Don’t Honor the Troops
By Fred Reed
June 15, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" -
Aaaagh! Enough. I keep reading that I should
Honor Our Troops. On airline flights, I am asked to applaud Our
Young Men in Uniform. Why, for God’s sake? What have Our Troops done
for me except cause me great embarrassment, cost money better spent
on anything else, and kill millions of people that I have had no
interest in killing? For this I am to thank them?
No, they don’t have noble motives. Men join the
military because they need a job, because they want money for
college or because they are bored or want to prove their manhood or
go to exotic places and get laid. Basic training, jump school, being
a tank gunner or doing nocturnal scuba insertions are much more
appealing to a young man than selling fan belts at the NAPA outlet.
Patriotism? “Love of country” is an after-market
add-on, good for a drink or a pat on the back at the Legion–nothing
more than an expression of the pack instinct that makes men in all
places and times join in groups to fight other groups. The pack
instinct is why tribal warfare is continual among primitive peoples,
why war, otherwise inexplicable, remains incessant between modern
countries. It is why the gangs of young males in Chicago mirror
military hierarchy, with territory to be expanded or defended, with
leaders and insignia (e.g. black and gold jackets for the Latin
Kings ), with hand signs to signify identify and loyalty. It is why
people join screaming mobs in political conventions, why they
become wildly emotional over football teams consisting largely of
convicted felons who have nothing to do with the city.
The pattern of loyalty inward to one’s pack and
hostility outward toward other packs explains the peculiar morality
of the military (and of most other people). A Marine colonel will be
at home a good neighbor, civic-minded, honest, cut the grass and
help old ladies across the street. Come a war and he will
mercilessly bomb any city he is told to bomb, and after killing he
doesn’t care whom on the ground, he will go to the officers’ club
where there will be high-fives and war stories.
We must not notice this, or the other feral dogs
will turn on us. If you say that soldiers are morally
indistinguishable from Mafia hit-men, you will arouse outrage—but
there is no difference. A soldier who has never heard of Vietnam or
Iraq goes when ordered to kill Vietnamese and Iraqis, and duly kills
them. Guido and Vito, who have never heard of Hyman Blitzschein the
store-owner who is behind on his protection payments, break Hyman’s
leg when ordered to. What is the difference?
Morality is always a very thin veneer on top of
the deeper savagery of the pack. Militaries encourage this savagery.
From Joshua onward until very recently, armies regularly put cities
to the sword, and generals allowed their troops to sack and rape as
rewards for good service. For those unfamiliar with such things,
“putting cities…” meant killing every living thing within.
A graphic description of torture and murder
routine in the Thirty Years War would have most readers retching.
Today this sort of thing, when exposed, is held to be in bad taste.
Only the United States engages openly in torture (put “Abu Ghraib)
In Google Images) but others do it.
Of course, much depends on who is doing what to
whom. When the Germans bombed London, the English thought it
barbaric. Later, when they were bombing German cities, it was a form
of heroism. The Rape of Nanjing was hideous, while the frying of
Hiroshima was not. Killing everyone in a city of a hundred thousand
by hand would be very bad PR, but burning them to death from above
is a cause for congratulations.
An effect of the pack instinct is the suppression
of cognitive dissonance. If one noticed that a woman, campaigning
for sexual abstinence, was pregnant with her seventh child, one
might notice the contradiction. Patriots, or the American variety
anyway, cannot notice that Our Boys, and Our Girls, are committing
the routine atrocities that armies normally commit. Call it
American atrocities are always Isolated Incidents.
An Isolated Incident is business-as-usual that is detected by the
press. Thus torture is best avoided by restricting coverage.
It is de rigueur to speak of our boys
fighting to defend America and our way of life, and to speak of
their sacrifices. In the Fifties this spirit was exemplified by
Superman jumping out of a window, while the voice-over intoned
“truth, justice, and the American way,” then thought to be related.
Actually soldiers are more sacrificed than
sacrificing. Precisely how killing Afghan goat-herds protects the
United States is not clear: careful students of geography have
argued that Afghanistan is somewhere else. The evidence does seem to
Today, the motives of wars are usually disguised
so as to be palatable. It has been said that the British fought for
empire, the French for la gloire de la France, the Russians
to steal watches from the wounded, and the Americans for vague moral
abstractions. Thus Washington fights to rid Iraq of a cruel
dictator, while supporting many others as cruel; fights to instill
democracy, as if anyone anywhere cared whether Afghanistan were
democratic; and to protect the world from nonexistent WMD.
The dog-pack instinct is most intense in the elite
outfits, SEALs and Force Recon and Special Forces, with
tightly-bonded small groups—the focus of males—working together.
Powerful free-floating hostility characterizes them, and patriotism
gives them a cover story for doing what they would want to do
Loyalty to a small band of warriors is easily
transferred to an abstraction such as country or religious faith.
Witness the fervor of Muslims today, or the enthusiasm for
Christianity of illiterate Crusaders in the eleventh century who
knew little of Christianity and certainly didn’t follow its moral
precepts. Being swept up in a Cause gives an appearance of meaning
to a life otherwise devoid of such. The flags, the hurrahs, the
rhythmic thump-thump-thump of hundred of boots, the solidarity—these
reinforce the pack instinct, and recruiters and politicians know it.
And so a coal-miner who hates the coal company,
hates suits and liberals and the rich and blacks and homosexuals and
knows he is being exploited and doesn’t really like anybody at all
except local friends, will discover unexpected loyalty when the
Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.
And now, let’s hear a huzzah for Our Boys.
Fred's Biography - As He Tells It -
Fred, a keyboard
mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army
Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week,
and The Washington Times.