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Respect our soldiers by shielding them from unnecessary wars

Chicago Tribune
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NORMAN, Okla.- When four U.S. soldiers were recently killed in Niger, the first thought many had was, “We have soldiers in Niger?”, shortly followed by, “Where is Niger?”.  Even Senator Lindsey Graham, the preeminent supporter of endless overseas combat, had no idea that over 800 soldiers were stationed in the faraway country, prompting ridicule from U.S. Senator Rand Paul to the effect that even the warmongers have no idea where they’re sending our soldiers to die.

The truth is that very few of the people elected to make decisions that directly affect the lives of these soldiers have no idea where they’re sending them, for how long, or what their purpose is for being there.  The warhawks who sustained a 16-year “War on Terror”, those directly responsible for the deaths of 7,000 U.S. soldiers and millions upon millions of citizens, those who destabilized Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the rest of the region, have no idea what they’ve truly supported, and they don’t really appear to care.  It really makes you wonder what the value of a soldier’s life is worth to them.  Then one wonders what the value a foreign, third-world, civilian life holds in their eyes.

To them, the lives of soldiers are expendable, foreign citizens even more so.  They only reserve a counterfeit form of respect for the soldiers after the fact, and with an opportunistic air, as soldier’s deaths are normally used as a push to send even more soldiers into the foreign death trap that the deceased are coming out of.

Ridicule has recently been heaped upon President Trump for bungling a phone call to the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, who died in an ambush in Niger.  He allegedly stated that Johnson “knew what he signed up for”, bloviating ignorantly and probably ready to end a very uncomfortable encounter with someone directly affected by a meaningless conflict that has nothing to do with the safety and liberty of American citizens.  Johnson’s widow took umbrage with Trump’s tone, as would anyone when forced to speak with the chief enabler of her late husband’s death.  Her grief and search for meaning in the tragedy is something experienced by thousands of Americans, as they see family and friends come back in coffins or irrevocably altered from the horrors of war.  The deaths and injuries are treated as a fact of nature, and the reason behind their need to have died at all is never questioned.  But it should be.

Those that don’t die but experience multiple life-threatening situations in combat come home to a fate almost worse than death.  There are an astonishing 2.7 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 20 percent of which suffer debilitating PTSD symptoms. 

Suicide is now the leading cause of death among our military, and has ended more military lives than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.  Around twenty soldiers commit suicide each day; who among those responsible for their deaths know their names, or even acknowledge what is happening? 

The maggots responsible for these atrocities against our military should no longer be allowed to hide behind patriotism, or behind accusations that those who are “anti-war” don’t support the troops. 

Respect for our soldiers shouldn’t be saved for when we’re staring at their coffins.  Our respect and support should be shown to them, and their families, by protecting their lives from unnecessary conflicts abroad.  Saluting coffins, standing for the National Anthem and Pledge are meaningless gestures if we aren’t engaged in the debate over the next war.  When the propaganda for a new military operation overseas is ramping up, our respect should be shown in rejecting the lies and forbidding the whole damn thing. 

Calling out the lies, the rationale, for the next war would be true service to our troops, who happen to be actual people with families, rather than the faceless avatars of honor and service we are constantly told they are, for the purpose of easing our collective conscience when they’re sent to their deaths in a foreign conflict.  They experience pain and fear, and their deployment causes real pain and suffering to themselves and the families they’ve left at home. 

They do what they’re told, but they should be told to do far less. 

A flag-draped coffin from a war zone on the other side of the world should provoke outrage at our government, and shame that we allowed that government to send the deceased to their death. 

Yet we’re continuously asked to “support the troops”, to stand for the Pledge and salute the flag.  But supporting the troops doesn’t mean blindly supporting whatever conflict they’re forced into.  If we truly supported the troops, we would take the time to understand whether the next war is truly in America’s interests and whether it’s worth the lives of soldiers. 

The Pentagon now confirms that 6,000 U.S. troops are stationed throughout Africa, for the ostensible purpose of countering terrorism.  Close to 300,000 troops are stationed abroad in 150 countries, what purpose does their presence abroad serve the citizens of the United States?  To our eternal shame, the purpose of the endless wars and the extended overseas presence is to serve Empire, not to protect the liberty of Americans. 

Soldiers are being sent to their deaths for an unsustainable hegemony, one that will ultimately crumble, but not before taking the last vestiges of our liberty and livelihoods with it.

That should outrage us.  

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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