The emperor has no clothes

December 10, 2010

When Vietnam veterans returned home back in the day, they were sometimes spit on. That was reprehensible.

For the most part, the men who returned (and yes, they were mostly men) were drafted into military service. They had no choice. Many did not want to go. Some had no other life options. Many did not believe it was a “just war.” {If there’s any such thing.}

It’s not a stretch to see how war and atrocities go hand-in-hand. And some servicemen certainly were responsible for atrocities in Southeast Asia. Most were not.

To spit on men who were only doing their jobs {and coming home significantly changed forever}? Very wrong.

After bagging my stuff at a store the other day, the clerk handed me a window decal with “thank you!” emblazoned over a flag.

As I always do when I hear “thank you for your service,” I wondered what exactly we are thanking our troops for today.

I hear people parroting that the troops today are “keeping us free.” But it’s not true. The war we’re fighting has nothing to do with our freedom. And people who say that are just not thinking.

If we look back, it’s clear that Bush got us into the war under false pretenses. Sept. 11, 2001 gave him the excuse.

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

The study was posted in 2008 on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

And further:

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida,” according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. “In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.”*

Iraq wasn’t responsible for the terrorism on that awful day. Al Qaeda was. Our freedom was never threatened. Not by Iraq. Not even by Al Qaeda.

But we don’t want to accept that we’re in this war under false pretenses. We want to chalk that thought up to left-wing spin. We prefer the knee jerk “Thank you for your service.” So we don’t have to think about it too deeply, even as more of our men and women come home in flag-draped coffins.

So let me go back to my original question: If they’re not keeping us free, and it’s been shown that they aren’t, what exactly are we thanking the troops for?

Maybe it’s a necessary spin. Maybe we need to say it to help military personnel think there is a greater purpose to their risking life and limb. Or maybe it’s reparations for how we treated Vietnam vets.

Oh, I’ll give you that the military is a necessary evil– as long as humans seek power and control by bashing each other over the head with metaphorical clubs.

And there may come a time when our freedom is actually threatened and fighting might serve a purpose. Although we haven’t seen that time, yet. Not since World War II. Despite the “domino theory” posited to get us into Korea and Vietnam.

Let us not pretend that the men and women at war right now are keeping us free. It’s fiction.

If I were the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, I’d be more than angry. I would see no purpose in my child dying for this particular faux “cause.”

Last year we were at DFW airport. A planeload of soldiers disembarked and walked through the terminal. They received a standing ovation.

They looked so young.

Instead of standing and applauding, I said this prayer through tears. “Please, dear God keep these men and women safe and free from fear and anxiety. Please forgive them for things they may have done at war. And please let us learn as a nation to stand in our power through peace instead of violence so one day there will be no need for war. Amen.”

In today’s hyper-polarized world it’s tempting to misunderstand this post. In today’s hyper-polarized world, we are all supposed to fall in line behind the party line and Thank our troops is one of them. Or you’re not patriotic.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Patriotism doesn’t require us to lose our ability to reason or to buy into any party line.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my pacifist views.

But I don’t think it’s too much to expect that people not be so quick to believe political spin. That they expose themselves to and think through the facts.

And they not be so quick to accept the platitudes surrounding this war.

**(MSN, 1/23/2008)

One comment on “The emperor has no clothes
  1. You should read and see the news we get here as opposed to what is aired in the US!

    I am always surprised when we are told to thank soldiers for our freedom too – I wasnt aware we were under threat of captivity. My views will be much lefter than most Americans as I live in a socialist country (and please, anyone reading this, dont confuse communism with socialism).

    I also wonder why right wing politicians always they they love their country, love America…but never say they love Americans.

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