Every year we set aside the last Monday in the month of May to take time to think about and honor those men and women who have died defending “our country.” At least that’s what I always thought but while watching a baseball game in Atlanta, Georgia, part of their Memorial Day ceremony was to have 5 fighter jets, flying in formation roar over the stadium to the cheers of the thousands of fans. This caused me to wonder whether we were honoring the men and women who served and died or were we really honoring testosterone.
Although I feel sad about the many thousands of Americans who have died in the many wars which the U.S. has waged, I also feel sad about the hundreds of thousands or millions of innocent civilians of other countries that have died because of these wars.
I also attempted to make sense of the notion that these US military men and women died defending their country. What were they defending us from? Unless I’m mistaken, the Koreans were not planning to attack the U.S. Yet, the U.S. was involved in armed conflict from 1950- 1953 with this tiny country.
And of course, the Korean War was followed by several years of war in Vietnam (1959–1975), another small country, that left over 50,000 American military personnel dead, tens of thousands of our troops wounded physically and/or emotionally, and over one million Vietnamese dead and their country destroyed by U.S. weapons. Again, I found no evidence that the Vietnamese were planning to invade the U.S.
In 1983, the U.S. invaded Grenada, a Caribbean Island which was the smallest independent country in the Western Hemisphere, that powerful military presence that we all know offered a threat to U.S. security.
In 1989, we entered Panama to depose Manuel Noriega, head of the Panamanian government and once an ally of the U.S. who had outlived his usefulness.
In 1990–1991, the U.S. was involved in the Persian Gulf War to ensure that Saddam Hussein knew his place. Saddam Hussein was once an asset of the U.S. in the Middle East but he proved to be unreliable.
After 9–11, we needed to defend ourselves from terrorists who were looking to attack our country. So, we sent troops into Afghanistan to search for Al Qaeda “terrorists” and Osama bin Laden. The FBI stated that there was no proof that bin Laden was involved in 9–11 when questioned about his name not appearing on their 10 most wanted list. It was also known that bin Laden suffered from kidney failure and was receiving dialysis treatment. Yet, the U.S. could not find him.
Afghanistan certainly did not have the military capability to offer a threat to the U.S. Yet, we placed tens of thousands of troops in that country.
The U.S. abruptly invaded Iraq claiming the Saddam Hussein was involved with al Qaeda and developed weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration claimed that he was a danger to the U.S. and in March, 2003, invaded Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, so the claim that our troops invaded in order to protect the U.S. was nonsense.
The above is a partial list of military conflicts initiated by the U.S. Not one of them shows any evidence that the U.S. was in danger. So why send troops to the various countries to kill or be killed?
Smedley Butler was a U.S. Marine Corps major general who became an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences. In 1935, he wrote a book entitled “War is a Racket.” He targeted corporations and other imperialist motivations behind the wars. He gave outspoken lectures against war profiteering and U.S. military adventurism. He was clear in his claim that every war fills the pockets of millionaires and billionaires and wars were not fought to protect our country.
During the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Korean War, many of us who demonstrated against these wars were accused of not supporting the troops. I find it ironic that the people who accused us thought they were supporting the troops by keeping them in danger of death or injury. We wanted to bring them home before they were killed and were seen as unpatriotic and unsupportive of our troops. Strange.
My suggestion is, if you want to know why we go to war, follow the money and look at who it is that benefits. It is certainly not because we want to bring freedom and democracy to other countries.
It is impossible to tell the young men and women who died in combat or who lost limbs, that they sacrificed not for their country but for Exxon-Mobil, United Fruit, Halliburton, and a long list of corporations who filled their pockets while these young people were fighting for their lives.
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.