Realistic war movies should feature endless screaming, rat stink pumped into the theatre, mud on the seats, and maggots sold at the snack bar. As Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said, "It is only those who have never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation." Not only soldiers, but children and animals are slaughtered as well. We are not shown their pictures on the news.
Officially, wars are fought for noble reasons-- to serve God's will, to protect women, to spread democracy. Warmakers often falsely declare that a nation attacked us. The Spanish American War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War began that way.
History's real reasons for war are very crude-- to seize minerals and oil, to gain slaves or take women, to revenge insults, to prove manhood, to dominate, to kill legally.
And top of the list-- to make money. When war is profitable, there are enemies everywhere. Blasting people to bits employs millions, from the assembly line to the front line. Weapons makers need wars to justify these jobs. Therefore the Pentagon does not conquer enemies, it creates enemies. Listen to Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, winner of two Medals of Honor: "I spent 33 years 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."
Our nation admires soldiers as heroes, and thanks them for their service, regardless what they've done. When soldiers enlist to invade other nations they defend corporate control of resources. They become tools, not heroes. After World War Two, Americans were taught that Germans allowed evil because they "just followed orders."
We can applaud those who sincerely fought for their nation. We can also applaud those who thought for their nation.
Sure, it's easy to understand why so many enlist. Good industrial jobs have been sent abroad, leaving mainly service work. Millions of American families now depend on war for employment and respect. War jobs are secure jobs.
During the Vietnam fighting many young Americans realized that our own country, since World War Two, had become history's largest empire. With 900 military bases in 150 nations, we invaded dozens of nations and overthrew elected governments. We learned that the USA was no longer defending the nation, but offending the world.
So we protested that war, even when many hated us. Peacemakers do not expect to be rewarded with pensions, monuments, or parades. We wanted to make war on war so that the next generations lose interest in being warriors. Those Americans killed and maimed in Vietnam and Iraq serve their country primarily as examples, for their children and ours, of why it is essential to question authority.
We can be proud of soldiers' dedication. They're needed to fight the right fight-- to rebuild America. Future generations may prove their patriotism instead by building a greater nation, rather than destroying other nations. The USA's genuine patriots protect America from massive invasion by poison water, soil and air; they protect American jobs; they keep banks honest; they challenge undemocratic corporations and bureaucracies. They change their lives to make America safe from imported oil.
Today, as America's bridges crumble, cities flood, forests burn, hospitals close, schools rot, homes foreclose, police rampage and wages decline, more taxpayer dollars than ever are used for killing and punishing than for repairing and healing. President Eisenhower, the general who led D-Day said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." (4/16/53)
Maybe you'd rather see your tax dollars work for your family and your community.
Many Americans wonder whether our leaders are really protecting America by defying the United Nations; by shifting the federal budget from schools, housing, hospitals, libraries, energy-efficiency, and health care; by corrupting elections. Especially since the biggest polluters in the United States are military bases. Thus a key question: who will defend the USA from its own military?
We need new ideas of defense and heroism. And of manhood. Real men create and appreciate beauty, they establish and foster sufficiency through helping. They repair the environment.