" I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high- class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street, and the bankers. In short I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."- Major General Smedley Butler, U.S.M.C.
Memorial Day is here and time once again to be unceasingly reminded that this day is not just about beer, BBQ, and having a party. Without fail some pious jackass will somberly point out that this day is to honor those who gave the Ultimate Sacrifice for all those freedoms you enjoy.
O.K., before we really get rolling in rant mode, let me point something out, particularly to you Professional Patriots out there, who wait eagerly to pounce on anyone who you perceive as " disrespecting the troops." This little post is not attacking the soldiers, Marines, airmen, or sailors who are currently serving, have served in the past, or became casualties in the many wars this country has fought. So just sit back and cool your your ass down. I know, I know- you really want to prove what a big ass American ( more like a nationalistic, neofascist cur, but more on that next time )you are and really give in to a bout of More Patriotic Than Thou shit- flinging indignation- but settle. It ain't happening. In fact I will take special pleasure in deleting any comments made by red, white and blue flag waving jingoistic assholes make on this post. This blog isn't a democracy- so don't bother.
So let's get to the problem I have with our two holidays honoring our people in military service ( the other being Veteran's Day, which used to be Armistice Day, a commemoration of the day World War One ended- but somber reflection on the cruelty and wastefulness of modern war was for pussy Europeans so we renamed it Veteran's Day ). First of all, there is something dishonest about the whole thing. On these days you get your average American asshole pimping out himself in " patriotic" wear. You know, he is going to respect the fallen and the maimed by stretching an t- shirt with the Stars and Stripes emblazoned on it over his beer gut. Over burgers and brats he may take a few seconds and get a beer induced tear in his eye as he thanks the troops for preserving his freedom. And then goes back to stuffing his fat face.
All right, now let's examine an uncomfortable truth. If you study the military history of the United States you will quickly become aware of the fact that most of the wars our military has fought has been not in the name of freedom but for the purpose of taking shit away from other people- their land, their rights, and their lives. Ask Native Americans in what way were they such a threat to the American way of life that they had to be virtually exterminated. Or the Filipinos who in 1898 were freed from Spanish rule- only to be attacked by the American Army when they had the temerity to declare their independence. Four years and 200,000+ corpses later the Philippines became America's only true colony.
A history of the banana wars is also educational in the application of freedom by our military. Haiti, Nicaragua,and the Dominican Republic, were all visited by the United States Navy and Marine Corps when the profits of a few wealthy owners of American fruit and sugar companies were threatened. The rebels in those countries were hardly a threat to the rights and liberties of the American citizen.
And how can one stand before the monument to the miners, their wives and children who were gunned down by the Colorado National Guard at Ludlow in 1914 and talk of how the U.S. military's primary purpose is to protect our freedom? Again, an unflinching look at our history shows that along with the Pinkertons, Uncle Sam's favorite strike breaker was the National Guard.
And the military is not shy about turning its bayonets on veterans either, when they defy the Establishment. General MacArthur did not hesitate to use the Army to shoot at veterans of the First World War who marched on Washington D.C. in 1932 to protest the non- payment of promised bonuses for their service.
In fact I can think of only four wars out of the many fought by our country in which the result was the protection of, or the expansion of liberty- The War Of Independence, The Civil War, The Second World War, and The Korean War ( can any of you Reds seriously tell me the South would be better off if it had fallen to Kim Il Sung's army in 1950? ). The rest were either outright acts of conquest or conquest with a little sugar to make it more palatable for our gullible citizenry.
Notice too that those four wars were fought by citizen- soldiers: volunteers in the Revolution, volunteers and conscripts in the others. But citizen- soldiers are not the best material for conquest. Their cause for fighting is largely tied to home. Send them overseas to a far- away land to fight in someone else's war and they begin to resent it. Conquest is the province of the professional military. The British had their Redcoats, we have what one journalist has called " Imperial Grunts".
Professional soldiers are rotten representatives of freedom. They exist in a highly structured world where there is no debate, no questioning of authority. Civilian society is held in contempt, whether it is that of the country being occupied or that of their homeland. The usual answer to a problem is to annihilate it- using reason is for pussies.
One of our grand illusions in this country is to pretend that the troops are fighting for our freedom, that if Afghanistan or Iraq was not occupied then a horde of jihadi would somehow swim across the ocean, past our Navy, and invade California. The real truth is that there are relatively few people who actually defend our country from nations that could actually launch a serious attack on us. These are the Air Force technicians sitting underground in bunkers maintaining the nuclear tipped ICBMs in their silos or sailors in submarines prowling the oceans, ready to retaliate against any nation that seriously posed a threat to us.
What about terrorists? As we have recently seen, a handful of elite fighting men can take care of them ( not having our ruling class create the conditions that breed terrorists would help too- more on that next time ). Special Forces have done more to eliminate terrorist threats than the thousands of conventional forces occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.
Face the facts. The grunts in the infantry, artillery, and armored forces are used these days by our ruling class like they were one hundred years ago. They are the instruments of an imperial policy, not the defenders of your freedom.
The expansion of American liberty has most often been the work of civilians, by ordinary citizens who stood up against the injustice of the elite. Your rights as a worker were not given to you by the military. The Civil Rights Movement was not a movement of soldiers or won at the point of a bayonet. Indeed, if you look back on the struggles of ordinary Americans to win basic human rights and dignity more often than not you will find the rifles of U.S. soldiers pointing at them.
P.S. I may be a bitter old bastard, but I do acknowledge some of the good the military services provide. Here's a short list:
1)The Coast Guard for their rescue work during natural disasters, especially during Hurricane Katrina when every other Federal service had its head up its ass.
2) The Army Corps Of Engineers, without whom the Mississippi River valley would be one big fuckin' lake every spring.
3) Finally, the GI Bill that provides the means for people to get into college who otherwise could not afford to go ( since I benefited personally from this one I am a little biased).