Why I do NOT support our troops
By Doyle Barnett January 19, 2112
Recently, I went to Arlington West. It is a display on the beach by the pier in Santa Barbara, California where every Sunday veterans and antiwar protesters stick one thousand wooden crosses into the sand. Each cross represents five soldiers who were killed in the Middle East. The protesters also post updated statistics of the wars including the number of soldiers wounded, the civilian casualties, and the current financial costs. I was moved, but in an unexpected way.
I felt uneasy, not because of the sadness I felt, but because I couldn’t help but think that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. I thought, What else did they expect? But we all know what they expected: to get away from home, to have new adventures, and to learn new skills like firing guns, tanks, and missiles to kill people. They expected to be heroes.
Sure, when I looked at those crosses I felt sad for all of the needless suffering and waste of human lives. But I also thought of a quote from Henry Kissinger. He is a former National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, Harvard director, and Nobel Peace Price recipient. He said ” … military men are used as pawns in foreign policy.” Kissinger’s statement was shocking; I guess that is why I remember it so well.
For thousands of years politicians have sent soldiers off to die in wars; billions have died for political ambition and corporate greed. Soldiers and most the masses have been indoctrinated into believing that they are heroes. “They give their lives for your freedom.” “If they didn’t fight, you would be speaking (insert a foreign language here.) And it all has worked; even some pacifists who would rather die themselves than kill another have accepted the propaganda that soldiers are heroes and should be looked up to and honored.
At Arlington West I thought about those 4,000 dead soldiers, (plus many more wounded) and that all of them volunteered to become trained killers—that’s what soldiers do. Most didn’t join the military because they wanted to bring peace to the world. If they wanted world peace they would have enlisted in the Peace Corps.
Many of them signed up for the military to get away from the American back-country or slum-ruts they were born in. It is no coincidence that the lower the class―the less educated the people―the more brainwashed they are to beat the patriotic drum. The military is, and always has been a money-making killing cult. Soldiers are conditioned into blindly following what the leaders tell them to do without questioning.
Others joined the service because they wanted world adventure or college tuition—not to save America. They enlisted to become soldiers; they wanted to learn how to fire guns and artillery, how to fly planes that shoot missiles, how to build bombs that kill people.
Soldiers claim that they join to serve America; if you question them they will tell you they want to kill America’s enemies, whoever they are at the time. Yet, if any of these patriots would have been born in another country—even the country they are now fighting, they would have joined that military and be fighting America’s soldiers. Some people join the armed services out of national pride; but in some cases their nationalism is just an accepted disguise for racism. And their patriotism was embedded only after they joined, only after they were brainwashed in to believing peace can only be obtained though war and by heroes. No one wants to see soldiers suffer but the “support our troops” sound bite is patriotic propaganda that enables warring.
I am a firm believer that social changes begin with our language—our national dialogue. If we can change the way we talk about issues we can change our beliefs about them. Forty years ago we stopped using the “N” word. Twenty years ago we started using the phrase “The N word.” It took decades but it eventually it caught on; now, most of the media has followed suit and we have an African American president. If we make it socially unpopular to be a solider maybe our impressionable young men and women will find better ways to serve their country.
We all know great people who are, or have been, in the armed forces; I have a cousin serving in Germany and one of my top martial arts students is a high ranking military attorney. He is a wonderful person, but he is serving the wrong master—he has bought into the propaganda. Just as some African-Americans fought for the south, and some Jews served in Hitler’s Gestapo, my student’s mindset is enabling the military industrial complex. Being virtuous is not the point; I am sure that there were some wonderful people serving in Hitler’s army. The point is that they were a part of the problem—not of the solution. In 1973 I read in a Playboy magazine that fighting for peace is like F***ing for chastity.
I was born and raised near the Ozarks. I got my first rifle when I was six; I grew up hunting and killing with my friends. After graduating from high school they enlisted and learned how to kill people; I joined a Zen monastery and learned how to meditate.
When asked why he did not fight for his country the Dali Lama said, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back… but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”
Sadly, many veterans still have the war going on inside of them. They estimate that 40% of the homeless are veterans, that there are about 40,000 veterans in American state and federal prisons, and that 6,000 vets commit suicide annually. With the thousands of lives lost in Iraq, more US soldiers are dying of suicide then dying in battle. *
My next door neighbor is a very conservative Mormon. He is also film maker. Two of his documentaries are about the trauma that vets and their families suffer after the soldiers return home. His first film was Between Iraq and a Hard Place, and his second was Warriors… In their own words. They are illuminating films yet he is still very pro US military. He just doesn’t get it—we can not simultaneously enable and stop wars.
We don’t blame bullets or guns for murders; we blame the people who use them. Why don’t we blame those who do all of the killing in war? Just because the carnage is government sanctioned does that make it right? Is their karma is clear?
We have all heard the true stories about battlefields in WWII when the Germans and Americans stopped killing each other on Christmas day and instead competed in ball games. They did not have the heart to kill on Christmas Day. What if all soldiers lost heart to ever kill again?
Some estimates of the civilian death toll in Iraq is 1,455,590. If American soldiers took the life of only 5% of them, that is still 75,000 innocent people that our soldiers have killed because they were caught up in the military war machine. At what point will all wars end and who will end them? We can’t kill our way to peace.
We could end every war on earth today and we could prevent all future wars, if all soldiers would simply put down their weapons and refused to fight any longer. But there will never be peace on earth so long as we make soldiers our heroes instead of mediators.
Doyle Barnett DoyleB.com
What if there was a war and nobody came?
No soldiers. No generals. No heros.
No one to suffer. No one to die in pain.
Who would be killed? How many would lose their lives?
No violent murder for no cause.
No people to shoot with guns, to stab with knives.
Humans kill humans. Can you say that is sane?
Taking precious life. Emptiness now.
What if there was a war and nobody came.
Copyright © 1993 Charles Fry