I want to take a moment to reach out to my brothers and sisters currently serving in the US military. I say brothers and sisters because I’m a veteran myself, having served in Fallujah in 2004 with a Marine Corps Civil Affairs Team and although I am dead set against serving for Obama, we share the noble cause of being willing to put our lives on the line for this country.
Even if you’re watching this from an internet cafe somewhere in the sandbox, I assume that by now, you’ve at least heard of the Occupy Wall Street protests. While the cause of protesting the richest 1% is fundamentally misguided, and the thrust of their message is to ask the government to solve problems created by government, there are some critical lessons to be learned from recent events that directly relate to your life in uniform. Whether you choose to recognize that connection is up to you.
Our foreign policy is one of the primary reasons the government is bankrupt and has to borrow about 40 cents of every dollar spent today. The debt per citizen is almost $50,000. That’s a stone around the neck of every child who is supposed to be born free in America today, because their taxes are going to have to pay for this. Now, I don’t want to debate the facts of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re gruesome enough and the cost is staggering enough, but it doesn’t matter. No one thinks Iraq or Afghanistan as a whole represent any real threat to national security.
For the sake of argument, let’s accept that the threat of terrorism is as bad as the government claims (which is a pretty ridiculous assertion) and accept that the government might be justified in dropping a few Predator Drone bombs. But what’s the premise of the majority of our military spending? That it’s ok for the US government to sell future generations into debt slavery so that rich men can get richer while poor men die in their wars based on some supposedly well-intentioned notions that we can improve the lives of people in other countries through imposing martial law.
Of course, there’s always the reassuring idea that you are serving in the military to protect our freedom. As the size of the military has increased, and the number of troops deployed has gone up under Obama, freedoms have continued to decrease here in America. Obviously, economic freedom is at an all-time low, but the police policies under which we live, have become a constant threat to civil liberties as well. So let me be brutally honest for a second here: if you’re defending our freedoms, you fucking suck.
So back to Wall Street. The freedom to assemble as allegedly protected by the Constitution does not have a time limit. The first amendment does not last, “until the police get tired of you saying what you’re saying.” But as the attempt by protestors to create an Egypt-style uprising stalls, various government entities are tired of them pointing out the legitimate failures and outright crimes of our current system. BTW, they will continue to stall, as they are not giving voice to the 99% as if they are already united in a common understanding, but are preemptively attempting to stage a revolution to bend the government to their will. While at times, the protestors have provoked confrontations with police, the reactions have shown a frightening disregard for human rights and the standard of freedom of speech we expect in this country.
While incidents like this random, unprovoked punch in the face, are relatively common, they are still the exception. But if such blatant individual incidents are the exception, is the rule any better? Apparently not. What you just saw was part of a mass arrest of over 700 people on the Brooklyn Bridge. So what is the inevitable consequence of such policy? Well, in Oakland, where the police decided that tear gas canisters, bean bag bullets, and flash-bang grenades are acceptable crowd control policy, you get this. But that wasn’t the consequence, that was just the set up. What you just saw was Scott Olsen being carried to safety by fellow protestors who had been gathered around him to tend to his wounds when they were hit with a tear gas canister. It is still unclear exactly how Olsen was injured, but he is currently in critical condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland with a 2-inch skull fracture. He lost consciousness on his way there. Two tours in Iraq for this former Marine, and not a scratch, only to come home to this. And this is nothing new. I was there when Army Iraq veteran Nick Morgan was trampled by a police horse at a protest in New York three years ago. Horses for crowd control are not for crowds. They’re for control.
What you just saw was former Marine Sgt Shamar Thomas using his NCO voice to shout down 30 cops who were “just doing some crowd control” on Occupy Wall Street protestors. Maybe he was wrong about one thing though: This IS a war zone. No modern war was fought for the reasons the troops were told and the police who think they are supporting the rule of law are just as clueless as the troops in Vietnam who thought the Gulf of Tonkin incident was real. As much as there is a war on drugs, and a war on crime and a war on poverty and a war on terrorism, there is a war by the government, against you. War is the health of the state. War is exploitation. And as Marine Major General Smedley Butler said, “WAR IS A RACKET.”
The greatest exploitation happens here at home. Wealth flows to the friends of government while the dependent class grows and the people that actually pay taxes get fleeced. So what is YOUR role as one of Obama’s imperial foot soldiers? You’re just a pawn. Nothing new. But not only are you a good excuse for the government to spend more money on the military, you’re also a way to “project power” abroad, so that our government can exploit foreigners, AND a way to control the population here at home. Remember the Kent State incident on May 4th 1970 when national guard troops shot and killed four protesting students? While using troops to confiscate firearms during Hurricane Katrina was a rare exception, more troops are now training for domestic operations than ever before, and the police are increasingly militarized. How many little yellow ribbons are you going to see on cars as you go door to door to confiscate firearms if the shit really hits the fan here? But your role doesn’t stop there! Remember all the promises made? College paid for, medical care for life, the love and respect of an adoring nation? Sure, sometimes, vets get taken care of and there are plenty of good people working at the VA, but is it because our government feels an obligation to those it uses like condoms? No, and it never really has.
In 1932, the bonus army of 17,000 WWI veterans and tens of thousands of supporters marched on the capitol to demand the bonuses that the government had promised them. They set up an encampment quite similar to Occupy Wall Street, except – well-run, well-organized, with a critical mass of people, and in order to live in the camp, every veteran had to prove their honorable discharge. Back then, they referred to it as a Hooverville, like the thousands shanty towns that sprang up around America due to economics that were blamed on President Hoover. If they weren’t still under the propaganda spell of our exploiter in chief, the Occupation Protestors might refer to their encampments as “Obamavilles.” President Hoover ordered the encampment cleared and sent in Generals MacArthur and Patton. Yes, THAT MacArthur, and THAT Patton. The protestors thought the troops were marching to honor them, until the cavalry charged and the infantry came in with fixed bayonets, and adamsite gas, a vomiting agent. 55 veterans were injured, 135 arrested, and the speech of all effectively silenced.
But of course, if you really want to crack skulls, you don’t have to wait for the next mobilization of troops against civilians, you can just join the police. Or are those troops? For obvious reasons, many veterans go right into law enforcement, and while this may help you get out of a few speeding tickets if the officer is a fellow vet, it doesn’t do anything but reinforce the system that has become the greatest threat to the rights that it’s supposed to protect.
So finally, back to that noble cause. As much as I’d like every soldier to immediately start disobeying all unconstitutional orders and, you know, live up to our oath of enlistment, I realize that’s a bit much to ask. Standing up for what you believe in has consequences after all. But it also has rewards. So I’ll just INVITE you to apply the same courage it took to put on that uniform for the first time, to asking yourself WHY you joined the military in the first place and WHETHER OR NOT the system you are a part of serves that cause, or undermines it. While a war can be just on one side if it is truly defensive, war has always represented the greatest failure of humanity, and modern war, has never been about settling legitimate disputes, but rather the most vicious exploitation by government. Whether or not you believe that war has ever been just or necessary, let us share the lessons of our experience, let us not be deceived again, and let’s make ours the last generation of combat veterans the world will ever know. Hoorah?