It’s Memorial Day in the United States, a day we set aside to remember men and women who’ve died in wars. Politicians make a lot of speeches today and lay a lot of wreaths, but the best way to honor the fallen would be to quit using the men and women of the military as expendable pawns in a global game for world influence.
There’s something honorable about fighting for something you believe in, and I respect the dedication and bravery of many thousands of those who’ve died. But since we can’t bring them back to life (and we can’t change the horrors they lived through), the best we can do is change how the U.S. government conducts itself around the globe so that fewer Americans will join the ones being honored today in military cemeteries — and fewer loved ones will face living without them, as the woman in the picture above had to do when her fiance was killed in Iraq in 2007.
Even if we set aside the question of the legitimacy of the state, there’s much to be gained from making U.S. foreign policy less intrusive and less aggressive. It’s not the business of the U.S. government what happens around the world, and it’s not U.S. taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for whatever happens elsewhere. It’s not U.S. soldiers’ legitimate role to die invading countries which haven’t invaded their homeland.
For the last hundred years or so, the U.S. government has been engaged in policies around the world that made enemies for Americans. In many cases, those actions have led to war. In other cases, people who were angry at U.S. policy have turned to terrorism to attack and murder people. When terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, it wasn’t because they hated us for our freedom. It was quite clearly that they hated us because of U.S. troops stationed in their part of the world and interfering in the affairs of their countries.
The people holding direct moral responsibility for the terrorist attacks were the people who planned, financed and executed the attacks. There’s no question about that. But there’s also no question that they wouldn’t have felt the desire to attack this country if the U.S. government hadn’t spent decades interfering in the affairs of Middle Eastern governments. Their internal affairs (and their affairs with each other) aren’t the legitimate business of this country.
People who die in wars are just as dead whether they die for a government which preaches democracy or one that preaches another ideology. Our goal on this day shouldn’t be to pat ourselves on the back for how powerful or upright or munificent our country is. Our goal should be to honestly consider how to keep more soldiers, sailors and marines from joining the fallen in premature deaths in current or future invasions of other countries.
If you support the men and women of the military, quit supporting policies that treat them like interchangeable pawns of a coercive state.