The ugly truth of America’s history in war

Alternet recently published a piece headlined “The Mass Killing of Civilians, Now in Syria and Iraq, Is Part of a Long, Depressing Pattern of American War-Making“.

The third paragraph says what many know to be true, but rarely say out loud.

There are peace-loving nations in the world. The United States is not one of them. It never has been.

The author, Frank Joyce, focuses on how the Vietnam War was different in that there was strong public objection to the killing of civilians.

Fifty years ago, the very idea promoted by the Vietnam antiwar movement that civilian lives “matter,” was a complete rupture with what had gone before. That’s why the opposition to the opposition was so emotional. It still is.

The effort to recover from the war aversion known as “Vietnam syndrome” has been much discussed elsewhere. Suffice to say that Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the many wars since have firmly reestablished the legitimacy of permanent war as the American value that supersedes all others.

What comes along with that territory is regression to the mean of obsequiousness to all things military. We are expected to applaud soldiers on airplane flights, thank soldiers for their service, pay tribute to them at sports events and display other forms of worship ad nauseam.

Even so, honoring Vietnam veterans remains an ongoing and specific project.

There are people I know and respect greatly who served in Vietnam, and I don’t think one bit less of them for it. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that every soldier in uniform is by definition a hero, and that being anti-war is somehow synonymous with being anti-troops.

Our goal as a nation should be to use our military in combat situations only when absolutely necessary, and in such ways that they can serve honorably with respect for the lives of civilians.

We need to remember that being critical of your nation’s history does not mean you hate your country. We criticize because we love our country, and frankly the people of all the world, and want to uphold in actions the values our leaders so easily promote with words.

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