By Dave Lindorff
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, God must love veterans; He makes so many of them.
So Happy Armistice Day! Happy Remembrance Day!
Today is Veteran's Day, and we'll have the usual parades and the show of flags, but it's worth remembering that Nov. 11 wasn't always a day for blindly glorifying the military.
World War I dead litter a road after a battle by public domain
When November 11 was initially established as a US holiday, it was done by an Act of Congress to commemorate the cease-fire established on the Western front between the forces of Germany and those of the French, British and Americans. The name of the holiday was only changed to Veterans Day after World War II, when the US was in the process of being transformed into a permanent war machine.
The original day was established to condemn war and to recall the horrors of the a senseless war that caused the deaths of over 20,000,000 people.
Today, Veteran's Day is not about pacifism or condemning war, though, but about blind flag-waving patriotism and celebrating our "heroes" in uniform, and of course desperate sales by financially struggling retail establishments.
It's worth recalling, because nobody talks about these things, that over two million Americans have been sent to serve tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's a pretty big number--maybe more than 1% of the adult US population.
Over 600,000 of those people have been treated at medical facilities of the Veterans Administration. Countless more are suffering from ailments and injuries like undiagnosed head trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression etc. More than half of the people who are homeless in the US are veterans, many of them veterans of the latest of America's endless string of wars.
It is common to hear politicians and corporate media hacks talk about how America's veterans and active-duty troops are "defending our freedoms."
This is really a load of bull.
It does no disrespect to Americans in uniform to state the truth that America's freedoms have never been threatened by Afghanistan's Taliban, any more than they were threatened by tinpot dictator Saddam Hussein, and even the terrorists who have bombed American buildings or downed American planes never threatened our freedom for a second. Any damage to American freedom--and there has been a lot of damage done since Sept. 11, 2001--has been done by our own government, and by ourselves, not by outsiders.
We need to stop referring to November 11 as Veterans Day, and get it back to what it was originally--Remembrance Day--a day to contemplate the horror and futility of war.
We Americans need to stop blindly praising people in uniform, and instead start asking what those men and women could be doing if they weren't sucking up valuable tax dollars, and if they weren't going over to desperately poor Third World countries and blowing up tens of thousands of innocent people who are just struggling to survive.
Let's just take Afghanistan. This landlocked country, one of the poorest in the world, has about 28 million people, not counting the three million refugees living in Pakistan and Iran. 42% of those people survive on an income of $1/day, or $365/year. The rest aren't much better off.