Thank you, soldier, but you needn't fight for my freedoms

Whether coming from politicians of either denomination, anchor people in the media, or Jane and Joe Citizen, I am revolted at the effusiveness displayed publicly as members of the military are thanked for their “service to the country” and for fighting for “our freedoms.” A few of these thank-you givers may be borderline idiots doing what they feel it’s their patriotic duty; most of them, however, are nothing short of hypocrites.

I may be helping to pay the fare for the military, but I much prefer to get nothing in return… I mean nothing! Soldiers, regardless of status or branch of service, are not fighting to defend our country from enemy nations, nor are they fighting any frontlines of the war on terror. They are just fighting to please the Lord of the Manor, no one else. As for the idea that they are fighting for our freedoms, it borders on the ridiculous, or perhaps the puerile. The fighting that American troops are engaged in overseas is taking away other peoples’ freedoms – freedom of identity, culture and self-worth – which could easily boomerang and put ours at great peril.

And we are not even touching on the subject of taking lives, whether directly or by proxy!

For almost four years, and mostly in reference to America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, I’ve been receiving much correspondence on this thorny subject of troop support, an issue that many of us feel uncomfortable with, one that we much rather sweep under the rug. Using Andy Rooney’s rationale [the 2-minute satirist-in-residence of TV news magazine “60 Minutes”, and correspondent for Stars and Stripes during WWII] those of us who have served in the military have earned the right to express overt criticism. Today’s column is but a collage of both ideas and feelings transmitted to me by a broad spectrum of veterans, people who have earned that right, from a 20-year-old recent Purple Heart Iraq returnee, to an octogenarian ex-bombardier who still remembers the horrors of Dresden, to several Nam vets who after three decades continue serving penance for what they have accepted as their sins.

What many of these vets, draftees as well as volunteers, claim not to understand is why the lie persists and appears to be accepted by those in uniform today, whether in the regular ranks, or the National Guard. Even if most of these young people entered the military with honorable, or excusable, reasons – from a sense of duty, or misplaced patriotism, to something as mundane as a job, a way of getting a skill or an education – after one or two years, particularly those who have served in occupied countries, the reality of the situation should have become crystal-clear. If the original intent was not that of a mercenary, by reenlisting, by consenting to stay as part of a hiring imperial army, like it or not, mercenaries they’ve become.

A year ago, a Vietnam veteran and history professor at a Southeastern college sent me an email challenging something which I had written in a column. He reminded me how our human nature has evolved little in a world of accelerating technological change. The idea of empire, the quest of sword and cross, now discarded by a tired or perhaps more enlightened Europe, he told me, has now reached our shores. It’s our turn to take pride in giving this empire our sons and daughters to brandish both the sword and the cross, to either kill enemies or capture their souls. As clarification, the professor stated that the cross is now camouflaged as democracy, American-style democracy.

Could we be teaching our young people that faith must always have the upper hand over reason? For a nation founded by freethinkers with great vision, how could we have retro-evolved to the dark ages?

Another veteran, now chief of police in a Midwestern city, recently wrote a letter with a strong sense of discovery in its narrative. From his perspective, many of our soldiers think of themselves as policemen in an international arena where we provide both the law and its enforcement. As he put it, “After our government determines what the law should be – emanating from what has proven to be a flawed foreign policy – it’s only the next logical step to deputize the military to enforce it.” With such Dodge City mentality originating at the very top, this cop concludes, how can anyone expect a higher level of morality from the lowly, brainwashed grunts?

Bottom line: we all need to look within, impart in our kin the universal values of respect and dignity for all human beings wherever they may reside on this earth. Last spring, I had my turn with my oldest grandson, then graduating from High School, and prey to military recruiters – perhaps because of his prowess in sports. After a reality talk with him on what true patriotism is, and the misuse of today’s military, something that I could do credible because of my military background, I know he’ll be safely tucked away in college… unless the empire decides to reinstate the draft.

For now, all I ask is that these mental-lightweights in the media and politics stop telling us that the military is fighting for our freedoms and our security when it’s clearly evident that the opposite is true. Perhaps one day I will once again support the troops. But that’s likely to happen when they are no longer needed, when the world can live in peace… without emperors; and power is not foolishly or unconditionally granted to those who govern.