As the United States gears up for its annual mourning orgy for dead U.S. soldiers, there are some words and terms that are bandied about, that are meant to either comfort the survivors, lighten the impact of U.S. war-making, or possibly both. We will take a few moments to look at three of them.
- Fallen Soldier: how benign! A ‘fallen soldier’! So much more pleasant than the truth: a dead man or woman; a son or daughter, mother or father, brother, sister, friend, etc. is dead. He or she has been blown to bits in some foreign country where the poor victim had no business being, but joined the ‘service’ (see below), to uphold the U.S. Constitution, protect the border, maintain national security, or so they were told. They were never advised of the real reason: protecting corporate interests by strengthening U.S. power around the world. And now they are dead, rotting in a grave, sacrificed on the altar of the almighty dollar.
- Gold Star Family, and its variations: Gold Star Mother or Father. This is another gentle term to describe the family of the dead soldier. A gap now exists in the family; this could be a beloved brother or sister that is now forever missing, and/or a mother or father, which can never be replaced, or husband or wife, who will never be forgotten. But let’s not discuss such unpleasantness; wave the flag at the Gold Star family a few times a year, put hand on heart as a tear comes to the eye, and then forget them and the unending grief they feel for a lost loved one. And, of course, continue to ‘support the troops’ by sending more of them to early graves.
- Service: We have saved the best for last. The U.S. government has skillfully convinced the U.S. citizen-lemmings of a new definition of service. First, let’s look at a definition found quickly by doing an online search: “Service: the action of helping or doing work for someone”. That, to this writer’s mind, is a good, concise definition of ‘service’. The U.S. government, however, has been able to convince the populace that when they enter into a legal agreement with the United States, and are stripped of many of their basic rights, then sent to foreign lands to kill the people living there, it is ‘service’. It is ‘service’ to operate a drone in the U.S., target people one has never seen in person, and kill them, often killing those around them. It is ‘service’ to break into homes at all hours of the day and night, terrorize and interrogate the people living there, and then arrest all the males over the age of 12. One supposes that in a very broad sense, this could be seen as helping ‘someone’, since the U.S. Supreme Court has declared corporations to be people (does not EVERYONE see this as totally bizarre?). And certainly, the work that soldiers often die doing serves corporate America.
- Also, the actions described above could be seen as ‘doing work for someone’. U.S government officials don’t want to dirty their own hands, so they get young citizens to do their dirty work for them.
But at least, one might say, they are highly regarded by the government for this so-called ‘service’. Well, no. We will look at just a few examples from history.
On August 4 of 1964, U.S. ships patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam, where they had no business being, reported being fired upon. Congress and President Lyndon Johnson used this ‘incident’ to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, thus greatly escalating the war in Vietnam. Within hours, however, the sailors on the ship that was allegedly fired upon reported that there had been no attack; what they had seen were ‘ghost images’ on their radar. Johnson, upon hearing this, is reported to have said the following: “Hell, those dumb stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish”. Respect, indeed!
Fast forward 42 years. In December of 2006, after President George Bush toured a small, public part of the Walter Reed Medical Center, at that time the government’s premier facility for injured veterans, he said this: “We owe them all we can give them. Not only for when they’re in harm’s way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service.”
In February of 2007, an expose on the facility was broadcast. Injured soldiers were dumped into roach-infested rooms with rotting ceilings, black mold covering the walls. Some of these veterans, unable to walk the distance to the cafeteria, purchased food from restaurants and stores closer to their rooms, in the crime-ridden area of the city where Walter Reed was located, thus increasing the problems of rodents and roaches that the veterans were forced to live among. The center was closed in 2011, not as a result of the deplorable conditions there, but by a pre-arranged plan to move it to a different location.
And as far as giving them all they needed when in harm’s way, that, too, is a myth. In 2004, Spc. Thomas Wilson asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this question: “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?” It was reported that the crowd of about 2,300 soldiers in attendance applauded this question. Rumsfeld’s response was disingenuous at best: “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have.” Since the Iraq war was a war of choice, certainly the necessary supplies to equip the U.S.’s hired killers and terrorists could have been provided.
But, with Veteran’s Day just around the corner, we’ll put all that aside! Let’s look at the handsome soldiers in their crisp uniforms as they march down Main Street in the parade. We’ll stand for the national anthem, that song that honors the flag that professional football players ‘disrespect’ at the peril of their careers. We’ll bow our heads for a moment of silence for the ‘fallen soldiers’, ignoring the fact that their loved ones weep long after the parade ends. Then we will gather with families and friends for dinner, with the flag prominently displayed in the window, knowing that we, too, have done our part for ‘Old Glory’.
Is it really necessary to have these periodic superficial shows of respect for the dead and maimed U.S. soldiers, sent abroad as hired guns for corporate America? This writer will concede that many, if not most, of them are unaware of their true mission until it is too late, and they are killing innocent people in some foreign country. But he does not see how this requires periodic spectacles in their honor; less does he see the advantage in recruiting a new crop of young citizens to victimize people across the globe, and be victimized themselves by the U.S.’s nearly-constant corporate wars.
Perhaps preventing the creation of future victims, by refusing to participate in government war-making, might be the best way of ‘respecting’ veterans.
Unless and until U.S. citizens awaken to the crimes against humanity that are committed in their names, the unspeakable tragedy of U.S. war-making, and all the unspeakable death and horror that accompany it, will continue.