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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/19/17

Did He Really "Know What He Signed Up For"?

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Two generations ago I recruited young men and women for the United States Army. When I heard Trump stay that the soldier who was killed in Afghanistan "Knew what he was signing up for." it bothered me for a few days and it bothers me now. I had to write this so that maybe Donald Trump or someone close to him will read this and understand just how wrong and ignorant that statement was.

When people came to my office or I contacted them for an appointment, the world was much different than it is now so was I. People weren't overly patriotic, but in general the early 90s, before 9/11, it was easy to be blind to the mechanization of the oligarchy that controls this nation. It was easy to serve in the military and feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself.

After Bush was elected, it was easy to see that the government was using the military to advance the neoconservative agenda. During this time that I read general Smedley Butler's book "War Racket". In this book, the two-time winner of the medal of honor explained that the Army was working for the corporations and not the people. I wish I read that book before I joined the military.

When Bush came to office, he propagated the lie that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction. He wasn't the only one. The mainstream media, fueled by the people's discontent over what had happened during 9/11, and looking to get on the bandwagon. If the mainstream media had done some investigative reporting or stop covering up the investigative reporting that was being done, the American people would've known how the government was lying to it citizens. I blame the mainstream media as much as I do the Neo-conservatives that surrounded George Bush.

When I first started writing about how our government was overthrowing governments of other nations writing about our bloated military budget, I was told by many that if I didn't like America, I should move out. I also wrote about the two-party system that was propagated by the corrupt politicians that were paid to do the bidding of lobbyists and argues for campaign-finance reform. Sadly, most people who wrote in the comments sections from were from Democratic and left-wing publications that I was writing for then. Now in the last couple of years since much of what I was writing about is being said by so many others, I feel that continuing to write about it is like beating a dead horse. Now, most people understand that cutting the military budget would make life better for the millions of people here in this country. Many understand how the corrupt two-party duopoly stays in power. The truth, as I said so many times before, is that adjusting for inflation, we spend more now than we did during the height of World War II. It also cost millions of dollars to run for the Senate or the House or the presidency.

Still, most Americans don't really understand how intertwined the defense industries and Congress are. They don't really have the time to read general Smedley Butler's book, and they don't really have time to do their own investigative reporting. Most of the country still believes that serving in the military is something honorable to aspire to. As a former military recruiter, I would like to tell the young people of our country who are considering joining the military that they are not really serving their country, they are serving the corporations that make up the defense industries that and are helping to promote endless wars for political and economic gain.

Serving in the military is a wonderful way to see various parts of the world and the pay isn't bad either. The military can give a young person structure and discipline. The truth is if someone who joins the military and thinks that he or she is serving to protect our freedom in America, they're sadly mistaken. The idea of giving your life in a country where the people hate you and see you as part of imperial occupation is disturbing to say the least, and when most Americans are oblivious to the fact of what you're doing, is like dying for nothing. Most generals and politicians don't even bother to look at the names of the people who have died fighting in the military. To them, their lives are just collateral damage and the cost of doing business. There is nothing heroic in dying overseas in a country that didn't invite you there and who openly despise you because you represent what they see as an imperial power. There are not many Roman legionnaires that are fondly remembered or even thought about centuries later. In fact, there are not many soldiers from any war that are truly remembered except by the families they left behind. Sure, there are monuments erected to the generals that got them killed, but the common soldier usually doesn't receive memorial statues.

I don't blame those that enlist in the armed services for doing so. I just hope that they truly understand exactly what they are getting themselves into. When people enlist they should do so to learn a trade and to pay for their education while getting a paycheck. They should know that there are so many wars being fought overtly and covertly by the United States that the chances of getting killed for these benefits are very real. I hope they understand that they're not fighting for the people back home, there fighting for the benefits they received, and that is all there fighting for.

If they feel patriotic about fighting for resources and profits for the military-industrial complex then they are in the right place. If there fighting so a President can have a legacy, I don't believe it's worth it. Then again, there are in the right place. They should also remember that when people tell them "thank you for your service", most don't really mean it. Veterans make up most of homeless individuals, and their suicide rate is the highest of any segment in our society. Many soldiers that come back after long deployments come back broken homes and joblessness and can't seem to connect with people who haven't been through what they have been through.

When Donald Trump uttered that ridiculous phrase to a woman that he just lost her son it showed just how insensitive and ignorant he really is. Most mothers don't raise their sons to be mercenaries and I'm sure this mother didn't either. Still, the truth, as painful as it sounds, is that her son didn't die to protect America's freedom, he died for something else. As Americans, we can only hope that he believed he was dying for a noble cause.

The thoughts that I conveyed in this article were painful for me to write. When I think of what it was like then was and what it is like now, it hurts me and it also makes me angry, especially when I see a young person in a casket for no good reason. I'm not saying that America doesn't need its military and that everyone serving is a mercenary. There only turned into mercenaries when the government uses them in a conflict that has nothing to do with the security of our nation. What we see now are people dying in Afghanistan and other countries around the world to secure profits for the defense contractors and corporations that desire resources, that's what makes them mercenaries. I'm sure that they are told they are fighting for some good reason, but that reason is rarely told the American public. Congress should do its job and stop these American military misadventures authorized by a president that doesn't have authorization from Congress. I'm not talking about Afghanistan, he's gotten a blank check on that, I'm talking about military men and women engaged in unpublicized and covert military operations around the world. If these things were in our national interest then the president should ask Congress for authorization to use military force.

I would not be an Army recruiter today. I would not subject any man or woman warns to endure the raging storm of military interventions that the United States is addicted to. I would not send men and women to kill people and put their own lives at risk for political and economic reasons. As someone who spent a career in the United States Army, it seems to me that joining the military, especially the Army or the Marines is like playing Russian roulette. It's like dying on a bet for nothing.

(Article changed on October 20, 2017 at 02:13)

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Tim Gatto is Ret. US Army and has been writing against the Duopoly for the last decade. He has two books on Amazon, Kimchee Days or Stoned Colds Warriors and Complicity to Contempt.

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