When MSNBC host Chris Hayes had the audacity in his pre-Memorial Day show to question whether every American soldier was entitled to be called a “hero,” he unleashed a virtual firestorm in cyberspace and elsewhere. He had clearly asked the right question, a question that was long overdue.
Since Richard Nixon ended the draft in 1973 the United States Military has been made up entirely of paid volunteers, volunteers who have for a fee willingly agreed to go anywhere to kill or be killed in the name of the State. With little or no knowledge of the history, culture, religion, or traditions of the people whom they are asked to kill, these thoroughly indoctrinated mercenaries blindly follow the orders of their feckless leaders. It’s all about “killing in the name” rapped the legendary, heavy metal, hip-hop band Rage Against the Machine back in the 1990s. Who then, are our troops? Are they heroes as they are often portrayed by our media, our politicians, and the public or are they just hired guns trained to kill on behalf of the Empire?
By whose authority other than the law of the jungle do they set themselves up in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya to assume the role of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner? Is there any difference in their behavior than that of President Barack Obama who sits in the White House and orders drones, Navy Seals, and Delta Force death squads to take out those on his weekly “kill list”?
President Obama claims to be an adherent to the so-called “just war” doctrine. The concept of a just war is an oxymoron. It is pure theological mumbo jumbo. There is no such thing as a just war.
Wars are acts of nihilism. They are all about money, power, wealth, size, and greed. Wars are fought not to achieve social justice, but to serve the interests of political elites pretending to be patriots, who demonize their alleged enemies so as to manipulate their minions into sacrificing their lives for false ideals.
Wars and executions in the name of the state occur when our sense of community gives way to revenge – a lust firmly grounded in nihilism. Just as active participation in the death of a human being is an expression of life’s meaninglessness, so too is the passive approval of state-sponsored executions, wars, and military combat. Those who fight in wars are either conscripted to do so by the state or duped into doing so by people of the lie.
Chris Hayes was absolutely correct in pointing out that treating all American troops as though they were heroes does provide further legitimacy for war in a country which needs no additional justification for war. We live in a nation that is subsumed by a culture of war which includes trillion-dollar plus national security budgets, 1.6 million troops stationed in over 1,000 bases in 153 countries, and Special Operations strike forces in 120 countries. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the United States has become a giant military machine.
However, because our wars are financed entirely with borrowed money rather than tax dollars and those who are actually involved in fighting them represent such a small portion of the population, most Americans experience little or no pain associated with them. So institutionalized and sanitized have these nasty little wars become, that they go virtually unnoticed under the radar screen. Body bags and flag-draped coffins on television are all a thing of the past. It’s almost as though no one dies or even bleeds in modern warfare.
But people do die, bleed, experience permanently disabling injuries, and become unemployable mental basket cases. In addition, tens of thousands of innocent women and children are also killed by our fearless warriors. Should the people responsible for all of this carnage at all levels of the chain of command be designated as national heroes or held accountable for their actions?
Our national war team is headed up by Nobel Peace Laureate and Prince of Drones, Barack Obama. The all pervasive behemoth includes the Congress, the Pentagon, the 50 state National Guard units, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Electric, West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, and hundreds of college R.O.T.C. units. What all of these enterprises have in common is an abiding commitment to promoting, facilitating, and conducting war. In one way or another, they are all in the killing business. Is it any wonder that peace remains an impossible dream in the wake of a prowar public relations force of millions?
If our troops on the ground and our drone operators, who are far removed from the battlefield, are all paid mercenaries, then what can be said about President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, Lockheed Martin CEO Robert J. Stevens, and the leaders of Congress who support every increase in the Pentagon’s budget? Or so-called “liberals” like Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders who always vote to “support the troops”?
Wars are grounded in human killing and human killing is an act of nihilism. Violence begets more violence, not the other way around. War is the ultimate form of having – owning, possessing, controlling, manipulating, and finally killing.
Nations which amass military might always find a way to use it. The risk of war increases in direct proportion to the military power of the state. Wars also cover up a plethora of political and economic problems by deflecting public attention away from the real issues.
I believe that most, but not all, of our troops are naïve, well intended, ill-informed, patriots, who have been manipulated into risking their lives for false gods by our prowar media and political system. But heroes they are not.
In stark contrast to the troops, Obama, Biden, Panetta, Clinton, Petraeus, Stevens, Leahy, and Sanders know better. They are all people of the lie. They know exactly what business they are in. It’s call technofascism.
Thomas H. Naylor
June 10, 2012
Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.