumatized? Maybe because once they leave the armed forces, they don’t get the social and medical support they need? Perhaps merely because wars are horrible? Or maybe because the veterans were lied to and deceived? Or maybe because some (many?) of them did try to stay human, honorable and decent people in spite of the horrors of war all around them? When we think of the horrendous unemployment, homelessness and even suicide figures amongst veterans, we cannot but feel that these are people who have been lied to, cheated and then discarded like a useless tool. So maybe saying “thank you for your service” is the right thing to say?
Nope! These are all excellent reasons to feel compassion and sympathy for veterans, yes. But not gratitude. There is a huge difference here. Everybody, every human, and I strongly believe every creature deserves compassion and sympathy. But it is one thing to say “I feel compassion for you” and quite another to say “thank you for what you did” because that implies that the deed was a moral, good, ethical deed, and that is entirely false.
Major General Smedley Butler put it best when he wrote:
War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war, a few people make huge fortunes.
If we agree that war is, indeed, a “racket” and that it is conducted “for the benefit of the very few” then it would make sense for these “very few” to express their gratitude to those whom they hired to enrich them. And, in fact, they do. Here is the best example of that:
Of course, Google is no more dependent on wars of aggression than any other US corporation. The very nature of the US economy is based on war and has always been based on war. The so-called “American way of life” but without wars of aggression has never been attempted in the past, and it won’t be attempted for as long as the US remains the cornerstone of the AngloZionist Empire and the world hegemony it seeks to impose on the rest of mankind. But until that day arrives the “American way of life” will always imply wars of aggression and the mass murder of innocent people whose only “sin” is to dare to want to live free and not be a slave to the Empire. If you believe that those who dare to want to live free in a truly sovereign country deserve to be murdered and maimed, then yes, by all means – thank the veterans from the bottom of your heart!