Recently the US Secretary of the Defense, Bush hold-over Mr. Robert Gates, and long time CIA officer, lamented publicly that some photographs of an American soldier dying in Afghanistan had been printed. He claimed it was an invasion of the family’s privacy and would heighten their grief.
“I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family,” the secretary wrote. “Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency.”
Clearly, as is usual for these things, he wished that the unpleasant and awful truth which is war would be kept well away from the public eye. Like the Bush policy of not showing flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Sec. Gates would like a world in which the military is only seen in parades, crisply dressed, or in spectacular sports events fly-overs, and covered with the usual rhetorical clothing which politicians drape upon soldiers: the nation’s best, heroes, patriots. Never would they utter, as did Henry Kissinger, the more gruesome reality:
“Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”
Which is why the world-round soldiers are generally recruited from the very young – younger the better – and from lower (class) and rural elements, usually lacking in many educational possibilities or encouragements. While they would never say it out loud, as Henry K did, they like them young, reckless, and stupid. These words are in public utterance shifted to “brave, heroic, patriotic.”
Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”
G. K. Chesterton
You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
George Bernard Shaw , “Misalliance”
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson , Journals, 1824
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson
The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny; flattery to treachery; standing armies to arbitrary government; and the glory of God to the temporal interest of the clergy.
Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.
The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.
H. L. Mencken
Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism: The right to criticize. The right to hold unpopular beliefs. The right to protest. The right of independent thought.
Margaret Chase Smith
When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.
William O. Douglas
Secretary Gates is about to ask President Obama for further troops for deployment in Afghanistan, where, following the privatized pattern of Iraq, there are more (much better paid) “contractors” of varying sorts than there are military servicemen. General Stanley McChrystal, previously cited for having participated in the fraudulent Pat Tillman propaganda effort, is the current commander in Afghanistan.
McChrystal’s Zarqawi unit, Task Force 6-26, became notorious for its interrogation methods, particularly at Camp Nama, where it was accused of abusing detainees. After the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal became public in April 2004, 34 members of the task force were disciplined; five Army Rangers were ultimately convicted of prisoner abuse at Camp Nama.
McChrystal was also criticized for his role in the aftermath of the 2004 death by friendly fire of Ranger and former professional football player Pat Tillman. The day after approving a posthumous Silver Star citation for Tillman that included the phrase “in the line of devastating enemy fire,” McChrystal sent an urgent memo warning senior government officials not to quote the citation in public speeches because it “might cause public embarrassment” if Tillman had in fact been killed by friendly fire, as McChrystal suspected. McChrystal was one of eight officers recommended for discipline by a subsequent Pentagon investigation but the Army declined to take action against him. Wikipedia
The general has asserted that with some alterations in strategy, along the line of “winning minds and hearts” the “war in Afghanistan could possibly be successfully prosecuted.” Whatever. We’ve heard this refrain before, from Viet Nam to Iraq. Just give us some more troops, time, political support and we’ll bring the bacon home.
You do see the light at the end of the tunnel, sir?
At the moment, the evidence suggests that Obama will indeed follow orders, and order up another contingent of soldiers for this adventure in Afghanistan. He is clearly, along with everyone else in our government, in the yoke of the military-industrial establishment, of which it was reported in the last days that our armaments industry, while the world economy is in a slump, took in $38 billion in business,or 68.4% of total global arms sales.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Speech, 1961
Unfortunately for the past decades this advice was ignored, and slowly American society has been militarized, with the corporations which make these armaments, in collusion with allied corporations in the areas of oil, energy, and communications having in effect bought the government and its members. The socio-political fluid in which they all work is imbued with the assumptions of a military-industrial-corporate oligarchy, in which any dissent results in expulsion from the community. You buy into this Weltanschauung or you can pick up your marbles and go home. Only the big boys are allowed to play.
James Madison, Political Observations, 1795:
Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…. No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
US Civil War
Korean War Dead
My Lai, Viet Nam
US Military globally