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If you want less war, stop swooning over soldiers
This Veteran’s Day, choose counter-recruitment
I remember writing about a trend I called the “Soldier Swoon” ten years ago during Occupy Wall Street. As the 2012 presidential election neared, I heard more than a few liberals and progressives (and even some I considered to be radical occupiers at the time) using the term “draft dodger” as a method of attacking Mitt Romney.
As far as I’m concerned, “draft dodging” is the only positive action I could ever credit to Mitt (or to Dubya and Clinton, for that matter).
Why would anyone in the so-called 99% admire Romney more if he had participated in the waging of illegal, immoral, and deadly military interventions?
While most American citizens — even if they identify as “antiwar” — are manipulated, harassed, coerced, and guilted into hanging yellow ribbons, generation after generation of U.S. military personnel has suffered a distinct lack of support from their own government (and the bankers that fund it).
Our [sic] troops are just as controlled and exploited as the U.S. citizens programmed to worship them. Yellow ribbons, flag-waving, repressive laws, peer pressure, and loud chants of "USA" don’t qualify as support. Rather, this is self-policed obedience orchestrated by a corporate-dominated state. Here’s what else does not qualify as “support”:
In 2021, the rate of suicide deaths among active-duty troops climbed to its highest level since the Great Depression — 36.18 per 100,000 soldiers.
Almost 40,000 veterans are without shelter in the US on any given night.
The leading causes of homelessness among vets are PTSD, social isolation, unemployment, and substance abuse.
Veterans account for 11 percent of homeless adults in the US.
Another 1.5 million veterans, says the Veteran’s Administration, are considered at risk of homelessness due to “poverty and lack of support networks.”
Yes, you read that correctly: “lack of support networks.”
Despite the government’s demonstrated unwillingness to truly support its volunteer soldiers, Americans continue to enlist — and this shouldn’t surprise anyone. We grow up watching war movies and playing with guns. We're surrounded by war memorials and war monuments and are taught to obey and fear those in uniform.
We also witness the demonizing of anyone who opposes the military-industrial complex. Our media is overrun with militaristic fervor. Our tax dollars finance war and pro-war propaganda. Our government passes laws designed to thwart dissent.
“The antiwar movement has been so thoroughly discredited,” says author H. Bruce Franklin in Vietnam and Other American Fantasies. “One would never be able to guess from public discourse that for every American veteran of combat in Vietnam, there must be twenty veterans of the antiwar movement.”
Even if we remain immune to wartime spin and propaganda — even if we don't buy into the story that America has been dragged into conflict after conflict and perpetually left with no choice but to wage a humanitarian war against a savage enemy — we still face the guilt factor of the "support the troops" peer pressure. No matter what we think or how we feel, once the actual fighting commences, all Americans must unite behind our troops to insure their safety through victory.
Reality check: The "support the troops" mantra specifically ignores any real examination of who those troops are, what those troops are doing in war zones, what happens to them when they come home, and why some of us don’t want them waging war in the first place.
In other words, when we're told to "support the troops," we are, in essence, being compelled to support the policies and institutions that exploit those troops.
Whether the vets you know were drafted back in the day or more recently volunteered, they need far more tangible support than bumper stickers, campaign slogans, or idealistic hero worship. In turn, what the entire planet needs is a culture that values dissidents infinitely more than it values mercenaries.
Those who volunteer are those who follow orders and commit atrocities
Without such volunteers, the U.S. would find it virtually impossible to brutally impose its will across the globe
The most common excuse employed to defend those who enlist is that they have no other financial options
If the above excuse is accurate, then the struggle for economic justice directly correlates to any effort to expose and transform U.S. foreign policy
If a more equitable economic climate were created, young Americans would no longer feel compelled to enlist solely for financial reasons (and by doing so, provide manpower for wars of empire).
In such a scenario, those who do volunteer could then rightfully be exposed as willing accomplices to U.S. war crimes and maybe we can finally retire all those counterproductive "support the troops" stickers… and get busy with the counter-recruitment.
How to Counter-Recruit: Educate yourself on the realities of U.S. foreign policy and spread the word far and wide — especially to those young enough to volunteer. If Americans learn the truth and refuse to enlist, the interventions — and the inevitable atrocities — will decrease proportionally.
Perhaps the best way to support the troops is to inform the troops.
It all begins with resisting the “Soldier Swoon.”
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