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Not Voting Labor, Liberal or Greens
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"On December 12, 2013, a U.S. drone flying high over the country of Yemen fired on a wedding convoy, needlessly obliterating the lives of a dozen human beings. "We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounde Read more ... d were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians," reports Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. "They did not reply to this question." Cases like these are anything but uncommon. Drones have been picking off civilians (including U.S. citizens) completely unaffiliated with terrorist groups not only in Yemen, but in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and even all the way out in the Philippines. And naturally - understandably - the criticism is levied primarily against President Obama. But why all the focus on the President? Sure, he is responsible. This is not to imply that he does not deserve blame for ordering these strikes and even overseeing a "kill list", which he and his advisers modify once a week at a gathering dubbed by some as "Terror Tuesday". Yet it is silly to imagine that Obama sits behind the controls of an aerial drone and fires the missiles himself at unsuspecting victims. No, this is not the President's job, but the job of low-level men and women in uniform who are tasked with carrying out such orders. Without these individuals, would the drones still fly? Would the missiles still be fired? Would the civilians still be picked off? This same argument applies to other brutalities endorsed by U.S. politicians. What about the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo? This policy is only made possible by the guards working there who are willing to follow orders, no matter how gruesome such orders may be. What about the ground invasion of Iraq, which resulted in over 100,000 dead on the Iraqi side, daily violence, and a new U.S.-backed dictator filling the iron shoes once worn by Saddam Hussein? This, too, was only made possible by those willing to blindly adhere to orders handed down from the top. Drone strikes, torture, illegal wars and occupations - all of the policies that receive so much criticism - would simply not occur in the absence of those willing to carry them out. Orders given by psychopathic politicians could fall on deaf ears if those on the lower levels applied only a fraction of moral judgment and critical thinking, but the nature of such hierarchies is reliant on the exact opposite. It is not considered wrong to abandon one's sense of ethics, but heroic, which is utterly puzzling in light of recent history. This defense - that one was "just following orders" - was wholesomely rejected during the Nuremberg Trials of Nazis who participated in the genocidal holocaust: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." Given that there hasn't been a military draft since Vietnam, it would be hard to argue that there is no moral choice possible for drone pilots and Gitmo guards, especially today, in the age of the internet, where it seems close to impossible for one to be oblivious to what they are taking part in. Again, for clarification, none of this is meant to put all the blame on members of the military. If anything, this should be seen as a calling to do what's right, orders be damned. Bush, Obama, and whichever U.S. President comes next, are not the ones with the real power to stop all of the horrible things going on in the name of the taxpayer so much as those beneath them who are tasked with executing orders. They make the drone strikes, torture, invasions, and occupations possible, and focusing on their role is what will make these things actually come to an end. The glorification of mindless obedience to authority - an authority that has been proven time and time again to be dishonest and violent - is the true plague of our society, and the only way that this worldwide empire can be maintained indefinitely. Supporting the troops should mean the opposite of what it does at Memorial Day celebrations and on mainstream television networks. Unquestioning obedience to authority is a detriment, not a value to be celebrated and championed as virtuous. Such compliance with authority is the very cause of war crimes throughout history, from the Nazi holocaust to the invasion of Iraq, none of which would have ever been possible had men and women in uniform rejected their orders. Yes, the consequences of rejecting orders can be severe. One can be imprisoned, best case scenario, or as seen during the holocaust, executed. But is it not better to stand up for what's right and pay the price for doing so than to go along with what's wrong and suffer for the duration of a lifespan with the associated guilt and shame? The path to prosecuting and punishing those who give immoral orders must first be paved by those refusing to take them. We will never see Bush put on trial for crimes against humanity because of those beneath him that continue to vow support, and the same can be said for Obama and whoever comes after him. These political villains gather their strength and maintain their immunity by prolonging a system of hierarchy that depends entirely on unflinching obedience, and without it, they would rightly suffer the consequences." http://tinyurl.com/lr935wy "In addition to donating change to the troops, we are repeatedly impelled to “support our troops” or to “thank our troops.” God constantly blesses them. Politicians exalt them. We are warned, “If you can’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” One wonders if our troops are the ass-kicking force of P.R. lore or an agglomeration of oversensitive duds and beggars. Such troop worship is trite and tiresome, but that’s not its primary danger. A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation." "The troops are now everywhere. They occupy bases and war zones throughout the Arab world and Central Asia and have permanent presence in dozens of countries. They also occupy every tract of discursive territory in the United States. The troops are our omnipresent, if amorphous, symbols of moral and intellectual austerity. No televised sporting event escapes celebration of the troops. Networks treat viewers to stars and stripes covering entire football fields, complementing the small-but-always-visible flags the studio hosts sport on their lapels. The national anthem is often accompanied by fighter jets and cannon blasts. Displays of hypermasculine prowess frame the reciprocal virtues of courage and devotion embedded in American war mythology. Corporate entities are the worst offenders. On flights, troops are offered early boarding and then treated to rounds of applause during the otherwise forgettable safety announcements. Anheuser-Busch recently won the Secretary of Defense Public Service Award and in 2011 “Budweiser paid tribute to America’s heroes with a patriotic float in the Rose Parade®.” The Army’s website has a page dedicated to “Army Friendly Companies”; it is filled with an all-star lineup of the Forbes 500 as well as dozens of regional businesses. I do not begrudge the troops for availing themselves of any benefits companies choose to offer, nor do I begrudge the companies for offering those benefits. Of greater interest is what the phenomenon of corporate charity for the troops tells us about commercial conduct in an era of compulsory patriotism. It tells us, first of all, that corporations care far less about the individuals who happen to have served in the military than they do about “the troops” as an exploitable consumer category. Unthinking patriotism, exemplified by support of the troops (however insincere or self-serving), is an asset to the modern business model, not simply for good P.R., but also for the profit it generates. Multinational corporations have a profound interest in cheerleading for war and in the deification of those sent to execute it. For many of these corporations, the U.S. military is essentially a private army dispatched around the world as needed to protect their investments and to open new markets. Their customers may “support our troops” based on sincere feelings of sympathy or camaraderie, but for the elite the task of an ideal citizenry isn’t to analyze or to investigate, but to consume. In order for the citizenry to consume an abundance of products most people don’t actually need, it is necessary to interject the spoils of international larceny into the marketplace." "“Support the troops” is the most overused platitude in the United States, but still the most effective for anybody who seeks interpersonal or economic ingratiation. The platitude abounds with significance but lacks the burdens of substance and specificity. It says something apparently apolitical while patrolling for heresy to an inelastic logic. Its only concrete function is to situate users into normative spaces. Clichés aren’t usually meant to be analyzed, but this one illuminates imperialism so succinctly that to think seriously about it is to necessarily assess jingoism, foreign policy, and national identity. The sheer vacuity and inexplicability of the phrase, despite its ubiquity, indicates just how incoherent patriotism is these days. Who, for instance, are “the troops”? Do they include those safely on bases in Hawaii and Germany? Those guarding and torturing prisoners at Bagram and Guantánamo? The ones who murder people by remote control? The legions of mercenaries in Iraq? The ones I’ve seen many times in the Arab world acting like an Adam Sandler character? “The troops” traverse vast sociological, geographical, economic and ideological categories. It does neither military personnel nor their fans any good to romanticize them as a singular organism. And what, exactly, constitutes “support”? Is it financial giving? Affixing a declarative sticker to a car bumper? Posting banalities to Facebook? Clapping when the flight attendant requests applause? Ultimately, the support we’re meant to proffer is ideological. The terms we use to define the troops — freedom-fighters, heroic, courageous — are synecdoche for the romance of American warfare: altruistic, defensive, noble, reluctant, ethical. To support the troops is to accept a particular idea of the American role in the world. It also forces us to pretend that it is a country legitimately interested in equality for all its citizens. Too much evidence to the contrary makes it impossible to accept such an assumption. In reality, the troops are not actually recipients of any meaningful support. That honor is reserved for the government and its elite constituencies. “Support our troops” entails a tacit injunction that we also support whatever politicians in any given moment deem the national interest. If we understand that “the national interest” is but a metonym for the aspirations of the ruling class, then supporting the troops becomes a counterintuitive, even harmful, gesture. The government’s many appeals to support the troops represent an outsourcing of its responsibility (as with healthcare, education and incarceration). Numerous veterans have returned home to inadequate medical coverage, psychological afflictions, unemployment and increased risk of cancer. The free market and corporate magnanimity are supposed to address these matters, but neither has ever been a viable substitute for the dynamic practices of communal policymaking. A different sort of combat ensues: class warfare, without the consciousness. As in most areas of the American polity, we pay taxes that favor the private sector, which then refuses to contribute to any sustainable vision of the public good. The only serious welfare programs in the United States benefit the most powerful among us. Individual troops, who are made to preserve and perpetuate this system, rarely enjoy the spoils. The bonanza is reserved for those who exploit the profitability of warfare through the acquisition of foreign resources and the manufacture of weapons. Supporting the troops is a cheerful surrogate for enabling the friendly dictators, secret operations, torture practices and spying programs that sustain this terrible economy." "Those who know me might be surprised by my position, but it arises from a belief consistent with my political outlook, that the power of institutions can never overwhelm the simple act of thinking. In other words, even if the military as an institution often does bad things, the individuals that comprise the military do not have to become bad people. Soldiers can certainly be awful human beings, but so can professors, clerks, musicians, executives, landscapers and athletes. This way of thinking also inversely demystifies the troops, who are burdened with untenable narratives of heroism the vast majority (like those in all professions) do not deserve. I am neither smart nor foolish enough to define “heroism,” but I am comfortable saying the mere fact of being a soldier doesn’t automatically make one a hero, just as the mere fact of being in prison doesn’t necessarily make one evil. If we recognize that the troops are in fact human beings, then we simultaneously accept that they are too complex to be reduced to patriotic ephemera. Such recognition is unusual, though. People speak frequently of “our troops,” highlighting the pronoun as if it is imperative to their sense of national belonging. It is an act of possession that projects fantasies of virtue onto an idealized demographic in the absence of substantive virtuous practices that might otherwise foster national pride. Plutocracy ravages the state; we rebuild it with narratives of glory and selflessness, the troops acting as both the signifier and the signified in this nationalistic uplift. The selflessness of our troops is particularly sacred. Not only do they bring order and democracy to lesser peoples; they also risk (and sometimes give) their lives for the good of others, so that civilians might continue driving, shopping, dining and watching movies, the hallmarks of American freedom. That these notions of sacrifice connote a Christ-like narrative of individual-death-for-collective-pleasure only endows them with even greater cultural power. Whether or not our son ever joins the military, questions about the deployment of mythological slogans in the service of socioeconomic iniquity need to be addressed. His joining or not joining will have no effect on that need, which will remain even if he becomes a teacher or doctor. I want him to enter into adulthood in a world where people impeach and diminish the mystification of corporate plunder. More than anything, I want him to participate in the process, whether he does it from a barrack, a cubicle or a corner office. It would be wise to avoid countervailing slogans, such as the assertive but nonetheless meager Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home! One goal is to disrupt and rethink, something much easier to accomplish in the absence of shibboleths. Another goal is to continue exploring why support for troops as prescribed by sports leagues and conglomerates actually does a great disservice to the human beings who comprise the military and reinforces a plutocratic imperium for those who do not. Next time you are asked to “support our troops,” then, remember that in a country where wealth decides the fate of so many communities, such an uncritical gesture isn’t even worth the change from a broken dollar." http://tinyurl.com/mp33p8z "The American Republic is putting the finishing touches on what could be arguably characterized as the foundation for fascism. The baby steps are there: a catastrophic event and a subsequent government usurpation of liberties (Germany: The Reichstag Fire and the “Enabling Act”, U.S: Sept. 11th terrorist attack and the “Patriot Act”), a national media firmly under control of corporations, spewing out pro-government propaganda completely at odds with journalism virtually everywhere else in the world, a population in fear, a strong military, and a government drunk with its own self-righteous lunacy. All the ingredients for fascism at home and abroad are there. The differences are in degree, not in principles. We have initiated two wars, one arguably illegitimate and illegal (Afghanistan and Iraq). We have rounded up particular sets of citizens, based on racial, religious, and political grounds (Arabs, Sikh Indians, and other political dissidents). We’ve subverted international law in the process, and promoted a national culture of fear and war-hungry patriotism. Yes, people…fascism can happen here, in the birthplace of the first modern democratic experiment." "Historically, soldiers’ refusals to serve have changed erroneous military policies. A case in point is the Refusenik movement in Israel. In recent weeks, various high-profile pilots, soldiers, and generals have signed their names to the growing Refusenik movement (those that refuse to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces beyond the 1967 borders, including the Palestinian occupied territories). If individual Israeli soldiers, in an arguably more totalitarian and politically-charged society, can take the courageous step of opposing the majority view of their people and risk the consequences that entails, why is it that American soldiers are absolved of moral responsibility for their cowardice to refuse serving in an illegal, colonial, and unnecessary war? That Israelis soldiers can refuse (and Vietnam-era U.S. soldiers DID refuse) proves that current soldiers can refuse to serve and follow their conscience. They have the power to choose their destiny, and with that power of choice comes responsibility for the decision. Arguments that aim to “support the troops” by absolving them of all moral and conscious responsibility for analyzing the conflict in which they are sent are erroneous, in my view. We may hold the view (which I do) that most soldiers lack the intellectual capacity (not biological, but acquired through education) to truly analyze the merits of a particular conflict or particular military policy; indeed I believe most soldiers are recruited from backgrounds in which it is highly unlikely that they’ve received any education about the history of their nation, its military policies, and the merits of current policies, except those bombarded at them by the corporate-media, social culture, or military academies. But, as with a violation of the law, are people absolved from participating in crimes if they didn’t know that what they were supporting was not legitimate or legal (as this war was not)? Soldiers may be intellectually absolved from knowing the true motives of U.S. wars (which are usually arguments about democracy, freedom, and humanitarian concerns, most if not historical lies), but they are not morally-absolved from having collaborated with the entire illegal venture. Their lack of knowledge (and in some cases, their conscious decision to be apathetic to the history of their country’s past and current military policies) allows for the kinds of brutal conflicts (like Vietnam and Iraq), in which the U.S. puts itself clearly in an oppressive situation. We in the United States may not like seeing ourselves in this way, but the rest of the world sure sees us that way. I cannot, in good conscience, ignore the plight of those that suffer the consequences of a willfully or accidentally ignorant American public. I cannot ignore the millions of dead as a result of past and current U.S. military and foreign policies. I, therefore, cannot support the troops. It is they, by their own ignorance and by the supportive ignorance of their relatives back home that allow for the implementation of opportunistic U.S. foreign policies, directed by opportunistic and morally bankrupt U.S. “leaders”." "Would we, as easily, dismiss the guilt of the German Gestapo soldiers, many who believed the propaganda of their own system, of the superiority of their national group, of the righteousness of their cause, despite the pleas of their victims and the dissenting opinions of various other Germans? Or would we, as we do now, prosecute every single last one of the Nazis, wherever we find them in the world, and condemn every single vestige of their discredited ideology to the history books? If this is our position, then we are obliged, by intellectual consistency requirements, to hold troops accountable to their actions, no matter where they occur. Following orders is not an excuse for participating in illegal wars and their accompanying illegal war crimes and humiliation of the victims. The famous Nuremberg Trials introduced this concept into international law. True, Nuremberg was victor’s justice. The British and Americans got away with massive firebombings of German cities (although the British could claim self-defense, given their suffering as a result of the German Blitz), the Russians got away with massive human rights atrocities in German-controlled areas of Europe, and the Americans got away with the single-most individual biggest civilian calamity in history: the detonation of the U.S. atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both recorded terrorist events, by our current standards. And, contrary to established thought, it was not justified by the war with the Japanese. There’s plentiful evidence to prove that the Japanese were attempting surrender negotiations prior to the detonation of the bombs. A more plausible theory is that the Americans used the atomic bombs (and sacrificed Japanese civilians on this political altar) to send a message to the Russians, who were already viewed as the “next” threat. That the U.S. so readily extinguished the lives of Japanese innocents for a political purpose places U.S. morality on the same level as the Germans and Japanese, who had both pursued equally brutal and uncaring expansionist policies. The importance of Nuremberg is that it established for international law the principle that “following orders” did not absolve the accused of his guilt. Therefore, I claim Nuremberg’s principles (and the principles of Robert H. Jackson, the U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg) to argue that the U.S. soldiers who participated in the slaughters and colonial humiliation of this second Iraqi war should not be absolved of their responsibility for carrying out their illegal and unnecessary war orders. If it was good enough a standard to apply to the Nazi fascists and to the Japanese militarists, it is good enough to apply to our American neoconservative ideologues and their troops on the global chessboard." http://tinyurl.com/oyuuvn5
Now
Shane Whitehead
Timeline Photos
"On December 12, 2013, a U.S. drone flying high over the country of Yemen fired on a wedding convoy, needlessly obliterating the lives of a dozen human beings. "We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounde Read more ... d were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians," reports Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. "They did not reply to this question." Cases like these are anything but uncommon. Drones have been picking off civilians (including U.S. citizens) completely unaffiliated with terrorist groups not only in Yemen, but in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and even all the way out in the Philippines. And naturally - understandably - the criticism is levied primarily against President Obama. But why all the focus on the President? Sure, he is responsible. This is not to imply that he does not deserve blame for ordering these strikes and even overseeing a "kill list", which he and his advisers modify once a week at a gathering dubbed by some as "Terror Tuesday". Yet it is silly to imagine that Obama sits behind the controls of an aerial drone and fires the missiles himself at unsuspecting victims. No, this is not the President's job, but the job of low-level men and women in uniform who are tasked with carrying out such orders. Without these individuals, would the drones still fly? Would the missiles still be fired? Would the civilians still be picked off? This same argument applies to other brutalities endorsed by U.S. politicians. What about the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo? This policy is only made possible by the guards working there who are willing to follow orders, no matter how gruesome such orders may be. What about the ground invasion of Iraq, which resulted in over 100,000 dead on the Iraqi side, daily violence, and a new U.S.-backed dictator filling the iron shoes once worn by Saddam Hussein? This, too, was only made possible by those willing to blindly adhere to orders handed down from the top. Drone strikes, torture, illegal wars and occupations - all of the policies that receive so much criticism - would simply not occur in the absence of those willing to carry them out. Orders given by psychopathic politicians could fall on deaf ears if those on the lower levels applied only a fraction of moral judgment and critical thinking, but the nature of such hierarchies is reliant on the exact opposite. It is not considered wrong to abandon one's sense of ethics, but heroic, which is utterly puzzling in light of recent history. This defense - that one was "just following orders" - was wholesomely rejected during the Nuremberg Trials of Nazis who participated in the genocidal holocaust: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." Given that there hasn't been a military draft since Vietnam, it would be hard to argue that there is no moral choice possible for drone pilots and Gitmo guards, especially today, in the age of the internet, where it seems close to impossible for one to be oblivious to what they are taking part in. Again, for clarification, none of this is meant to put all the blame on members of the military. If anything, this should be seen as a calling to do what's right, orders be damned. Bush, Obama, and whichever U.S. President comes next, are not the ones with the real power to stop all of the horrible things going on in the name of the taxpayer so much as those beneath them who are tasked with executing orders. They make the drone strikes, torture, invasions, and occupations possible, and focusing on their role is what will make these things actually come to an end. The glorification of mindless obedience to authority - an authority that has been proven time and time again to be dishonest and violent - is the true plague of our society, and the only way that this worldwide empire can be maintained indefinitely. Supporting the troops should mean the opposite of what it does at Memorial Day celebrations and on mainstream television networks. Unquestioning obedience to authority is a detriment, not a value to be celebrated and championed as virtuous. Such compliance with authority is the very cause of war crimes throughout history, from the Nazi holocaust to the invasion of Iraq, none of which would have ever been possible had men and women in uniform rejected their orders. Yes, the consequences of rejecting orders can be severe. One can be imprisoned, best case scenario, or as seen during the holocaust, executed. But is it not better to stand up for what's right and pay the price for doing so than to go along with what's wrong and suffer for the duration of a lifespan with the associated guilt and shame? The path to prosecuting and punishing those who give immoral orders must first be paved by those refusing to take them. We will never see Bush put on trial for crimes against humanity because of those beneath him that continue to vow support, and the same can be said for Obama and whoever comes after him. These political villains gather their strength and maintain their immunity by prolonging a system of hierarchy that depends entirely on unflinching obedience, and without it, they would rightly suffer the consequences." http://tinyurl.com/lr935wy "In addition to donating change to the troops, we are repeatedly impelled to “support our troops” or to “thank our troops.” God constantly blesses them. Politicians exalt them. We are warned, “If you can’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” One wonders if our troops are the ass-kicking force of P.R. lore or an agglomeration of oversensitive duds and beggars. Such troop worship is trite and tiresome, but that’s not its primary danger. A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation." "The troops are now everywhere. They occupy bases and war zones throughout the Arab world and Central Asia and have permanent presence in dozens of countries. They also occupy every tract of discursive territory in the United States. The troops are our omnipresent, if amorphous, symbols of moral and intellectual austerity. No televised sporting event escapes celebration of the troops. Networks treat viewers to stars and stripes covering entire football fields, complementing the small-but-always-visible flags the studio hosts sport on their lapels. The national anthem is often accompanied by fighter jets and cannon blasts. Displays of hypermasculine prowess frame the reciprocal virtues of courage and devotion embedded in American war mythology. Corporate entities are the worst offenders. On flights, troops are offered early boarding and then treated to rounds of applause during the otherwise forgettable safety announcements. Anheuser-Busch recently won the Secretary of Defense Public Service Award and in 2011 “Budweiser paid tribute to America’s heroes with a patriotic float in the Rose Parade®.” The Army’s website has a page dedicated to “Army Friendly Companies”; it is filled with an all-star lineup of the Forbes 500 as well as dozens of regional businesses. I do not begrudge the troops for availing themselves of any benefits companies choose to offer, nor do I begrudge the companies for offering those benefits. Of greater interest is what the phenomenon of corporate charity for the troops tells us about commercial conduct in an era of compulsory patriotism. It tells us, first of all, that corporations care far less about the individuals who happen to have served in the military than they do about “the troops” as an exploitable consumer category. Unthinking patriotism, exemplified by support of the troops (however insincere or self-serving), is an asset to the modern business model, not simply for good P.R., but also for the profit it generates. Multinational corporations have a profound interest in cheerleading for war and in the deification of those sent to execute it. For many of these corporations, the U.S. military is essentially a private army dispatched around the world as needed to protect their investments and to open new markets. Their customers may “support our troops” based on sincere feelings of sympathy or camaraderie, but for the elite the task of an ideal citizenry isn’t to analyze or to investigate, but to consume. In order for the citizenry to consume an abundance of products most people don’t actually need, it is necessary to interject the spoils of international larceny into the marketplace." "“Support the troops” is the most overused platitude in the United States, but still the most effective for anybody who seeks interpersonal or economic ingratiation. The platitude abounds with significance but lacks the burdens of substance and specificity. It says something apparently apolitical while patrolling for heresy to an inelastic logic. Its only concrete function is to situate users into normative spaces. Clichés aren’t usually meant to be analyzed, but this one illuminates imperialism so succinctly that to think seriously about it is to necessarily assess jingoism, foreign policy, and national identity. The sheer vacuity and inexplicability of the phrase, despite its ubiquity, indicates just how incoherent patriotism is these days. Who, for instance, are “the troops”? Do they include those safely on bases in Hawaii and Germany? Those guarding and torturing prisoners at Bagram and Guantánamo? The ones who murder people by remote control? The legions of mercenaries in Iraq? The ones I’ve seen many times in the Arab world acting like an Adam Sandler character? “The troops” traverse vast sociological, geographical, economic and ideological categories. It does neither military personnel nor their fans any good to romanticize them as a singular organism. And what, exactly, constitutes “support”? Is it financial giving? Affixing a declarative sticker to a car bumper? Posting banalities to Facebook? Clapping when the flight attendant requests applause? Ultimately, the support we’re meant to proffer is ideological. The terms we use to define the troops — freedom-fighters, heroic, courageous — are synecdoche for the romance of American warfare: altruistic, defensive, noble, reluctant, ethical. To support the troops is to accept a particular idea of the American role in the world. It also forces us to pretend that it is a country legitimately interested in equality for all its citizens. Too much evidence to the contrary makes it impossible to accept such an assumption. In reality, the troops are not actually recipients of any meaningful support. That honor is reserved for the government and its elite constituencies. “Support our troops” entails a tacit injunction that we also support whatever politicians in any given moment deem the national interest. If we understand that “the national interest” is but a metonym for the aspirations of the ruling class, then supporting the troops becomes a counterintuitive, even harmful, gesture. The government’s many appeals to support the troops represent an outsourcing of its responsibility (as with healthcare, education and incarceration). Numerous veterans have returned home to inadequate medical coverage, psychological afflictions, unemployment and increased risk of cancer. The free market and corporate magnanimity are supposed to address these matters, but neither has ever been a viable substitute for the dynamic practices of communal policymaking. A different sort of combat ensues: class warfare, without the consciousness. As in most areas of the American polity, we pay taxes that favor the private sector, which then refuses to contribute to any sustainable vision of the public good. The only serious welfare programs in the United States benefit the most powerful among us. Individual troops, who are made to preserve and perpetuate this system, rarely enjoy the spoils. The bonanza is reserved for those who exploit the profitability of warfare through the acquisition of foreign resources and the manufacture of weapons. Supporting the troops is a cheerful surrogate for enabling the friendly dictators, secret operations, torture practices and spying programs that sustain this terrible economy." "Those who know me might be surprised by my position, but it arises from a belief consistent with my political outlook, that the power of institutions can never overwhelm the simple act of thinking. In other words, even if the military as an institution often does bad things, the individuals that comprise the military do not have to become bad people. Soldiers can certainly be awful human beings, but so can professors, clerks, musicians, executives, landscapers and athletes. This way of thinking also inversely demystifies the troops, who are burdened with untenable narratives of heroism the vast majority (like those in all professions) do not deserve. I am neither smart nor foolish enough to define “heroism,” but I am comfortable saying the mere fact of being a soldier doesn’t automatically make one a hero, just as the mere fact of being in prison doesn’t necessarily make one evil. If we recognize that the troops are in fact human beings, then we simultaneously accept that they are too complex to be reduced to patriotic ephemera. Such recognition is unusual, though. People speak frequently of “our troops,” highlighting the pronoun as if it is imperative to their sense of national belonging. It is an act of possession that projects fantasies of virtue onto an idealized demographic in the absence of substantive virtuous practices that might otherwise foster national pride. Plutocracy ravages the state; we rebuild it with narratives of glory and selflessness, the troops acting as both the signifier and the signified in this nationalistic uplift. The selflessness of our troops is particularly sacred. Not only do they bring order and democracy to lesser peoples; they also risk (and sometimes give) their lives for the good of others, so that civilians might continue driving, shopping, dining and watching movies, the hallmarks of American freedom. That these notions of sacrifice connote a Christ-like narrative of individual-death-for-collective-pleasure only endows them with even greater cultural power. Whether or not our son ever joins the military, questions about the deployment of mythological slogans in the service of socioeconomic iniquity need to be addressed. His joining or not joining will have no effect on that need, which will remain even if he becomes a teacher or doctor. I want him to enter into adulthood in a world where people impeach and diminish the mystification of corporate plunder. More than anything, I want him to participate in the process, whether he does it from a barrack, a cubicle or a corner office. It would be wise to avoid countervailing slogans, such as the assertive but nonetheless meager Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home! One goal is to disrupt and rethink, something much easier to accomplish in the absence of shibboleths. Another goal is to continue exploring why support for troops as prescribed by sports leagues and conglomerates actually does a great disservice to the human beings who comprise the military and reinforces a plutocratic imperium for those who do not. Next time you are asked to “support our troops,” then, remember that in a country where wealth decides the fate of so many communities, such an uncritical gesture isn’t even worth the change from a broken dollar." http://tinyurl.com/mp33p8z "The American Republic is putting the finishing touches on what could be arguably characterized as the foundation for fascism. The baby steps are there: a catastrophic event and a subsequent government usurpation of liberties (Germany: The Reichstag Fire and the “Enabling Act”, U.S: Sept. 11th terrorist attack and the “Patriot Act”), a national media firmly under control of corporations, spewing out pro-government propaganda completely at odds with journalism virtually everywhere else in the world, a population in fear, a strong military, and a government drunk with its own self-righteous lunacy. All the ingredients for fascism at home and abroad are there. The differences are in degree, not in principles. We have initiated two wars, one arguably illegitimate and illegal (Afghanistan and Iraq). We have rounded up particular sets of citizens, based on racial, religious, and political grounds (Arabs, Sikh Indians, and other political dissidents). We’ve subverted international law in the process, and promoted a national culture of fear and war-hungry patriotism. Yes, people…fascism can happen here, in the birthplace of the first modern democratic experiment." "Historically, soldiers’ refusals to serve have changed erroneous military policies. A case in point is the Refusenik movement in Israel. In recent weeks, various high-profile pilots, soldiers, and generals have signed their names to the growing Refusenik movement (those that refuse to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces beyond the 1967 borders, including the Palestinian occupied territories). If individual Israeli soldiers, in an arguably more totalitarian and politically-charged society, can take the courageous step of opposing the majority view of their people and risk the consequences that entails, why is it that American soldiers are absolved of moral responsibility for their cowardice to refuse serving in an illegal, colonial, and unnecessary war? That Israelis soldiers can refuse (and Vietnam-era U.S. soldiers DID refuse) proves that current soldiers can refuse to serve and follow their conscience. They have the power to choose their destiny, and with that power of choice comes responsibility for the decision. Arguments that aim to “support the troops” by absolving them of all moral and conscious responsibility for analyzing the conflict in which they are sent are erroneous, in my view. We may hold the view (which I do) that most soldiers lack the intellectual capacity (not biological, but acquired through education) to truly analyze the merits of a particular conflict or particular military policy; indeed I believe most soldiers are recruited from backgrounds in which it is highly unlikely that they’ve received any education about the history of their nation, its military policies, and the merits of current policies, except those bombarded at them by the corporate-media, social culture, or military academies. But, as with a violation of the law, are people absolved from participating in crimes if they didn’t know that what they were supporting was not legitimate or legal (as this war was not)? Soldiers may be intellectually absolved from knowing the true motives of U.S. wars (which are usually arguments about democracy, freedom, and humanitarian concerns, most if not historical lies), but they are not morally-absolved from having collaborated with the entire illegal venture. Their lack of knowledge (and in some cases, their conscious decision to be apathetic to the history of their country’s past and current military policies) allows for the kinds of brutal conflicts (like Vietnam and Iraq), in which the U.S. puts itself clearly in an oppressive situation. We in the United States may not like seeing ourselves in this way, but the rest of the world sure sees us that way. I cannot, in good conscience, ignore the plight of those that suffer the consequences of a willfully or accidentally ignorant American public. I cannot ignore the millions of dead as a result of past and current U.S. military and foreign policies. I, therefore, cannot support the troops. It is they, by their own ignorance and by the supportive ignorance of their relatives back home that allow for the implementation of opportunistic U.S. foreign policies, directed by opportunistic and morally bankrupt U.S. “leaders”." "Would we, as easily, dismiss the guilt of the German Gestapo soldiers, many who believed the propaganda of their own system, of the superiority of their national group, of the righteousness of their cause, despite the pleas of their victims and the dissenting opinions of various other Germans? Or would we, as we do now, prosecute every single last one of the Nazis, wherever we find them in the world, and condemn every single vestige of their discredited ideology to the history books? If this is our position, then we are obliged, by intellectual consistency requirements, to hold troops accountable to their actions, no matter where they occur. Following orders is not an excuse for participating in illegal wars and their accompanying illegal war crimes and humiliation of the victims. The famous Nuremberg Trials introduced this concept into international law. True, Nuremberg was victor’s justice. The British and Americans got away with massive firebombings of German cities (although the British could claim self-defense, given their suffering as a result of the German Blitz), the Russians got away with massive human rights atrocities in German-controlled areas of Europe, and the Americans got away with the single-most individual biggest civilian calamity in history: the detonation of the U.S. atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both recorded terrorist events, by our current standards. And, contrary to established thought, it was not justified by the war with the Japanese. There’s plentiful evidence to prove that the Japanese were attempting surrender negotiations prior to the detonation of the bombs. A more plausible theory is that the Americans used the atomic bombs (and sacrificed Japanese civilians on this political altar) to send a message to the Russians, who were already viewed as the “next” threat. That the U.S. so readily extinguished the lives of Japanese innocents for a political purpose places U.S. morality on the same level as the Germans and Japanese, who had both pursued equally brutal and uncaring expansionist policies. The importance of Nuremberg is that it established for international law the principle that “following orders” did not absolve the accused of his guilt. Therefore, I claim Nuremberg’s principles (and the principles of Robert H. Jackson, the U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg) to argue that the U.S. soldiers who participated in the slaughters and colonial humiliation of this second Iraqi war should not be absolved of their responsibility for carrying out their illegal and unnecessary war orders. If it was good enough a standard to apply to the Nazi fascists and to the Japanese militarists, it is good enough to apply to our American neoconservative ideologues and their troops on the global chessboard." http://tinyurl.com/oyuuvn5
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John Gavio
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"On December 12, 2013, a U.S. drone flying high over the country of Yemen fired on a wedding convoy, needlessly obliterating the lives of a dozen human beings. "We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounde Read more ... d were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians," reports Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. "They did not reply to this question." Cases like these are anything but uncommon. Drones have been picking off civilians (including U.S. citizens) completely unaffiliated with terrorist groups not only in Yemen, but in Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, and even all the way out in the Philippines. And naturally - understandably - the criticism is levied primarily against President Obama. But why all the focus on the President? Sure, he is responsible. This is not to imply that he does not deserve blame for ordering these strikes and even overseeing a "kill list", which he and his advisers modify once a week at a gathering dubbed by some as "Terror Tuesday". Yet it is silly to imagine that Obama sits behind the controls of an aerial drone and fires the missiles himself at unsuspecting victims. No, this is not the President's job, but the job of low-level men and women in uniform who are tasked with carrying out such orders. Without these individuals, would the drones still fly? Would the missiles still be fired? Would the civilians still be picked off? This same argument applies to other brutalities endorsed by U.S. politicians. What about the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo? This policy is only made possible by the guards working there who are willing to follow orders, no matter how gruesome such orders may be. What about the ground invasion of Iraq, which resulted in over 100,000 dead on the Iraqi side, daily violence, and a new U.S.-backed dictator filling the iron shoes once worn by Saddam Hussein? This, too, was only made possible by those willing to blindly adhere to orders handed down from the top. Drone strikes, torture, illegal wars and occupations - all of the policies that receive so much criticism - would simply not occur in the absence of those willing to carry them out. Orders given by psychopathic politicians could fall on deaf ears if those on the lower levels applied only a fraction of moral judgment and critical thinking, but the nature of such hierarchies is reliant on the exact opposite. It is not considered wrong to abandon one's sense of ethics, but heroic, which is utterly puzzling in light of recent history. This defense - that one was "just following orders" - was wholesomely rejected during the Nuremberg Trials of Nazis who participated in the genocidal holocaust: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." Given that there hasn't been a military draft since Vietnam, it would be hard to argue that there is no moral choice possible for drone pilots and Gitmo guards, especially today, in the age of the internet, where it seems close to impossible for one to be oblivious to what they are taking part in. Again, for clarification, none of this is meant to put all the blame on members of the military. If anything, this should be seen as a calling to do what's right, orders be damned. Bush, Obama, and whichever U.S. President comes next, are not the ones with the real power to stop all of the horrible things going on in the name of the taxpayer so much as those beneath them who are tasked with executing orders. They make the drone strikes, torture, invasions, and occupations possible, and focusing on their role is what will make these things actually come to an end. The glorification of mindless obedience to authority - an authority that has been proven time and time again to be dishonest and violent - is the true plague of our society, and the only way that this worldwide empire can be maintained indefinitely. Supporting the troops should mean the opposite of what it does at Memorial Day celebrations and on mainstream television networks. Unquestioning obedience to authority is a detriment, not a value to be celebrated and championed as virtuous. Such compliance with authority is the very cause of war crimes throughout history, from the Nazi holocaust to the invasion of Iraq, none of which would have ever been possible had men and women in uniform rejected their orders. Yes, the consequences of rejecting orders can be severe. One can be imprisoned, best case scenario, or as seen during the holocaust, executed. But is it not better to stand up for what's right and pay the price for doing so than to go along with what's wrong and suffer for the duration of a lifespan with the associated guilt and shame? The path to prosecuting and punishing those who give immoral orders must first be paved by those refusing to take them. We will never see Bush put on trial for crimes against humanity because of those beneath him that continue to vow support, and the same can be said for Obama and whoever comes after him. These political villains gather their strength and maintain their immunity by prolonging a system of hierarchy that depends entirely on unflinching obedience, and without it, they would rightly suffer the consequences." http://tinyurl.com/lr935wy "In addition to donating change to the troops, we are repeatedly impelled to “support our troops” or to “thank our troops.” God constantly blesses them. Politicians exalt them. We are warned, “If you can’t stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them.” One wonders if our troops are the ass-kicking force of P.R. lore or an agglomeration of oversensitive duds and beggars. Such troop worship is trite and tiresome, but that’s not its primary danger. A nation that continuously publicizes appeals to “support our troops” is explicitly asking its citizens not to think. It is the ideal slogan for suppressing the practice of democracy, presented to us in the guise of democratic preservation." "The troops are now everywhere. They occupy bases and war zones throughout the Arab world and Central Asia and have permanent presence in dozens of countries. They also occupy every tract of discursive territory in the United States. The troops are our omnipresent, if amorphous, symbols of moral and intellectual austerity. No televised sporting event escapes celebration of the troops. Networks treat viewers to stars and stripes covering entire football fields, complementing the small-but-always-visible flags the studio hosts sport on their lapels. The national anthem is often accompanied by fighter jets and cannon blasts. Displays of hypermasculine prowess frame the reciprocal virtues of courage and devotion embedded in American war mythology. Corporate entities are the worst offenders. On flights, troops are offered early boarding and then treated to rounds of applause during the otherwise forgettable safety announcements. Anheuser-Busch recently won the Secretary of Defense Public Service Award and in 2011 “Budweiser paid tribute to America’s heroes with a patriotic float in the Rose Parade®.” The Army’s website has a page dedicated to “Army Friendly Companies”; it is filled with an all-star lineup of the Forbes 500 as well as dozens of regional businesses. I do not begrudge the troops for availing themselves of any benefits companies choose to offer, nor do I begrudge the companies for offering those benefits. Of greater interest is what the phenomenon of corporate charity for the troops tells us about commercial conduct in an era of compulsory patriotism. It tells us, first of all, that corporations care far less about the individuals who happen to have served in the military than they do about “the troops” as an exploitable consumer category. Unthinking patriotism, exemplified by support of the troops (however insincere or self-serving), is an asset to the modern business model, not simply for good P.R., but also for the profit it generates. Multinational corporations have a profound interest in cheerleading for war and in the deification of those sent to execute it. For many of these corporations, the U.S. military is essentially a private army dispatched around the world as needed to protect their investments and to open new markets. Their customers may “support our troops” based on sincere feelings of sympathy or camaraderie, but for the elite the task of an ideal citizenry isn’t to analyze or to investigate, but to consume. In order for the citizenry to consume an abundance of products most people don’t actually need, it is necessary to interject the spoils of international larceny into the marketplace." "“Support the troops” is the most overused platitude in the United States, but still the most effective for anybody who seeks interpersonal or economic ingratiation. The platitude abounds with significance but lacks the burdens of substance and specificity. It says something apparently apolitical while patrolling for heresy to an inelastic logic. Its only concrete function is to situate users into normative spaces. Clichés aren’t usually meant to be analyzed, but this one illuminates imperialism so succinctly that to think seriously about it is to necessarily assess jingoism, foreign policy, and national identity. The sheer vacuity and inexplicability of the phrase, despite its ubiquity, indicates just how incoherent patriotism is these days. Who, for instance, are “the troops”? Do they include those safely on bases in Hawaii and Germany? Those guarding and torturing prisoners at Bagram and Guantánamo? The ones who murder people by remote control? The legions of mercenaries in Iraq? The ones I’ve seen many times in the Arab world acting like an Adam Sandler character? “The troops” traverse vast sociological, geographical, economic and ideological categories. It does neither military personnel nor their fans any good to romanticize them as a singular organism. And what, exactly, constitutes “support”? Is it financial giving? Affixing a declarative sticker to a car bumper? Posting banalities to Facebook? Clapping when the flight attendant requests applause? Ultimately, the support we’re meant to proffer is ideological. The terms we use to define the troops — freedom-fighters, heroic, courageous — are synecdoche for the romance of American warfare: altruistic, defensive, noble, reluctant, ethical. To support the troops is to accept a particular idea of the American role in the world. It also forces us to pretend that it is a country legitimately interested in equality for all its citizens. Too much evidence to the contrary makes it impossible to accept such an assumption. In reality, the troops are not actually recipients of any meaningful support. That honor is reserved for the government and its elite constituencies. “Support our troops” entails a tacit injunction that we also support whatever politicians in any given moment deem the national interest. If we understand that “the national interest” is but a metonym for the aspirations of the ruling class, then supporting the troops becomes a counterintuitive, even harmful, gesture. The government’s many appeals to support the troops represent an outsourcing of its responsibility (as with healthcare, education and incarceration). Numerous veterans have returned home to inadequate medical coverage, psychological afflictions, unemployment and increased risk of cancer. The free market and corporate magnanimity are supposed to address these matters, but neither has ever been a viable substitute for the dynamic practices of communal policymaking. A different sort of combat ensues: class warfare, without the consciousness. As in most areas of the American polity, we pay taxes that favor the private sector, which then refuses to contribute to any sustainable vision of the public good. The only serious welfare programs in the United States benefit the most powerful among us. Individual troops, who are made to preserve and perpetuate this system, rarely enjoy the spoils. The bonanza is reserved for those who exploit the profitability of warfare through the acquisition of foreign resources and the manufacture of weapons. Supporting the troops is a cheerful surrogate for enabling the friendly dictators, secret operations, torture practices and spying programs that sustain this terrible economy." "Those who know me might be surprised by my position, but it arises from a belief consistent with my political outlook, that the power of institutions can never overwhelm the simple act of thinking. In other words, even if the military as an institution often does bad things, the individuals that comprise the military do not have to become bad people. Soldiers can certainly be awful human beings, but so can professors, clerks, musicians, executives, landscapers and athletes. This way of thinking also inversely demystifies the troops, who are burdened with untenable narratives of heroism the vast majority (like those in all professions) do not deserve. I am neither smart nor foolish enough to define “heroism,” but I am comfortable saying the mere fact of being a soldier doesn’t automatically make one a hero, just as the mere fact of being in prison doesn’t necessarily make one evil. If we recognize that the troops are in fact human beings, then we simultaneously accept that they are too complex to be reduced to patriotic ephemera. Such recognition is unusual, though. People speak frequently of “our troops,” highlighting the pronoun as if it is imperative to their sense of national belonging. It is an act of possession that projects fantasies of virtue onto an idealized demographic in the absence of substantive virtuous practices that might otherwise foster national pride. Plutocracy ravages the state; we rebuild it with narratives of glory and selflessness, the troops acting as both the signifier and the signified in this nationalistic uplift. The selflessness of our troops is particularly sacred. Not only do they bring order and democracy to lesser peoples; they also risk (and sometimes give) their lives for the good of others, so that civilians might continue driving, shopping, dining and watching movies, the hallmarks of American freedom. That these notions of sacrifice connote a Christ-like narrative of individual-death-for-collective-pleasure only endows them with even greater cultural power. Whether or not our son ever joins the military, questions about the deployment of mythological slogans in the service of socioeconomic iniquity need to be addressed. His joining or not joining will have no effect on that need, which will remain even if he becomes a teacher or doctor. I want him to enter into adulthood in a world where people impeach and diminish the mystification of corporate plunder. More than anything, I want him to participate in the process, whether he does it from a barrack, a cubicle or a corner office. It would be wise to avoid countervailing slogans, such as the assertive but nonetheless meager Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home! One goal is to disrupt and rethink, something much easier to accomplish in the absence of shibboleths. Another goal is to continue exploring why support for troops as prescribed by sports leagues and conglomerates actually does a great disservice to the human beings who comprise the military and reinforces a plutocratic imperium for those who do not. Next time you are asked to “support our troops,” then, remember that in a country where wealth decides the fate of so many communities, such an uncritical gesture isn’t even worth the change from a broken dollar." http://tinyurl.com/mp33p8z "The American Republic is putting the finishing touches on what could be arguably characterized as the foundation for fascism. The baby steps are there: a catastrophic event and a subsequent government usurpation of liberties (Germany: The Reichstag Fire and the “Enabling Act”, U.S: Sept. 11th terrorist attack and the “Patriot Act”), a national media firmly under control of corporations, spewing out pro-government propaganda completely at odds with journalism virtually everywhere else in the world, a population in fear, a strong military, and a government drunk with its own self-righteous lunacy. All the ingredients for fascism at home and abroad are there. The differences are in degree, not in principles. We have initiated two wars, one arguably illegitimate and illegal (Afghanistan and Iraq). We have rounded up particular sets of citizens, based on racial, religious, and political grounds (Arabs, Sikh Indians, and other political dissidents). We’ve subverted international law in the process, and promoted a national culture of fear and war-hungry patriotism. Yes, people…fascism can happen here, in the birthplace of the first modern democratic experiment." "Historically, soldiers’ refusals to serve have changed erroneous military policies. A case in point is the Refusenik movement in Israel. In recent weeks, various high-profile pilots, soldiers, and generals have signed their names to the growing Refusenik movement (those that refuse to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces beyond the 1967 borders, including the Palestinian occupied territories). If individual Israeli soldiers, in an arguably more totalitarian and politically-charged society, can take the courageous step of opposing the majority view of their people and risk the consequences that entails, why is it that American soldiers are absolved of moral responsibility for their cowardice to refuse serving in an illegal, colonial, and unnecessary war? That Israelis soldiers can refuse (and Vietnam-era U.S. soldiers DID refuse) proves that current soldiers can refuse to serve and follow their conscience. They have the power to choose their destiny, and with that power of choice comes responsibility for the decision. Arguments that aim to “support the troops” by absolving them of all moral and conscious responsibility for analyzing the conflict in which they are sent are erroneous, in my view. We may hold the view (which I do) that most soldiers lack the intellectual capacity (not biological, but acquired through education) to truly analyze the merits of a particular conflict or particular military policy; indeed I believe most soldiers are recruited from backgrounds in which it is highly unlikely that they’ve received any education about the history of their nation, its military policies, and the merits of current policies, except those bombarded at them by the corporate-media, social culture, or military academies. But, as with a violation of the law, are people absolved from participating in crimes if they didn’t know that what they were supporting was not legitimate or legal (as this war was not)? Soldiers may be intellectually absolved from knowing the true motives of U.S. wars (which are usually arguments about democracy, freedom, and humanitarian concerns, most if not historical lies), but they are not morally-absolved from having collaborated with the entire illegal venture. Their lack of knowledge (and in some cases, their conscious decision to be apathetic to the history of their country’s past and current military policies) allows for the kinds of brutal conflicts (like Vietnam and Iraq), in which the U.S. puts itself clearly in an oppressive situation. We in the United States may not like seeing ourselves in this way, but the rest of the world sure sees us that way. I cannot, in good conscience, ignore the plight of those that suffer the consequences of a willfully or accidentally ignorant American public. I cannot ignore the millions of dead as a result of past and current U.S. military and foreign policies. I, therefore, cannot support the troops. It is they, by their own ignorance and by the supportive ignorance of their relatives back home that allow for the implementation of opportunistic U.S. foreign policies, directed by opportunistic and morally bankrupt U.S. “leaders”." "Would we, as easily, dismiss the guilt of the German Gestapo soldiers, many who believed the propaganda of their own system, of the superiority of their national group, of the righteousness of their cause, despite the pleas of their victims and the dissenting opinions of various other Germans? Or would we, as we do now, prosecute every single last one of the Nazis, wherever we find them in the world, and condemn every single vestige of their discredited ideology to the history books? If this is our position, then we are obliged, by intellectual consistency requirements, to hold troops accountable to their actions, no matter where they occur. Following orders is not an excuse for participating in illegal wars and their accompanying illegal war crimes and humiliation of the victims. The famous Nuremberg Trials introduced this concept into international law. True, Nuremberg was victor’s justice. The British and Americans got away with massive firebombings of German cities (although the British could claim self-defense, given their suffering as a result of the German Blitz), the Russians got away with massive human rights atrocities in German-controlled areas of Europe, and the Americans got away with the single-most individual biggest civilian calamity in history: the detonation of the U.S. atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both recorded terrorist events, by our current standards. And, contrary to established thought, it was not justified by the war with the Japanese. There’s plentiful evidence to prove that the Japanese were attempting surrender negotiations prior to the detonation of the bombs. A more plausible theory is that the Americans used the atomic bombs (and sacrificed Japanese civilians on this political altar) to send a message to the Russians, who were already viewed as the “next” threat. That the U.S. so readily extinguished the lives of Japanese innocents for a political purpose places U.S. morality on the same level as the Germans and Japanese, who had both pursued equally brutal and uncaring expansionist policies. The importance of Nuremberg is that it established for international law the principle that “following orders” did not absolve the accused of his guilt. Therefore, I claim Nuremberg’s principles (and the principles of Robert H. Jackson, the U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg) to argue that the U.S. soldiers who participated in the slaughters and colonial humiliation of this second Iraqi war should not be absolved of their responsibility for carrying out their illegal and unnecessary war orders. If it was good enough a standard to apply to the Nazi fascists and to the Japanese militarists, it is good enough to apply to our American neoconservative ideologues and their troops on the global chessboard." http://tinyurl.com/oyuuvn5
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