Several months ago(**) I got called down for my draft physical — that's what happens when you get kicked out of college.
All of us got parceled into 6 or 7 groups, each of which was injected into the process at different points. As luck would have it, I got injected into 'eye test'. The nice doctor gave me the test then told me "Gee, kid, it's too bad you have to go through the whole magilla, but that's how it works. Your good eye is 20/600 and your bad eye is 20/800. You're going to be 4-F. Now go get checked for hernias."
I have to admit a tinge of disappointment. At the time I considered 'Vietnam' to be 'the good fight' and I was going to be denied any part beyond cheering my friends on. I stayed home and voted Republican.
In the ensuing years, my opinions have changed some. As I examine the stuff at Walmart marked "Made in Vietnam", I wonder what those 58,000 deaths were all about, and I have come to some disturbing conclusions. It wasn't about saving South Vietnam from the Communists, because today we buy the products of those same Communists without a single thought for those 58,000 dead Americans, and they sell to us without a single thought for the millions of dead Vietnamese. It turns out that Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary were right all along. Maybe Jane Fonda was, too.
I have watched as one President after another has marched us into one hellhole after another, always to the ruffle of drums and the blare of trumpets, with patriotic songs playing in the background. Our brave fighting men (and women) have to have the newest toys, so our military budget is now seven times larger than China's. It was seven times larger than the USSR's, but they went broke first. We invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to root out the malevolent forces behind 9-11 even though there is little or no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with it. But they had oil — oil and weapons of mass destruction! Or, as Mark Russell pointed out: We KNOW they have WMDs! We have the receipts!
We bombed Libya and overthrew Qaddafi because — well... because Qaddafi! Besides, he was oppressing women. Oddly, we haven't done much for the status of women in Saudi Arabia.
The latest campaign, a continuing response to the events of 9-11-01, no doubt, is called 'ISIS' or 'ISIL' — it changes daily — and it's clearly our responsibility to fix this even though countries geographically much closer to the action don't seem to consider ISIS 'a problem' in the sense that you and I understand the concept. Because of all the turmoil in the Middle East, millions of people are fleeing to safer countries. Among the millions of ordinary refugees are scattered a handful of real terrorists, and it's near-impossible to distinguish them.
We manufacture our own problems with our foreign policy, and then solve those problems with our military, except that 'solve' isn't the right verb. 'Transform' is closer to the truth: we change the shape of the problem without ever addressing the root cause, and next year we will do it again.
Anyone who has the gall to point out that our military is treated like Kleenex — like a disposable commodity — is automatically anathema, anti-American (as if sending men to die for corporate profit is an American virtue) and unpatriotic. Whether it's Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of dozens of others, we must always support the troops, the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us free. It is absolutely forbidden to ask what possible threat to our freedom is provided by a third-world country whose military capability wouldn't have caused Charlemagne a moment's worry. It doesn't matter; we just have to support the troops, got it?
I'm tired of seeing kids who signed up thinking they were doing 'their patriotic duty' and then got sent off on a mission to ensure Exxon-Mobil or Halliburton or Kellogg-Brown&Root doesn't take a hit on their bottom line. I'm tired of seeing commercials for Wounded Warriors who shouldn't ever have been where they could get wounded. I want my Department of Defense to concentrate on defense, not on invading countries that (a) haven't ever threatened us and (b) couldn't attack us even if they wanted to.
I know I'm not the only person who sees this, but I'm one of the few who speak of it. As long as I remain a voice crying in the wilderness, nothing will change. Speak up, dammit! It's your patriotic duty.
(**): 635 or thereabouts.