Mindless Slogans and Featherweight Thinking


John Wright


While driving I notice signs in some yards and stickers on some vehicles requesting passersby to "Support Our Troops." At a superficial level I canít imagine any citizen not supporting the successful and healthy return of our young men and women from war, provided the war is justified and the soldiers respectable in conducting their ugly tasks of killing other humans and destroying valuable property. Apart from the reality that killing other humans is inherently wrong (we do have laws against murder, with premeditated murder being the worst offense) there is sometimes a need to defend our land or other lands from warmongers. And it is hard to imagine anyone here wanting our soldiers to suffer or die. So much for the obvious and superficial.

Digging a bit deeper, is it not obvious that supporting our troops really means supporting war initiatives from Washington? Might leaders hide behind a mask and draw on our simple, uncomplicated love of our young people to support their objectives? We do not, of course, have any legal means to not support our troops or those in power in Washington, except at election time. I wonder how many of our adamant "patriots" have enough depth and breadth in their thinking to realize that it is what we do locally and globally that is the only measure that should or should not capture our loyalty, not the fact that we are flying some idealized flag and spouting high sounding words.

Today our military is voluntary, which means that no one has forced Johnny or Jane to join the military service and then be obligated to go to war. Each soldier has signed up willingly to make war as ordered by Washington, so there are none of the historical moral issues associated with the draft. Johnny and Jane kill of their own free choice. Indeed, they consciously choose a career in which success is measured by the efficiency of destruction of other designated peoples. This imparts a personal responsibility for those actions that is greater than that of drafted soldiers. Johnny and Jane are hired killers. Yes, we do need those hired killers to be available to protect us if needed, until our world finally adopts peaceful means to develop. Note that we are not aiding that cause at the present time.

The nature of heirarchical power quickly leads to the point that Johnny and Jane turn over responsibility for their actions to those who make the larger decisions, right or wrong. "My country right or wrong?" Iím sure all of us have seen or heard that idiotic slogan sometime in the past. It means that the objectives of those in power transcend in importance and legal validity all other considerations. Oh, my Ö mindless obedience is combined with amorality and a powerful arsenal.

Support Our Troops? It all depends on the rightness or wrongness of what they are doing. That is why so many Vietnam veterans were spurned upon return from a wrong war. In their case the draft helped justify their actions, but there was no honor in that war for anyone from our country making war in Vietnam. Similar considerations apply today regarding Iraq, as we have proven nothing to justify a declaration of war against that country. Like it or not we could have eliminated Saddam via assassination, so using him or his presumed intentions to use weapons of mass destruction as a reason for all out war is a sick excuse.

I like analogies that are spot-on accurate and relevant to the issue at hand. So it is that I will now use a Mafia family comparison to describe USA global behaviors. A Mafia family is a collection of focused and dedicated individuals committed to creation of power and wealth for their own gain, at the expense of all others. Laws about theft, murder, etc. are subordinated to insignificance when they interfere with the overall family objectives. A Mafia family exists within a larger society and takes from it, returning nothing of developmental value. It does not recognize or respect laws or larger societal goals to provide freedom and opportunity for all.

Governments can act like Mafia families in deciding that their goals supercede in importance any other considerations, humanitarian or otherwise. Examples are poor trade treaties that keep poor nations poor (Mexico), and, opportunistic war to steal that which belongs to another country. Germany was completely obvious in WWII. We are attempting, unsuccessfully outside the USA, to convince people that our objectives in Iraq are for the good of all. Yet, all you have to do is look at the results to see what we have actually done in our attempt to destroy and redefine a sovereign nation. It really is all about oil and our belief that we can install a puppet government that will dance to our tune. Postwar, Iraqis are making a lot of trouble for our troops, as they should. Wouldnít you if we were conquered, minimally, by another nation that wanted to impress upon us their wants and needs?

What makes us like the Mafia is our refusal to acknowledge a higher power, known as the nations of the entire world. We spurned the United Nations prewar and, like it or not, our present leaders are the real international terrorists, on a very large scale. Our dominant military power is the only reason we could proceed to exert the will of our "leaders" on Iraq and the rest of the world. We used that power because we could and because there was no one able and willing to stop us. Some nations like France and Germany tried, short of military threats, but we didnít listen. I am not proud of us and I believe our present leaders belong in prison for international crime. Our individual responsibility is to assure via elections this year that they cannot continue their crimes. If we fail as a nation to correct this problem, we are also guilty.

During a recent conversation I compared us to Great Britain prior to WWI. They were fat with wealth whose origin was education, colonialism and industrialization. They were fully industrialized and enjoyed a very high standard of living, thanks in large part to wealth extracted from their colonies. In the space of the next forty years they went broke fighting two wars and also lost their colonies. British industry fell far behind and socialist programs helped assure Great Britainís demise as a financial, industrial and political world leader. We simply propped them up in the UN as a still dominant world force. It was a sham.

As I thought about our changing and declining economy, eroding tax base and inclination towards expensive war, as well as the economic growth of China and India, I saw that we are headed down the same path as Great Britain. For the moment our military appears to be supreme. But the more we use it the poorer we will become. Iraqi oil will not save us from economic destruction, whereas waging war will hasten the process. It is important to realize, however, that we will probably not realize our dismal economic fate for about another twenty years, and that is plenty of time for our foolish leaders to disappear into history.

There is one other consideration that we fail to accept. Our military dominance is temporary. As we bankrupted the Soviets with competing military development and operation costs, so can we be bankrupted with the emergence of other world powers, like the Chinese. We can live and die by the sword, even if only economically. The other alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

So it is that I have no time for slogans, yellow ribbons, flag waving or other examples of poor or incomplete thinking. We are poised to become mediocre, and we have no global credibility or national development plan to retain and regain educational and industrial excellence. Finally, evidence of featherweight thinking is seen, clearly, when a government sells out the future of its citizens for immediate satisfaction of military and economic whims.