Should We Thank The Veterans?

It’s Memorial Day in America, and once again the media bombards us with endless sermons, saying we should “thank a veteran” for “fighting for our freedom.” It’s one of those reflexive statement that becomes almost meaningless by repetition. Personally, I find it offensive. To “thank a veteran for their service” is an implicit endorsement of the US military interventions in which they participated. With the possible exception of World War II (which ended nearly 70 years ago), none of those wars, conflicts, or police actions had anything to do with our freedom.

Consider this country’s many undeclared, unconstitutional conflicts since VJ Day: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others. These have either been stalemated (Korea), lost (Vietnam), or have ushered in regimes worse than their predecessors. For example, our Afghan “allies,” just like the evil Taliban, oppress women and execute their citizens for non-crimes such as homosexuality, adultery and apostasy. Unlike the Taliban, they take bribes from opium growers and tolerate child sex trafficking. Despite all these dismal failures, we Americans have not lost our freedoms, except for those we foolishly surrendered to our own government in the name of “fighting terrorism.” Thus the rationale for our indebtedness, that we somehow owe our liberties to our former service-members, is based on a falsehood.

I don’t say this to condemn our military men and women, whether they are veterans or active duty. In the days of Korea and Vietnam, most were drafted, “serving” under duress. Nowadays all are volunteers, yet I believe that the vast majority join with good intentions. They’ve been indoctrinated with our culture’s unquestioning adulation of the military, and misinformed by the corporate media’s one-sided support for every overseas adventure. They do not join to kill foreigners who have done us no harm, nor to overthrow those inconvenient regimes that obstruct the will of avaricious American corporations. Neither are they at fault for the serial failures of US foreign policy. It is this country’s leadership, both civilian and military, that chooses these pointless conflicts with their poorly defined goals. Our military brass, with a few honorable exceptions such as Admiral William Fallon*, seem to have one overriding strategy: to advance their careers and increase funding for their branches. The well-being of our nation is an afterthought.

For the men and women of the military, we can appreciate their good intentions without condoning their actions in support of US foreign policy. Certainly we should help those who have been damaged and abandoned for by heartless government they served. Definitely we should wish those on active duty a safe return from wherever they’ve been deployed. The best way to “support the troops” would be to immediately end all US interventions and bring every last one of them home. As for our veterans, there is one thing I would like to thank them for – the fact that they are no longer a part of the military machine.

* In 2007, in defiance of pressure from neoconservatives in the Bush Administration, Fallon declared that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.” In 2008, he was forced into resigning. He’s another veteran I’d like to thank.