Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? — By Pete Seeger
Once again, we are about to commemorate Memorial Day. From Wikipedia:
“Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.”
That vague, uncontroversial phrase, “Americans who have died while in the military service”, conceals the bitter, savage truth that more than one hundred thousand U.S. soldiers have been killed, and hundreds of thousands more maimed, physically and/or psychologically, in numerous unnecessary, illegal wars of choice entered into by the United States, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, since 1945. Yet we continue to “honor” the memory of these soldiers who gave their precious lives, not in defense of our country, as politicians and media pundits always claim, but, in reality, for the “patriotic” lies and perversely immoral desires of the pathological, rapacious United States Empire, by continuing to support the thoroughly avoidable illegal U.S. wars of aggression for corporate/Wall Street profit waged by the United States without any sincere regard for the soldiers whose unnecessary deaths and “sacrifices” we later mourn on Memorial Day every year.
One of the most decorated U.S. soldiers was Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940). As Wikipedia again informs us, Butler was
“a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps (the highest rank authorized at that time), an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I.
By the end of his career, he had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to twice receive the Medal of Honor, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.”
In June, 1932, after he retired from military service, he spoke to the Bonus Army veterans camped out in Washington, D.C., who were demanding, at the height of the Great Depression, the bonuses they had been promised decades after their service (not until 1945), many in World War I. These veterans were denied their benefits when they most needed them, so Butler spoke to them, urging them to stand up for their rights and benefits while not resorting to violence. Days later, army cavalry units led by General Douglas MacArthur and his chief military aide, Dwight Eisenhower, dispersed the Bonus Army by riding through it, using tanks and tear gas. Several veterans were killed or injured.
In 1935, Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC (retired) wrote a small book based on all his experiences in and with the military, War Is A Racket. Here is what he wrote about the profits and costs of war:
“Who provides the profits — these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them — in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us — the people — got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par — and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.
But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.
If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men — men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.
Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.
Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face”! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.”
Here is what Butler finally concluded, in 1933, in a statement about his military service:
“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Based on his writings, Butler would be appalled at what the U.S. military has been used for by the Plundering Class which runs the United States, since 1945, especially the illegal wars of aggression (choice) the U.S. has waged, all without the Constitutionally-required declaration of war by Congress, against nations which never threatened the existence of the United States: Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and soon, Syria and Iran.
These illegal wars have been costly in the hundreds of thousands of lives ruined of U.S. and NATO soldiers as well as the millions of people victimized by the greed and arrogance of the U.S. Empire, and costly in monetary terms, causing the huge, trillion-dollar budget deficits now driving pundits and neoliberal/imperialist “economists” to fits of hysteria, though they will never admit that our aggressive wars of choice are a prime cause of U.S. deficits and debt.
As much as we claim to “honor” our veterans and mourn their deaths on Memorial Day, the plain facts show how hollow that “honor” and “mourning” are. In an April 29, 2013 article (Sixty-Seven Senators Urge Obama to Resolve VA Claims Backlog – Nextgov.com), the following statistics reveal our hypocrisy:
“VA reported it had 882,023 backlogged claims with 610,150 or 69.2 percent backlogged more than 125 days. VA had 719,713 claims pending as of April 27, 2009, with 147,293 pending more than 180 days.
The Senate letter to Obama said the average wait time for approval of first time disability claims ranges between 316 and 327 days, adding that in some cities waits are double the national average. First time claims take 681 days in Reno, Nev.; 642 days in New York City; 625 days in Pittsburgh; 619 days Los Angeles; 612 days in Indianapolis; 586 days in Houston; and 510 days in Philadelphia, the letter said.
“In the worst cases, veterans have waited and continue to wait 800 days, 900 days and even 1,000 days for a disability claims decision from the VA,” the letter said.”
Among injured U.S. veterans returning from our illegal wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 600,000 claims for disability have been backlogged for more than 125 days (Nearly 600,000 Wounded Vets Claims for Disability Suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars “backlogged” for Months).
Mental health problems among U.S. drone pilots are higher (1 in 12) than among U.S. combat pilots (1 in 17) (Harper’s Index, May, 2013 issue of Harper’s Magazine).
Suicides among U.S. veterans are also at an all-time high. Since 2007, the number of U.S. veterans committing suicide each day has increased by 22% (Harper’s Index, May, 2013 issue of Harper’s Magazine).
Meanwhile, the absolute refusal of President Obama and Congress to create jobs as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did to ease the effects of the Great Depression on most Americans has kept unemployment unconscionably and unnecessarily high (unless you are a corporation or Wall Street bank profiting from paying slave wages to endangered workers in Third World sweatshops such as in Bangladesh).
The result is that enlistment in the U.S. military is an alternative to joblessness, with the patina of the myths of “helping others” or “serving one’s country” attached to it by the most effective propaganda campaign in history. Never mind that U.S. soldiers, now fighting in multiple wars, are actually mercenaries for the U.S. Corporate State who wind up occupying foreign countries and oppressing and killing the residents there in a 21st century version of colonialism. Never mind that U.S. troops are now stationed in more than 1,000 U.S. military bases in more than 130 countries. Never mind that the U.S. under Obama has “special operations” teams in at least 75 countries to spy, sabotage, and subvert the workings of any governments which have the audacity to attempt to be independent of U.S. policies. Never mind that every ocean on earth has nuclear-armed U.S. warships patrolling on and under its surface. Never mind that the United States is now the most wide-spread global empire in history and that “our” soldiers are the military component of that empire, contradicting all U.S. pretensions to “democracy”.
Memorial Day for more and more of us is now a tragic lie. It presumes to honor our war dead, even as the U.S. spends more than the rest of the nations on earth to fight unnecessary, avoidable, illegal wars of aggression everywhere it believes its “national interests” (i.e. corporate/Wall Street interests) are threatened, and where nations refuse to knuckle under to the U.S. Empire’s designs. The infamous Carter Doctrine of “The Middle East oil belongs to the United States” has been expanded to the entire planet, whose dwindling resources are viewed, by the Plundering Class, as belonging to the United States by virtue of its military power. Might makes right.
Since 1945, all U.S. administrations have viewed our soldiers as tools of Empire, and have then pretended to “mourn” and “honor” these fallen “patriots” on Memorial Day in sincere-sounding, supposedly-heartfelt speeches, even as they plan the next military campaign abroad to enforce U.S. imperial goals, regardless of the human cost.
Meanwhile, the war-profiteering corporations and Wall Street, aided by the war-promoting corporate media, rake in their mega-profits from all our wars, from production of weapons, many of which are not even wanted by the Pentagon or are unusable; to theft or control of resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals used in cell phones from other countries; to post-war construction in countries the U.S. has devastated, such as Iraq.
This rank hypocrisy stinks to high heaven, and must be called out for what it is: the bloody lies of power-mad psychopaths in positions of prominence and wealth they have taken by the blood of millions of others, including our soldiers and the innocents killed and maimed for the plunder of our Empire.
Here is what Major General Smedley Butler wrote in the last chapter of War Is A Racket, titled “To Hell With War!”:
Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.
1. We must take the profit out of war.
2. We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.
3. We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.
He wrote those suggestions in 1935, but they are still not merely relevant, but imperative today.
If we truly care about our soldiers and wish to honor the memory of those who died believing they served our country, we will not only enact Major General Butler’s three suggestions, but also, finally, end war as a tool of foreign policy once and for all. That way, we will no longer add to the tragic totals of dead already mourned every Memorial Day.
Instead of merely marching in parades or mouthing pious, patriotic platitudes or, worst of all, attending military weapons shows which glorify and fetishize weapons of mass, indiscriminate death, starting this Memorial Day, we must all pressure Congress to end the shameful V.A. backlog of veterans’ benefits claims, do whatever we can to end our many imperial wars and bring our soldiers home from them and the U.S. bases abroad, and donate to one or all of the following organizations helping our veterans:
The Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/)
Fisher House (http://www.fisherhouse.org/)
The Soldiers Project (http://www.thesoldiersproject.org/)
War is a curse and a lie. It is time we ended it.
As General William Tecumseh Sherman, another one of our military “heroes” knew, and said bluntly:
War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.
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