I have been openly critical of the US military's role in world affairs for several years now, and in the responses from soldiers and their supporters I have noticed a common theme: I should be respectful, I am told, because the military is defending my "freedom." This is not an overly brusque summarization - I have not heard an elaboration on this claim. Everyone should be grateful for the sacrifices of the US military, from the Iraqis and Afghans to US citizens, because without the exact current formulation of the US military, a nebulous and shadowy enemy will step forth to threaten my personal freedom or safety. So the story goes.
Because you military men and women believe you are doing this for me, I am formally asking you to stop.
Like the mafioso who gives a gift with strings attached, or offers to provide "protection" that is in reality extortion under threat of violence, you cannot impose an obligation upon me simply because you claim to be acting on my behalf. I never asked for this; neither did the human targets currently being blown to bits and shot at. The million-plus dead Iraqis and Afghans did not threaten me.
There has been an undeniable attack on freedom, but the enemy is within the US, not in some foreign land. Where were you when the Patriot Act legalized warrantless wiretapping? Where were you when it was revealed that national security letters were being abused by the FBI in the vast majority of cases? Where is your protection of the 45,000 Americans who see their freedom cut off each year by death for lack of health insurance? When will your bullets and bombs be directed at the overseers of American prisons, now little more than shadowy rape hellholes?
You aren't doing bombing runs on health insurer Aetna, which is planning to drop 650,000 clients in 2010, in order to increase already-sufficient profits, or the Justice Department, where torture was given a sheen of legality and a pat "just following orders" rationalization; you are bombing women and children halfway across the world.
Eighty-five percent of victims of US air raids in Iraq are women and children; 39 percent are children, 46 percent women. In 2009, more than half of all child casualties in Afghanistan were caused by NATO, not by our putative enemies.
What in god's name have they done to me? What have they done to you?
Nothing. They are caught in the middle of US economic policy, already a notorious child-killer in Iraq, where sanctions killed at least half a million children. When confronted with this fact, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said this steep price was "worth it." Worth it? For what? Were those children threatening our freedom too?
Now, we are moving against Iran (and have been funding militant opposition groups there for years). Why? It is legal for Iran to pursue nuclear power, yet we are moving nearly a billion dollars worth of weapons into Israel, and giving their warmongering government permission to use them in case of "emergency" (for free and with no oversight). Presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and John McCain have both gone on record in support of bombing Iran, as has former Vice President Dick Cheney, who urged Bush to attack Iran before the end of his second term, and the Obama administration has stepped up sanctions as well as military pressure. What has Iran done to threaten my freedom?
What have the Yemenis done? US military involvement there (and in Latin America) is more about stifling opposition to US hegemony than protecting us from any valid threat.
It is not as if your philanthropy is self-evident. You are now reduced to propagandizing young children in your quest to legitimate the wasteful, overgrown military-industrial complex. The government monetarily penalizes any school that attempts to ban recruitment on campus, and popular video games and toys act as recruitment tools, with explicit links to the US military.
If you were protecting us, would we need this extensive propaganda? Wouldn't the threats be obvious to us? Would you need the approval of God (the military is heavily religious, and there have been many incidents of church-state intermixing) if you had moral certitude? Would you need the sloganeering jingoism found in such clichés as "Support the Troops," and in the unceasingly pro-soldier treatment in the US media and culture, if you had confidence in yourself and your mission? Hardly.
It is time to recognize that you are on the side of the oppressors. I say this with respect, because if you honestly believe that you are sacrificing some part of yourself for others, then your intentions are not wholly sinister. But they are in error - grave, destructive, poisonous error. And blind, blundering flailing, even with the best of intentions, is still potentially deadly and still unforgivable. Excessive ignorance is itself a form of evil.
If this is freedom, I no longer want it. To the men and women of the United States armed forces, I beg of you, stop. There is nothing in your actions that protects me, and in stirring up hatred and impoverishing millions, you are in fact endangering us all.
Likewise, you captains of industry and banking who must rake in millions in bonus pay (from taxpayers) to ensure that I might someday see some trickle-down scraps are mistaken; I and the rest of the occupants of the lowest income bracket, whose wages have barely kept up with inflation in recent decades, would like to formally request a refund. The world is worse off for your predation, and though as a white male I am indirectly the beneficiary of it, I would gladly persuade others to live a more modest life, should this arrangement also see you embrace economic cooperation.
To the government officials who oversee and instate these policies in order to keep me safe from nonexistent threats, I must ask what happens to an overzealous, perhaps rabid guard dog that insists upon attacking anyone who comes near. It is not encouraged merely because it believes it is protective; it is reformed or put out to pasture.
We need not your paternalism, nor your false sacrifices. The only Americans who should be grateful to you are warmongering politicians, CEOs and the few other recipients of your ill-gotten wealth, extracted in blood from the global poor. As Iraq veteran Brett McFann said, "When people thank me for my military service I ask if they are the CEO of a huge corporation.
"The answer is always, so far anyway, No.
"I then say, 'Well then don't thank me because I didn't do a thing for average Americans.'
"I did whatever I did to benefit big business like especially the defense and oil companies and companies that rape the world for cheap resources, cheap labor and markets."
Ian G. Anderson is the author of "God and Whose Army? The Human Place in Finite Systems".