Over the past few months we have listened to numerous stories of violence in our military. “Isn’t the military supposed to be violent?” you ask. No, it is not. Not when soldiers are killing each other. Not when a corporate system of violence and a disrespect for human life take hold of the minds of youth in the military, and killing civilians like aliens in a video game becomes common. Not when a cult of death causes young men to collect fingers and bones of their kills. Not when we sacrifice our humanity on the altar of technology. Yes, such things have always happened and will probably continue to happen in war, but must they?
The other day I was driving and I stopped at a light behind a car with the bumper sticker, “Support Our Troops.” Such reminders are common, especially in a post-Vietnam era when we (ironically) do not want to repeat the mistakes of that war.
“Are they really our troops?” I asked myself. In a war which has never been declared by Congress, a conflict which has from the beginning involved such egregious deceit, cover-ups and lies, with a military that every day becomes increasingly democratically unaccountable, are they really our troops? Are they not in reality simply the tools of executive power run amok? The pawns of a conjoined military and corporate power that effectively control our foreign policy? Are these brutal and macabre acts not the signs of a military that has lost sight of its goal, of a government that has become untethered from the popular will, and of a nation that has lost its way?
Our children. Yes, oh God, these young men and women are our children. Let us acknowledge them. Let us love them. Let us pray for them. Let us help them in any way we can to heal. We owe it to them for our staying silent for so long. But they are not our troops, any more than this is our war.
If I could print a bumper sticker of my own, it might read: “God help our children caught up in the Machiavellian machinery of the military-industrial complex.” Okay, nice alliteration, but it’s a bit long and would not fit on most bumpers, unless you drive a ’59 Cadillac. So instead of “Support Our Troops,” how about just “God help our children caught in the war machine.”