#193 Fighting for "My Country"

There are things that we don't talk about in polite company. There are words we don't say out loud in public. There are ideas we don't ever mention when there is a chance that they might be brought up when we are running for office, applying for a job, or asking for a home loan. I'm not as old as McSame, but I'm old enough that I don't worry much about the damage my words will do to my political chances, career opportunities, or housing situation. As a refuge from the 1960's, I distrust the motivations of the people in power, almost always.

Patriotism is one of the least understood concepts in American life. What we often mistake for patriotism is usually nothing more sophisticated than nationalism. Webster's defines patriotism as "love for or devotion to one's country" and nationalism as "a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups." The second definition is pretty wordy, but informative.

"Love" is an emotion that requires sacrifice, understanding, commitment, perspective, and knowledge. You can't love your country, spouse, children, or friends if you don't exercise these capacities. You can be addicted to them, infatuated with them, or dependent on them without loving them. When patriotism is linked to the kind of service typically promoted by the military, the line between informed patriotism and ignorant nationalism is more than just blurred.

Since 1948, the overwhelming majority of American military actions have been inspired by reasons other than national security. The argument that we needed to fight and die in Vietnam, for example, because of some fear of the spread of communism was dishonest, wrong, and immoral. Nobody with a functioning brain believed that the Viet Cong were going to invade the United States. Once the Pentagon Papers made it clear that American forces were not attacked in the Tonkin Gulf and that the entire justification, as weak as it was, for the military build-up in 1964 was based on a deliberate lie, even the dumbest nationalist would have to admit that there were other reasons for committing American lives to that pointless Asian civil war.

Korea was the same as was the 1959-60 Caribbean War, the evacuation of US corporate employees in Lebanon in 1976, our involvement in El Salvador in the 1980s, the military maneuvers in and around Iran, Libya, Chad, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon (again) throughout the Reagan years, the invasion of Grenada, the continuing occupation of Panamas, the continuous occupation of the Persian Gulf since Reagan's regime, the 1990 exercises in Liberia, and, of course, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These are not battles of self-defense, they are hostile corporate take-over maneuvers. The Iraq Invasion and Occupation is about oil. Nothing more, nothing less. There have been rare humanitarian uses for the US military, but the overwhelming purpose of our armed forces has been to protect American and international corporate interests. In other words, working class kids are being sent to die or be wounded to protect the investments of our ruling elite.

It's a lot less inspiring to admit that one has wasted and corrupted the best years of one's life fighting to protect the wealth and power of oil company executives, DuPont's rubber plantations, Chiquita's bananas and pineapples, or to control Third World economies so that even more jobs can be shipped to sweat factories in places that don't bother with livable wages, OSHA, or democratic governments. As uninspiring as that is, most of the time Americans are doing just that in our military "services."

It's common knowledge inside the military that the various "services" are more committed to protecting their own interests over that of the nation. The constant shuffling of double-dipping military officers into the military-industrial corporations they were assigned to monitor is a national shame and embarrassment. When institutions become huge, it's almost impossible for them to remain focused on their real mission. The US military passed huge about five generations ago and is now such a monstrous proportion of the national employment and budget that it more often seems to believe the existence of the military is the national mission.

"Be all you can be" applied to the mission of "fighting for your corporation" takes on an interesting meaning. For example, a huge part of the national budget is the cost of maintaining a military, military pensions, and military health care. Obviously, the military serves the orders of corporate America without question, but what would it do to the character of those services if corporate America were obligated to pay for that service? Currently, every man, woman, and child, is going into debt to the tune of $5,000/year for our military expenditures. What kind of sense does that make? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to obligate the people who get the advantage of that government service for the cost of the service(s)?

On the other hand, if only corporations receive the protection of the US military, who protects the nation? If corporate interests control military operations, what would keep them from using their military against US citizens? If the military is owned, controlled, and directed so completely by corporate interests, how is military service a patriotic act?

Many Vietnam veterans discovered that they were more able to serve their country from outside of the military. The most patriotic veterans joined organizations such as Veterans for Peace, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Rolling Thunder, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, and Patriots for Peace to object to the use of military force for corporate purposes. In this time of challenge to democracy, the Bill of Rights, Constitutional government, true patriots have to carefully consider which side of the battlefield they choose when our "of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation" government goes to war.

November 2008

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