* Cross-posted from Humanitarian Left.
I have several old friends who turned into rwnjs. One of them, who never had a political thought in his head, married into republican money and now he is one. He disowned me when he found out I wasn't, and we were once best friends (we hitchhiked across country together when we were teenagers). Another of them is a staunchly pro-military rw christian who served in the navy decades ago and still can't get the martial music out of her head. She hasn't disowned me but is mystified why I don't see everything in the same simple terms that she does. It's all very simple to her.
She has included me on her mailing list and is in the habit of blasting the list with rightwing spam. We have had issues with it over the years. I resent being sent such mindless crap and have explained that to her...to no avail. I still get blasted with it. I know, I should just not open the email...but I can't help myself. That she keeps sending me this stuff, knowing full well how I feel about it, pisses me off. We've been over all this quite a few times as I have tried valiantly to make her see that Jesus wouldn't approve of all the killing.
The latest blast was all about how our glorious troops are out there keeping us safe. It was a slide show of pictures of little babies sleeping on cammo uniforms, tearful children sending their parents off to war, stoic old men with chests full of medals, old glory, mom and american pie, and prayers, lots of prayers. It was all Jesus and soldiers. And in this fantasy, war was a good and noble thing. There were no bodies or explosions or limbless veterans...or homeless ones. There were no orphans.
The religious framing in the following is simply an attempt to get through to her, relate to her on her level, and point out the logical inconsistency of Christians supporting war.
Dear old friend,
I have asked you numerous times to not send me this right wing crap. It's upsetting to me and you have no right to force it on me. How hard is it to take me off your mailing list?
I don't want to get into a back and forth with you over this because we live on different planets. On my planet, glorifying war is a sin.
After firing off that email, I wrote the body of this diary, but never sent it to her. Instead, I wrote again and apologized, mentioning that I'd written a screed in reply but saw no point in sending it to her – being as how we live on different planets and all. She didn't contradict me, so I never did.
I offer it here as a heartfelt commentary on war.
I'm sorry for my harsh words, but I feel very strongly about this. I see this as the rankest, sneakiest, most manipulative kind of propaganda meant to justify and support our many wars – all of which are utterly unnecessary, completely immoral and altogether unjustifiable. These wars have cost millions of innocent lives – as many as 20 million over the last 50 years – and left untold horror and grief in their wakes. And I don't believe Jesus would appreciate being dragged into it. Would Jesus support our military? No, he wouldn't – not for a minute.
I realize that you take all this uber-patriotic rah rah at face value. That makes it hard for me to explain to you why I find it so offensive.
I believe that the mixing of Christianity and militarism is dangerous...not to mention blasphemous.
Militarism as religion is a dangerous thing, a poisonous thing, an evil thing. But there is a concerted effort, both inside and outside the military, to conflate the two in their desperation to make murder seem respectable.
"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
George might have said 'Religious language in a military context,' but he didn't so I'll add that.
When you say 'the military,' I think you are probably referring to the young guys and gals doing what they are told in the service of our country, and not to the political monstrosity that is our Pentagon (where trillions of our dollars are simply missing), or to 'THE Military,' our defacto national religion. I use the term militarism to refer to the latter, the military as religion. Nothing has been more harmful to our nation, or much of the rest of the world for that matter, than this misguided, wrong-headed and morally bereft all-out commitment to military domination of the planet.
We spend a trillion dollars a year, half our national budget, on war. The rest of the world spends another trillion. A fraction of that money would end hunger, poverty, homelessness and many other of the world's ills while also making possible free education, universal health care and an appropriate response to our looming environmental catastrophe.
Like you, I feel for the grunts and the peons just doing their best – at least the ones who are not themselves committing heinous acts – but that and the compassionate treatment of veterans is as far as my support for the military goes. In most cases I object to the mission for it usually entails the killing of people who have done us no harm, whether our killing them is intentional or not. Those people we call 'collateral damage' are just as dead as if we called them what they truly are – victims of the American military machine.
It's hard to be a hero in the middle of a bloody war and it's wrong to call anyone a hero just because they wear a uniform. Anyone can wear a uniform. Many of history's biggest villains have worn them proudly.
Yes, the photos are in many cases very touching and tug at the ol' heartstrings. And that of course is the point, the message is aimed squarely at the emotions, bypassing the brain. But if you engage a few brain cells, it is possible to question the ultimate meaning and intent of such a photo-barrage, to pause to briefly consider whether or not there may be some pro-militaristic propaganda involved here, whether or not our emotions are being played. That's sort of the nature of propaganda: to hit hard at the emotions and then offer an easy-to-apply salve for any pesky doubts or misgivings, in this case, patriotism is the salve. The message is that it's patriotic to fight wars, kill people, bomb villages, water-board prisoners, unravel families, etc. It's really all about those heartrending shots of innocent children being separated from their dads or moms – all for the greater glory of the good ol' USA...and the gods of war and corporate profits, of course.
Using cheap sentiment and religion, especially Christianity, a religion that demands that we love even our enemies, to sell war and militarism is deeply offensive to me. I say cheap sentiment not because it isn't real or valid but because it is easy, it costs nothing. Just show someone a picture of a grieving child giving up his parent to a 'greater' cause, that of war, and who wouldn't feel that intensely? You don't have to think about it, in fact that's the point, thinking is avoided, it's unnecessary (and though it goes unsaid, unwanted). If you were to think about it, you might wonder if it couldn't be avoided.
Those images are used to blast the message that militarism and war are just about the best and highest achievement of humanity – nothing says 'the triumph of the human race' like an old campaigner with a chest full of medals. Just crank up the martial music, snap off a salute to whatever flag you think is holy, shed a righteous tear for our glorious leaders and feel good about all the death and horror we have committed in the name of patriotism and (in our case) Jesus. He would be so proud.
Sadly, people are very susceptible to propaganda. It's also sadly true that military training/indoctrination is a fairly elegant form of brainwashing. That's where a lot of the militaristic bullshit that permeates our society can be traced back to. It's quite insidious. It's where we get all these uber-patriotic, hearstring-tugging, war-glorifying ideas: honorable service, duty to God and country, heroic sacrifice, Old Glory, etc. All of these are fine ideas...in context. But the context here sucks.
No one is actually fighting for all the grand and glorious reasons we are given: freedom, democracy, The American Way of Life. Actually there is a lot of truth to that last one, but only if you make the mental adjustments necessary to understand that The American Way of Life means the right of American billionaires to prey on the rest of the world, using our military as their enforcers and collectors, much like a giant, incredibly well-armed mafia. For THAT is the larger truth of what's going on with our military.
Our military are NOT protecting us. They are NOT keeping us safe or defending Democracy. They are inflaming the passions of those who already hate us and creating more and more 'terrorists' (a label applied to anyone who threatens us or who we want to kill) who will be motivated to do us harm. They are doing this with every village bombed, every child killed as 'collateral damage,' every helpless suspect tortured, every wedding party strafed, every woman raped, every gathering of old men droned. They are pouring gasoline on every fire they can find. Of course they are, in most cases, just following orders. Which comes nowhere close to making any of it right.
I had an angry man scream at me on the steps of Capitol Hill that his son was in Iraq fighting for my right to protest and my right to free speech. I asked him how my rights were under attack in Iraq. He had no answer, because of course they weren't. My constitutional rights were under attack alright - still are – but not in Fallujah, in Washington DC.
The paid professional propagandists have done a fine job of selling war with these hyper-emotional appeals to patriotism and unthinking religious fervor over the years. I could cite you chapter and verse. I could send you a list of all the horrid dictators we have supported over the course of our lifetimes, the long list of democratically elected governments our CIA has overthrown (starting with Allende in Chile, or the installation of the Shah in Iran). I could provide a list of how many wars we have fought, or how many we are fighting now – both secret and not. I could tell you all about the horrible and immoral things we are teaching people at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning or about the many corporations like DuPont, Halliburton, Blackwater or Raytheon, et al who have profiteered off of all these bogus wars. But you probably don't even know who Smedley Darlington Butler was, and no one can begin to understand to true nature of the American military machine without knowing his history and his writings. I realize how presumptuous that is of me and please forgive me if I'm wrong, but my father, 21 years in the Army, didn't know of him – as I was shocked to learn. I think they must keep pretty quiet about old Smedley in the military.
Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during theBanana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler is well known for having later become an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences, as well as exposing the Business Plot, a purported plan to overthrow the U.S. government.
Smedley Butler wrote a book called War is a Racket
"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
War is a Racket
A bit more from Wikipedia on Butler's book:
In his penultimate chapter [of War is a Racket], Butler argues that three steps are necessary to disrupt the war racket:
1. Making war unprofitable. Butler suggests that the owners of capital should be "conscripted" before other citizens are: "It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war. The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labour before the nation's manhood can be conscripted. … Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our steel companies and our munitions makers and our ship-builders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get"
2. Acts of war to be decided by those who fight it. He also suggests a limited referendum to determine if the war is to be fought. Eligible to vote would be those who risk death on the front lines.
3. Limitation of militaries to self-defense. For the United States, Butler recommends that the navy be limited, by law, to within 200 miles of the coastline, and the army restricted to the territorial limits of the country, ensuring that war, if fought, can never be one of aggression.
War is a Racket
The horrifying truth is that wars are fought for crass economic gain...or as Jesus might put it, for filthy lucre.
I imagine, you would refer me to World War Two. And you would have a point. There were some heroic aspects to our coming to the aid of Europe. That particular war comes much closer than most, by far, to a claim of 'just war.' The non-heroic aspects are somewhat lesser known though: the firebombing of Dresden and such, Hiroshima – and whether you think Hiroshima was justified or not (it wasn't), Nagasaki two days later when we knew full well what horrors to expect.
But WWII is a long time gone. We can't hide behind it forever. There are zero heroic aspects to what we're doing now with our military. All we have are dusty old artifacts of our heroic military might from WWII. That and propaganda.
The sad and bitter truth is that the military is not protecting us from folks like al Qaeda, they are creating them – just as they created the original AQ. Every time we kill someone's mother, aunt, grandfather or child, we create a new 'terrorist' or a dozen new ones. At some point the self-perpetuating cycle of killing and revenge has to stop. It protects no one to allow it to continue.
All these wars are doing is sucking up all the oxygen, wasting our treasure and our youth while issues that truly threaten the human race go ignored because they have no military solutions and because there's no money left when we're done buying more missiles and bombs than anyone could ever need. We are like a giant dimwitted child with a hammer and all we can see are nails – while we blithely ignore those things that are actually going to kill us all. Hint: it's not terrorists.
When I say that glorifying war is a sin, I have a feeling that I know what you'll say: Jesus wasn't a wimp. You've said it to me many times before. That must be what they say in our Dominionist military: Jesus wasn't a wimp. I guess that's how they bridge the cognitive dissonance that lies between their love of war and their (supposed) total commitment to the Prince of Peace, whose highest law was that we love one another. It takes a hell of a bridge to get from the teachings of Jesus to the bombing of third world villages. Jesus wasn't a wimp, indeed.
Please watch this. It's the best video you'll see all day, World Beyond War:
They also have a helluva website: http://www.worldbeyondwar.org/