Robert Jensen, the odious University of Texas journalism professor (whom I've blogged about before) is at it again. This article, from the (Fredericksburg, VA) Free Lance-Star is more typical boilerplate lefty drivel, for the most part. However, there are a few passages that I, as a military member, find intolerable. What I found shocking was that I originally found this article in Stars and Stripes, the official US military publication in Europe. Why they published this is totally beyond any reasoning I can muster.
AUSTIN, Texas"Dear member of the U.S. military: Thank you for defending our freedom," reads the message on the Department of Defense's "Defend America" Web site. Fill in your name and hometown, and click to join the more than 2 million who have sent the message.
The sentiment seems hard to argue with. No matter what one thinks of the coming war against Iraq, can't we all send such a message to those who serve?
Not if we want to be honest about U.S. war plans, for those troops will not be defending our freedom but defending America's control over the strategically crucial energy resources of the Middle East. They will be in the service of the empire, fighting a war for the power and profits of the few, not freedom for the many.
No, we won't be defending America's control over oil. No, we won't be in service of the empire. Afghanistan, Kosovo, Haiti, Somalia...the list of nations with little to no strategic importance that we have had a military presence does not deter those who scream mindlessly about how it's all about the oil. I suppose that Korea (which was a underdeveloped, retro backwater) and Vietnam (ditto) were all about the oil, too.
To some that statement may seem disrespectful. But resistance to the coming war against Iraq does not signal a lack of respect for those who do the fighting. I have never served in the military, but friends and family have, and I have empathy for people on the front lines who face the risks.
Instead of empathy, how about asking them about their views? They are likely to be disheartening to you, as the military, by and large, rejects and ridicules your posture on the war. This is not just the Generals and Admirals, who make the decisions safely esconced in their offices, but down to the deckplates, flightlines and fields as well.
I'm also aware that many of those who find themselves on those lines may have joined the military primarily for economic reasons. But if I am truly to respect themas human beings and as fellow citizensI should be willing to state clearly my objections to this war.
Some join the military for economic reasons, but many have not. There is a large contingent of people who joined the military during the 1990s, during a booming economy and plenty of opportunities. Some joined because they support our country, and some joined for their own personal reasons. Pat Tillman joined (and made a huge financial sacrifice) because of his feelings over the events of September 11th.
You can state your objections to the war; just don't try to cloak them in a deceptive, sanctimonious haze.
That requires distinguishing between the rhetoric and reality of U.S. foreign and military policy. Every great power claims noble motives for its wars, but such claims usually cover an uglier reality, and we are no different.
For most of the post-World War II era, the United States' use of force against weaker nations was justified as necessary to stop Soviet plans for world conquest. The Soviet regime was authoritarian, brutal, and interventionist in its own sphere, and it eventually acquired the capacity to destroy us with nuclear weapons.
But the claim that the Soviets were a global military threat to our existence was also a political weapon to frighten Americans into endorsing wars to suppress independent development in the Third World and accepting a permanent wartime economy.
Independent development in the third world is an oxymoron. Nations which emulated and supported the US (nations such as Germany, Japan, and Korea) flourished, while those that rejected our values and our assistance (most of Africa, parts of Asia, and Eastern Europe) stagnated and regressed. The permanent wartime economy is pretty weak; spending less than 5% of GDP on defense is hardly a "permanent wartime economy".
With the Soviet Union gone, American planners needed a new justification for the military machine. International terrorism may prove more durable a rationale, for organizations such as al-Qaida are a real threat, and we have a right to expect our government to take measures to protect us. But the question is, which measures are most effective?
Ooh, more invective against the military-industrial complex.
U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that the U.S. attack on Afghanistan did little to reduce the threat and may have complicated counterterrorism efforts. But the war was effective at justifying an ongoing American military presence in Central Asia. A war against Iraq, being marketed as part of the war on terrorism, is even more obviously about U.S. control of the region's oil.
It is not about control of the oil, so it is not "obvious" at all. It is about access to the oil, which is another thing altogether. We don't control any of the region's oil.
So we have to separate what may motivate people in the armed forces from the real role of the U.S. military. I have no doubt that many of the people who serve believe they are fighting for freedom, an honorable goal we should respect. But they are doing that for a government with a different objective to shore up U.S. power and guarantee the profits of an elitethat we should not support.
There is no disrespect in asking fellow citizens who have joined the military to question, "What am I really fighting for?" and "Who really benefits from the risks I take?"
People who join the military should have been asking themselves these questions before they joined. Anyone who fails to do so is doing themselves (and the military) a grave disservice.
If we civilians truly care about the troopsas well as the innocent people of Iraq who will die in a warwe should make it clear to Washington that we will not support wars for power and instead demand a sane foreign policy that seeks real freedom and justice, not dominance and control.
My message to the troops would be: "Thank you for being willing to defend freedom, but please join the resistance to this unjust war."
We have a term for such behavior; it is called MUTINY. During a war, it can also be called treason. Our duty, as members of the armed forces, is to obey the orders of those appointed above us, and that includes George W. Bush, our Commander-in-Chief.
That is a message of support for the troops and a plea for solidarity among ordinary people who want to build a better world, not serve the empire.
It is a reminder that, as John McCutcheon put it so eloquently in song: "the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame/And on each end of the rifle we're the same."
John McCutcheon is a folksinger cum peace activist. A quote about his new album, directly from his website:
After years of requests John has finally assembled a collection of his topical songs on a CD. "Hail to the Chief" skewers personalities like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Ashcroft, John Rocker and the linguistic acrobatics of George W. Bush. Along the way he manages to point humorous fingers at the Kansas School Board's scientific curiosities, Clear Channel Communication's censorship of peace songs and Virginia's new concealed weapons law. Again, baseball shows up in a couple of songs and Wendell Berry's novel, "Jayber Crow" even inspired a withering look at the New Economy.