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Defending Our Country?

November 17, 2009

Whenever the military or veterans or troops are discussed, someone ends up trotting out that old line about how we should support them, because they are (or were at some time) “defending our country.”

But what if I think that some of them weren’t? What if I think they were fighting wars or proxy wars in order to gain a foothold over the control of oilfields in the Middle East (or protecting other economic interests)? What if these wars didn’t actually defend the country, but—instead—incited blowback against our country?

There are some soldiers who have acted to protect my country, but I honestly do not think that what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan is defending my country. I think the military is making things worse for my country. Why the hell would I want to support that?

Sadly, the actions of the military are largely beyond reproach, and the actions of individual soldiers even  more so. “They were just doing what they were told,” people tell me—as if that alleviated them of any and all responsibility.

There’s no doubt that soldiers are, to some extent, cogs in the machine. But if that were true all the way down, then we wouldn’t have conscientious objectors.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Beelzebub permalink
    November 17, 2009 12:02 pm

    I think most soldiers are basically ignorant of what their role as part of the military-colonial machine actually is—possibly willfully ignorant. Even if they aren’t, there are real economic advantages to joining the military, even if you can’t actually take advantage of many of them until you leave the military. Learn a trade! Go to school! Be a productive citizen!

    It’s such a dirty thing. People who otherwise wouldn’t go anywhere near the military find themselves enticed to do so. I’m not sure you can actually expect anyone to be a conscientious objector when they can easily ride the military for the advantages it confers, assuming you don’t get killed or catastrophically wounded.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    November 17, 2009 12:05 pm

    I see what you’re saying, and to a great extent I agree: often economic conditions contribute to people joining the Army.

    But seriously, they KNOW that it is not just “learn a trade” and “go to school”—they join up with the knowledge that the Army KILLS people. It’s like signing up to be a an executioner or a butcher—you have to know that your hands might get dirty.

    Or is there simply too much cognitive dissonance for most?

  3. Beelzebub permalink
    November 17, 2009 1:16 pm

    Well, the question isn’t whether or not the Army kills people and that that is dirty, but whether or not the killing is justified. There are some instances where it is. I think World War II could be said to be one of those and if it is, it is probably the last conflict America has involved itself in that has been truly justifiable. (Maybe that peacekeeping stuff that went on in Kosovo and Bosnia in the nineties? I’m really not sure as I haven’t really looked into it much and I was very, very young when all that went on.) So, yeah, they know that killing is involved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are aware of the fact that the killing they may have to do is completely unjustified.

    How much do you think the average American (or average American military member) is aware that the guys at the top have been crafting an empire for a while now? I think a lot of people buy into the justifications the government gives for these military conflicts. It’s easy not to believe you’re actually the bad guy.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    November 17, 2009 2:24 pm

    Yes, I’m not 100% pacifist—killing may be entirely appropriate in certain circumstances.

    However, if you’re going to take on the job of killing others you have a duty to think long and hard about it before executing your duty. I get myself tied up in knots over whether or not my grading is equally fair to all students, and the grade I assign them has little impact on their life. If I might be killing them, I should devote EVEN MORE effort at thinking about whether what I’m doing is right or wrong.

    Everyone should think about the consequences of their actions, and those who are killing have a greater duty to do so. They should not be EXEMPTED from critical thinking about their job because of the nature of the job.

  5. Beelzebub permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:36 pm

    Agreed, but I’m not sure how you make people just start being critical.

  6. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    November 17, 2009 3:37 pm

    I’ll start by not rubber stamping “Support the Troops” and by calling their actions into question …

  7. John permalink
    November 17, 2009 8:10 pm

    I think the first step is noting that “Our Country” is not one unified thing, but is comprised of conflicting, oppositional forces.

    I remember checking out Volume 1 of “Capital” from the library when I was 16…somehow, I understood enough to get the gist of it! That’s when I first started thinking of myself as a Marxist. Still, I strongly considered joining the military after high school just because there were no other options for me, living in a small town in the rural south. I felt like joining the military or going to work at the grocery store were my only options. I had many friends who, while not really leftists, were sort of anti-government in an anarchist sort of way, who ended up in the military for those reasons. Ultimately, I made the decision to work minimum wage jobs for years rather than join the military. This was before 9/11; one of the arguments I heard in the 90s for joining the military was, “when is there ever going to be another major war?”

  8. MicksterBear permalink
    December 7, 2009 11:32 pm

    Saw this on a car bumper in Seattle about a year ago. It looked like a standard “Support Our…” but when I got closer I could see that it was something very different…

  9. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    December 7, 2009 11:48 pm

    I love it; that’s awesome.

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