The New York Times recently profiled three military veterans who are running for Congress. All three are women and all three graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. The Times highlighted the military experience of the women, which they plan to rely on to establish their credentials for running for Congress.
Of course, hardly anyone asks the obvious question: Why should serving in the military operate as a credential for serving in Congress? At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the members of Congress don’t personally do the types of things soldiers do, such as drop bombs on people, torture people, or assassinate people. So, why should a person’s military service operate as any special credential for serving as an elected representative in Congress?
Some people might say, “Because they served their country.” That seems to be the mindset of at least one of the three women, Mikie Sherrill, who said, “It’s incredibly important that I decided to serve my country before deciding to run for office.”
But there is one big important thing about her statement: It’s not true. Sherrill, like other US soldiers, was not serving her country when she was a soldier. She was serving her government. There’s a difference, a big one.
Sherrill’s mindset reflects one of the government’s most successful propaganda and indoctrination programs in US history. It begins in the first grade, continues through middle school and high school, and goes through college, especially at the nation’s military schools. Every student in America’s public schools — and many private schools as well — is ingrained with the notion that the troops serve the country as compared to serving the government.
In fact, it’s actually worse than that. Many people have been inculcated with the mindset that the government is the country. So, in their minds serving the government and serving the country are one and the same thing.
They aren’t. The government and the country are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon reflected by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country from the federal government. (The Fourteenth Amendment protects the country from state and local governments.)
The obvious question arises: Why does the Bill of Rights protect us from the federal government rather than, say, from ISIS, terrorists, illegal immigrants, drug dealers, communists, Muslims, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Vietnam, Russia, or China?
The answer is simple: Because the federal government, not those foreign entities, is the biggest threat to our country. That’s why the Bill of Rights focuses on it rather than on foreign entities.
But here’s the kicker, the one no one (except libertarians) likes to think about: The threat that the federal government poses to the country comes primarily in the form of the troops — yes, the same troops that most everyone profusely thank for their “service.”
Suppose that in the middle of “crisis” the president ordered a round-up, incarceration, and torture of hundreds or thousands of Americans who he said posed a threat to “national security.” Who would carry out that order? That would be the troops. They are the ones who would be doing the rounding up, the incarcerating, and the torturing, just like the troops do in places like China and Egypt.
That’s what soldiers do: They follow orders. Indeed, recall the round-up and incarceration of tens of thousands of innocent American citizens of Japanese descent in World War II. The troops were the ones who did it. They loyally followed the orders of their superior officers.
If President Trump were to issue similar orders, the troops would obey them, just as they loyally obeyed President Bush’s orders to invade Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding the fact that they lacked the congressional declaration of war required by the Constitution and notwithstanding the fact that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan had initiated any attack on the United States. It’s also why soldiers have tortured prisoners and why most of the rest of them didn’t protest or challenge the torture. Soldiers follow orders. That’s what they do.
That’s not all. Those three Naval Academy graduates will undoubtedly tell people on the campaign trail that they were defending our “rights and freedoms” in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Syria, and the Middle East. By the same token, there will be multitudes of people at campaign rallies thanking them for defending our rights and freedoms when they killed, incarcerated, or tortured people over there or bombed their homes, wedding parties, and businesses
There’s just one big thing wrong with that: It’s just not true. Those three veterans were never defending our rights and freedoms over there.
How do we know this? Because no one in Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, the Middle East, or anywhere else was or is trying to take away our rights and freedoms. It’s that simple. One cannot be said to be protecting our rights and freedoms over there if no one over there is trying to take away our rights and freedoms.
What about the hundreds of thousands of people who US troops have killed over there? None of them was trying to take away our rights and freedoms. This is what all too many Americans, especially the troops, just don’t get or won’t get: It has been US troops who have been the invaders, aggressors, interlopers, and occupiers over there. It is the people over there who have been the defenders. It is they who have been killed defending their countries, their homelands, their families, and their homes and businesses from US aggression. None of those people over there has ever tried to take away the rights and freedoms of the American people.
What about the 9/11 attacks? Retaliation. They were retaliating for what the US troops had done over there, including killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including children, in the Persian Gulf intervention and then, later, the US sanctions on the Iraqi people.
In fact, terrorist retaliation against the United States is one of the main consequences of what US troops have been doing to people abroad ever since the end of the Cold War, when the US government lost its big official enemy, the Soviet Union (i.e., Russia), the one that the military (and the CIA and NSA) had used to justify ever-growing budgets since the end of WWII. Beginning with the Persian Gulf intervention against Saddam Hussein, a former US empire partner and ally, US troops, dutifully following orders, initiated a killing spree over there that ultimately manifested itself with the ongoing threat of terrorist retaliation over here. It’s because of what the troops have been doing over there that we now live under a perpetual, never-ending “war on terrorism.”
Then, that forever threat of anti-American terrorism has been used to justify ongoing, never-ending, perpetual aggression against people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and, now Africa, and, undoubtedly later, Latin America. The idea is that it’s necessary to keep killing those terrorists over there before they retaliate over here. Never mind that it is the constant killing of people over there that produces the terrorists over here in the first place, which is then used to justify the continuous killing of people over there. In other words, a system of perpetual killing for perpetual security. And it’s all being done by the troops, the ones we thank for their “service.”
Let’s also not forget all the things that the government then has to do to “keep us safe” from the threats that the troops are producing through their actions over there. The federal government wields the legal authority to arrest us, indefinitely detain us, or assassinate us, all without due process of law. That’s the power that totalitarian regimes wield against their citizens. Thus, with their actions abroad the troops have indirectly destroyed our freedom here at home, at the hands of our own government.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the out-of-control federal spending and debt, much of which is to pay for what the military does abroad, including sustaining military bases around the world and the constant bombing, shooting, assassinating, torturing, and incarcerating people in faraway lands. All that imperialist action abroad does not come cheap. The federal government is now in debt to the tune of $20 trillion and growing by the minute, all of which is indirectly owed by the American people.
Before anyone writes me to say that I shouldn’t be attacking the troops, as some people are wont to do, let me point out that that I’m actually not attacking anyone. I’m simply making observations about reality and speaking the truth.
The reality and the truth are that the federal government (including the troops) is the biggest threat to our country, especially since it is destroying it. No wonder our ancestors enacted the Bill of Rights. No wonder they were so fiercely opposed to empire, foreign interventionism, large, permanent military establishments, a national police force, and secretive agencies. I’ll bet those three veterans profiled in that New York Times don’t mention that on the campaign trail.
Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.