Bad leaders wield the power of a war culture.
Wednesday afternoon I was asked by a fellow anti-war demonstrator what I thought about the “infamous” (not my friend’s word) Moveon ad. I answered that I was outraged that the Senate dared to censure my organization, Moveon and thereby MY freedom of speech. In response to the rightwing faux outrage and just for starters, for Senator Chambliss of the truly infamous ad campaign in Georgia, maligning the name and reputation of Vietnam war veteran Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in that war, by linking him with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, to have the unmitigated GALL to vote to censure my organization and me for daring to criticize one army general for his unfounded and widely contradicted claim of military success in Iraq, is hypocrisy at its height .
My friend said he could see my point about my freedom of speech rights and that he had not known about Chambliss’ vote. But he did feel that the headline of the Moveon ad was disrespectful to the military uniform and the point could have been made in another way. We parted amicably and agreed we would just have to disagree over the wording of the heading of that ad. I understand my friend’s position. His wife is a retired Marine.
As a side note and explanation of our amicability in disagreement, liberals are not generally violent by nature nor by any means monopolitistic. That is why liberals have a better, deeper and more comprehensive understanding of issues and can formulate far better solutions to problems than the narrow, ideological, rightwing fundamentalists currently in charge of our national destiny. Just a thought.
Honor the uniform. Support the troops. Those are phrases behind which despots nefariously hide in order to wage war to build empire. A culture of violence produces and is produced by the constant and disingenuous use of those phrases in a cycle of brutality that throughout history has always brought the civilization that embodies militarism to ruin. An entire society is brought to heel and to glorification of bloody conquest by those phrases. The foundations of civility are blasted to obliteration by those phrases. Normally kind and considerate people accept torture and death and loss of liberty, going about their daily lives unaware that their daily lives are forever changed by the insidious acceptance of cruelty as part of their nation’s identity.
Men and women who become part of the military with the best of patriotic motives and/or with the promise of education and financial reward to lift them out of poverty, find themselves pawns in a bloody chess game played by bloodless and soulless manipulators on a black and white board with black and white game pieces representing “us” and “them.”
Soldiers are labeled “heroes of the state” as they are slaughtered and dishonored by the state in the political chess game of war for profit and power. They are ground into the culture of violence and served up on a platter as hero hors d’oevres. And the public tastes and exclaims with gushing praise.
Standing armies and arsenals of weapons are antithetical to peace. That is just common sense. When one nation has a large standing army and a nuclear arsenal large enough to destroy the planet many times over while other nations are not allowed to have one nuclear weapon, that nation has a complex of militarism with tentacles reaching into every facet of its being. The Rambo soldier hero becomes the ideal, an ideal that does not match the human being in the uniform. And the Rambo distortion becomes a tool of despotism.
Such military might does NOT add to the security of the nation that owns it and in today’s world is potential for tragedy on a cosmic scale to all civilization. NO nation is god. NO nation is always right. NO nation owns the province of holiness. EVERY nation eventually chooses bad leaders and those leaders make illegal, immoral and just plain bad decisions. In a culture of militarism where it is such a high offense to question a general, to use the same language to do that questioning that is acceptable when used in criticizing a civilian, it is alarmingly easy for the uniform to be used by bad leadership to blindly pursue ruinous policy.
It is not the fault of people who, for whatever reason, choose to enlist in a standing army, that they are made centerpieces in a war culture. Whether they enlist for a bonus, an education or a way out of poverty or whether they simply want to fight for their country, they are not making policy.
Tragically, the evidence shows that our leaders are making policy primarily based on war, piously proclaiming the heroism and sacrifice of our troops while carelessly subjecting them to the brutalization of combat and accusing proponents of peace, diplomacy and sanity, of treason. Treason against an illegal and immoral policy of pre-emptive war? Treason against the destructive power of the culture of war? Then I am proudly a traitor.
Did General Petraeus betray us? It is a reasonable question. We have the absolute right and the urgent duty to ask it of the man in the uniform. Did he betray us and American soldiers in Iraq by using his position to aid and abet an irrational Bush administration stay-the-course policy with a hyped-up report that is contradicted by many other high ranking officers and government agencies? A banner on an ad is NOT any kind of an issue in any kind of a rational debate. But, the answers to the above questions are vital to our debate.
Unless we cut the tentacles of the complex of military influence in this country, pursue peace first instead of war first and begin to dismantle our military culture we will fail as an independent power. It is as simple as that.