Newspapers once again filled with ads on Memorial Day thanking soldiers for "defending our freedom." Even the president claimed American troops "died in war so we could live in peace." This pernicious myth endures despite being sadly outdated.
Like the leaches used by medieval doctors, we are told we are bleeding for our own good. Closer scrutiny reveals the high cost in lives, resources, and false hopes for peace.
The last good war to defend our freedom was WWII, the one against Germany that the U.S. entered reluctantly because so many Americans admired Nazis. Only after Japan's attack did the U.S. join in the war. The Korean War was fought to contain communism, then we turned the country over to a dictator. Vietnam sacrificed tens of thousands of American boys to preserve capitalist free markets, supported by their dictators. Only WWII was fought against another country that attacked the U.S.
The U.S. does not intervene or invade countries in our own defense or to protect our freedom. The U.S. more often intervenes in other country's internal conflicts to install repressive dictatorships, such as Sukarno in Indonesia, the Shah in Iran, Gemayel in Lebanon, Armas in Guatemala, Rhee in South Korea, Kasavubu in the Congo, Shishakli in Syria, and Pinochet in Chile. In none of these cases was freedom in the U.S. threatened. These wars were fought for U.S. economic and political interests, and in some cases, we helped remove freely elected officials.
The U. S. has the second largest standing army in the world, almost two-thirds as large as China's with four times the population. It spends $600 billion a year on the military, while China spends $216 billion, and the second most powerful military in the world, Russia, spends $85 billion. The U.S. Navy has 10 aircraft carriers, more than the rest of the world combined, 3,700 aircraft, and 288 battle force ships. China is second with fewer than half the U.S. forces. The U.S. Air Force is the most technologically advanced in the world with 5,638 aircraft, and 450 ICBMs. Russia is second with 3,000 bombers and 4,500 fighters. Our country is not threatened by foreign militaries.
Additionally, the U.S. maintains 800 military bases in 80 countries, while Britain, France, and Russia have a mere 30 bases combined. Our model is not the democracy of classic Athens but that of the Roman Empire, updated to control economies rather to occupy.
Today U.S. military forces are fighting active wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Afghanistan. The U.S. Special Operations Command is involved in 134 major counterterrorism operations. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, such operations involve military, diplomatic, and informational and/or economic objectives employing military capabilities. This hardly protects freedom at home.
War has become a major product of America. It consumes more than half the yearly budget and expenses keep rising. Wars generate profit for investors and protect the economic interests of giant American corporations. In Afghanistan, war is a major expense that goes to pay these corporations. While claiming to be protecting peace, the mere presence of U.S. military provokes opposition.
In support of these fabrications, U.S. economic interests must sell patriotism and nationalism to the American people to justify the expense of maintaining an outsized military. With the ruling Republican party devotes itself to the freedom of a few individuals to make as much money as possible, the military budget is the main way for the government to provide jobs, and a multiplier effect to increase national economic well-being. Unfortunately, business interests are not willing to pay taxes to take care of the damaged soldiers who return home.
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates almost 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Psychological surveys find that almost 300,000 veterans, or 11 to 20 of every 100, have PTSD. Vietnam was particularly bad for veterans. While some 58,000 died in Vietnam, a VA memo reported 300,000 deaths of veterans between 1965 and 1981. More conservative estimates show that 70,000 and 100,000 vets died from suicide, agent orange and related illness. In 2016, a VA study found 20 veterans a day committing suicide in the U.S. Many troubled veterans are cast adrift after military service.
In the past, citizens volunteered for military service, and the draft was only for national emergencies. Because so many people protested the Vietnam war, the military became an all-volunteer force, with inductees given incentives of up to $40,000 to enlist and collect salaries. Military training involves breaking down the individual to become part of a unit and indoctrinated with military propaganda to promote loyalty and unquestioned obedience. The U.S. now has a mercenary army, much like that of Rome.
The U.S., with the world's most powerful military, a huge military investment, control by self-serving business interests, American leaders desperately promote the patriotic myth of "defending our freedom." In fact, our army is little more than an enforcement arm of U.S. business interests.