Wars never end; the shooting might—I repeat, might—stop, but battles continue with words, intrigue, and slights.
English television programming would be gutted without repeated stories of past wars. Although friendship with Germany is mentioned in reports on membership in the European Union, citizens are not allowed to forget what they did in 1914 (when the cousins squabbled) or 1940 (even if the friendship of the future king with the German dictator is covered up). And, militarism is not allowed to die or even fade, as seen in the “royal” family traipsing around in uniforms (even the women). What would the English do without a war drum to beat. Recent reports claim that the prime minister wants NATO to send troops to Ukraine, despite the fact that this country is not a member of the alliance. This guy must not have read history (or watched local television) of World War Two (or One). Perhaps, he is posturing, as did his predecessor, to impress the United States, where the cons (short for neo-con, but also for criminal) are beating the same old drums.
Clauswitz wrote that war is policy by other means. Nowadays, policy is war by any means. After all, the laws of capitalism demand that the sales weapons and munitions must continue unabated. And, self-proclaimed statesmen must posture from the safety of their clubs and offices far removed from danger.
If you have time to waste and can stand listening to US politicians, pundits, and blowhards, it is easy to imagine that they want a war—the kind they understand. No more chasing towel heads in inhospitable terrain: they want a battle of tank against tank on the plains of Europe. The arsenal of conventional weapons saw little use in Afghanistan or Iraq, but Ukraine is marvellous tank country. Arms manufactures are salivating at the prospect of a “real” hot war, safely residing on the other side of the Atlantic. Armchair warriors in and around the Beltway and television studios everywhere know what needs to be done.
The most worthless time of my life was the year and one half that I spent as an Army officer at Fort Hood,Texas. That said, I did learn a few things.
I learned the reality about the military, that my prejudices about Texas were valid, that my dream to marry a oil heiress was stupid, that I missed real trees, and much more. At the time, the only firearms I saw were hanging in the rear window of pick-up trucks. The gates to Fort Hood had guards, but they waved in any car with a sticker on the bumper and saluted those with a blue one. I do not recall any crime. Many were angry about the (senseless) war in Vietnam (Don't agree? read the true history, starting in 1918), but I do not recall any violence.
Times have changed. Guns have taken over American culture and being on an Army base does not guarantee safety. Perhaps, it is even more dangerous. Of course, the headlines about the latest shooting in Texas scream “not terror related”, as if this means anything, especially to the dead or wounded and their families. This is a different kind of terror: that of pickling the brains of Americans with fear about ghosts. This is the direct result of a needless war in a country that has oil and another needless war in a country that has devoured invading armies for centuries. These primitive tribes even made the “greatest nation god ever created” look like fools. Millions suffered--and continue to suffer--so that a few could profit. Now, many of the geniuses that brought us the never-ending “war on terror” are writing books and still blathering garbage of talk shows.
Now, they are trying to stir things up in Ukraine. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little war in Europe? That would be easier than one again Muslims...and just as profitable.
A headline about drones made me think. What happened to bravery?
Once upon a time, brave men served in the military and fought face-to-face or radar-to-radar. Remember the film, Top Gun? These pilots were the type of warrior young boys and cowardly men admired.
Now, “pilots” sit in containers in Nevada or somewhere equally safe and, more or less, play video games. The problem is that real people die, and one cannot re-set to the beginning. Screams of the wounded or relatives of the dead are unheard and, perhaps, even the anguished faces go unseen. No one seems to care about the aftermath, only the “hit”.
American politicians are so afraid of losing the life of a single soldier in one of their useless (except for profiteers...to include politicians accepting “bribes”) wars, that they do not care about the people dying needlessly. The original target might or might not be legitimate (no trial is ever held), but what has come to be acceptable to US leaders--collateral damage: a euphemism for a murdered human being--is anything by legitimate. This latest form of “combat” is cowardly. Top Gun is now a sissy and no better than a playground bully...but far more deadly.
I wonder if these “pilots” receive flight pay and are awarded medals for “combat” bravery. The military thrives on decorations: just look at the colored thread and base metals plastered on the uniforms of high-ranking officers...even when no wars were/are being fought. And, I’m not talking about members of England’s royal family.
The only danger faced by this new bred of “warrior” is that of being stopped by the police after a boozy night in nearby Las Vegas. I doubt remorse--neither for drinking and driving nor for murdering innocent civilians in a far-off land--ever tarnished a day or night. The gallant cavalryman of days long gone has been replace by someone cavalier.
I have a problem with the overuse/misuse of the word hero, especially by such villainous/cowardly bile producers as Fox News, talk radio agitators, and anyone with a blog that thinks having an opinion makes him/her a genius. Not every soldier serving in a war is a hero: most merely do their duty (some more, some less) and are happy to survive. Unfortunately, the military likes to hand out pieces of colored thread to make themselves feel good about the suffering they cause and have managed to convince quite a few folks of their value.
I “earned” one of the higher combat decorations, but I do not consider myself a hero. I did the job I was sent to do, which included submitting myself to danger. Because little action had been occurring, someone felt the need to “create” some heroes. The citation is a fine piece of fiction, although it does describe an actual event.
I returned to a country that scorned military service and rejected those that served. Men and women in uniform were forced to shoulder the blame for flawed political decisions. Therefore, I am happy that people in the military do receive some recognition from the public, because they are still shouldering burdens of and suffering for flawed political decisions.
Perhaps Fox News considers military service to be heroic, because they do not understand what any kind of service entrails. Vain attempts to give value to boring jobs in a meaningless (except to profiteers) war in which lives of men and women are unnecessarily wasted or destroyed with injuries. Most joined the military, because no other jobs were to be had in a country that shipped most jobs overseas.
Call a spade a spade and apply “hero” only to those that do something out of the ordinary to help comrades. Everyone else is merely doing a job, no matter how dumb or meaningless and no matter of the proximity of danger. That goes with the territory.
Anyone traveling in England or viewing news reports on the country will notice just about everyone wearing a little red thing on his or her lapel. Some are of cheap paper; some are jewel-encrusted. This phenomenon occurs each year and has for almost a century.
What people are wearing is supposed to symbolise a poppy and they are used to commemorate suffering of World War I. The English have vowed never to forget and make a great show of this effort. Anyone not wearing a poppy is criticised. I have found this somewhat admirable, having grown up in a country that easily forgets, yet touts patriotism as its unique national characteristic. I recall how my service in Vietnam was honoured and celebrated.
I bring up the poppy phenomenon, because I notice a change this year. For the first time, I have spotted articles and opinion pieces in the media critical of the glorification of war. After all, World War I was one of the dumber conflicts, absolutely needless and fought to placate the egos of distant rulers. Millions suffered at the hands of incompetent leaders.
A few years ago, I traveled with an Australian friend to Ypres in Belgium to see where his grandfather had died and was buried. We studied the memorials and displays; I had read a bit of history. Standing on the ground almost 100 years later (and having been to a “more comfortable” war) one cannot imagine the horror, even with the aid of photographs. One cannot put oneself into the place of the generals, who sent me to suffer insufferable conditions and to die needlessly, while they dined in comfort far to the rear or back at home. (If you want example of the incompetence, read Gallipoli, by L.A. Carlyon.)
The red of the poppy should symbolise rage, as well as sorrow. But, it does not. People still permit their “leaders” to send poor souls off to war, maybe not as stupid, but often as needless. As long as nations glorify the military, politicians will find a way to waste lives and resources.
I have been a military officer and was trained in ABC (atomic, biological, chemical) weapons defense. I understand the horror of each.
What I do not understand is the hypocrisy. The United States Government rants about the use of chemical weapons, but maintains a large stockpile of said weapons. Also, they use and maintain supplies of atom-tipped munitions, which have a much longer half-life than any biological or chemical weapon, and use land mines and cluster bombs, which endanger for years after being dropped more civilians than soldiers. They refuse to sign treaties banning these weapons, which most countries have. The weapons lobby fight against such bans, because profit comes before humanity. As I have written before, I do not understand the morale outrage at others doing as they would do. That is nothing but crass hypocrisy.
And, the moral high ground, which the US and Britain claim to dominate, seems to be about as high as the land along the coast of Holland...and the dike is leaky. Fingers, usually used for pointing at others, are all needed to plug the leaks in credibility--if they ever had any. A media report revelaed that Britain has been exporting chemicals to Syria, which can be used to produce chemical weapons. Here is a case of profiting from hypocrisy.
Below are two good pieces, one from each side of the Atlantic, which reveals that both countries have intelligent citizens.
One excerpt: "Punishing" a dictator for killing his own people by simply killing more of his own people seems beyond cruel. It seems stupid. It leads nowhere.
From the US:
One excerpt: As John Updike wrote: “America is beyond power, it acts as in a dream, as a face of God. Wherever America is, there is freedom, and wherever America is not, madness rules with chains, darkness strangles millions. Beneath her patient bombers, paradise is possible.”
The raging debate about the urgency of doing something foolish in Syria usually contains the words “surgical missile strike”. Supposedly intelligent men and women seem to think that lobbing a few missiles into Damascus will solve all the problems, because the current Syrian government will cower and capitulate. Things don’t work that way, despite weapons manufacturers’ advertising claims.
I visited Belgrade a few years after the Balkan War ended. Time had passed, peace had arrived, but economic growth had yet to come, so damaged buildings had not been repaired.Surgical bombing by the US military played no role in ending that conflict, but it did destroy a few buildings. I learned that surgical missile strikes can drop buildings, leaving structures on either side standing, albeit with broken windows and shaken residence. The former Yugoslavian Ministry of Defense building in Belgrade proved this.
Another lesson I learned during that trip to Belgrade is that missiles can be used to send a message. One missile landed on the Chinese Embassy, which the US Government claimed to have been a mistake caused by an old map. Only the gullible believe this. I am certain that the Chinese did not, but accepted the apology, obviously not wishing to make an international incident out of it. Unknown to most westerners, they had long supported the Yugoslavians as means of insinuating themselves into the Soviet sphere of influence. I do not know what message was sent, but damage was done to the building. The interesting point is that the Chinese Embassy sits alone on a plot of land outside Belgrade with no other buildings nearby. At the time, Yugoslavs chuckled at the incompetence of the United States.
The point is that missile strikes do more harm than good to people on the ground and are worthless in resolving the conflict. Unfortunately, the wrong people do not care and love to play with their toys.
Teddy Roosevelt allegedly recommended that the government “walk softly, but carry a big stick”. Current leaders prefer to talk a lot, blunder around the china shop, and wield a huge stick (which has grown is size and explosiveness since Teddy’s time).
Or for those who did not know...
Once again, the Hypocrisy Award goes to US politicians (mostly Republican). Can you imagine what the world would be like today if Obama had lost in 2008?
But, the “debate” rages and fingers are pointed. Below are two very apt sentences from a Stratfor piece.
“Washington does not have a direct interest in the outcome,
since all possible outcomes are bad from its perspective.”
“Moreover, the people who are most emphatic that something be done
to stop the killings will be the first to condemn the United States
when its starts killing people to stop the killings.”
If you like, read more: Obama's Bluff | Stratfor
I noticed the following headline this morning:
US 'positioning forces' for possible action against Syria
This tells me that stock prices of weapons manufacturers and government contracts are certain to rise. With unnecessary (except for profiteers) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “winding down”, new income sources are needed to keep the bullets flying. Of course, my assumption is that the loudest politicians screaming for intervention is Syria are those receiving the biggest checks from lobbyists for companies profiting on war.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.