Friday, March 07, 2008

Whom We Serve

154,000, which is only a rough estimate. How many more veterans are just scraping by, living in the margins of our society? How many have been forced to impose upon the good natures of their family? How many of them are still battling demons from America's wars for empire?

There is a wide disparity in the quality of military service, as one might expect, almost correlated to the disparity of resources nations devote to their national defense. But, beyond the perceptions that the news media conveys, there is a further disparity within military ranks, between officer and enlisted. In professional military services, the enlisted soldier is treated with respect from his superiors and not commonly regarded as the piece of government property he or she is. In some countries, professional enlisted personnel serve as personal servants to the officer corps. In the worst examples, military service is little more than forced labor, where soldiers are beaten or worse, there is not much of an institutionalized retirement plan. Here, in the United States, we can take something of a moral high ground, compared to groups like the Interahamwe. Here, we grant our veterans education benefits and the like, if they are not rendered dysfunctional by wartime injury, such as amputation or post-traumatic stress disorder.

A look at the last hundred years of the wartime Presidents also reveals something of a trend. For instance, one of the key leaders in the foundation of the American Empire, Theodore Roosevelt, aside from the contempt he held for those not so blessed to be white, had never actually served in the military until the beginning of the war. Perhaps the reason he was not given the Congressional Medal of Honor until after his death was for having pushed into a military battle without having been ordered to do so. Just a thought.

Woodrow Wilson, who also brought us the Federal Reserve System, was an intellectual and academic, who also had never spent a day in a military uniform before leading the nation into WWI.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a corporate lawyer before entering public service, similar never served any kind of military service.

Harry S. Truman, who was a WWI Artillery Officer, also brought us nuclear warfare and the policy of containment. In addition to his role in the recognition of Israel and Pakistan, he laid the groundwork for the Cold War and tried to bring the whole of the Korean peninsula under Western influence.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, holder of the most disgusting example of a military award I've ever seen, brought us the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the subsequent escalation of the Vietnam War, which, in Vietnam, is known as the American War. Perhaps it should be known as Johnson's War.

Ronald Reagan
, an actor before becoming a politician, brought a new type of escalation, spending billions of dollars fighting proxy wars and beginning a new arms race involving ballistic missile interceptors.

Which brings us to W. I don't really feel as though I need to say too much about his military record.

In summation, the leaders and defenders of the Free World, those most rabid about the defense and expansion of the U.S.' national sovereignty, almost without exception have never picked up a gun at a range and thought about how to justify to himself seeing the form of another human being in his gunsights and pulling the trigger. After all, a warrior seeks to conserve his strength and continue living, and thus should fight as little as possible. Unfortunately, the toll of these wars is paid by those who fight, either draftees or volunteers, who often seem to be tragically discarded by those for whom they served.

For those who want a visual representation of America's War Dead, try this.

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