“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me—the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”—US President Donald Trump at a White House news conference, Labor Day 2020.
“I promise you, I’m absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.” Former Vice President Joe Biden, June 2020, referring to the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, should the election be contested.
The war machine is seeking popular support for its campaign to throw out of office a president who disappoints it leaders by pushing a neoconservative line that the president demeans military service in much the same way the antiwar left does—or at least did. (Is there an antiwar left any more?) As if they care about the troops.
Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg has written a story in his magazine woven entirely from four anonymous sources that claim that President Trump has made disparaging comments about the troops. Trump allegedly called Americans who died in battle “losers” and “suckers.” CNN claims to have confirmed the story. The sources remain anonymous. Why are they hiding? Trump is a tyrant who retaliates against his critics. So the story goes.
What are these warmongers really mad about? Ending regime-change wars, shifting policy away from the doctrine of endless war, bringing home our troops from overseas, not glorifying military service in the way the warlords believe entrenches the mass reflex for military intervention for the sake of corporate profits. Trump appears to lean in this direction.
A Republican who doesn’t get heroizing the agents of large-scale killing for propaganda purposes, Trump is the worst possible president for the military-industrial complex and the transnational corporations who use the instruments of belligerence to secure their material and strategic interests around the world. They fear they are losing one of their two parties (they know they can always count on Democrats).
What if the president is reluctant to lionize those who are compelled by the conditions of their existence to sign up for service? If he asks what’s in it for working people to report for duty, why is that disparaging of their persons? What if he doesn’t like to see mangled and traumatized persons lying on hospital gurneys or in psych wards? What if the human consequences of the violence self-promoting warmongers demand disgusts him?
There’s an assumption here we would all do well to ascertain (and it’s not the portrayal of the president as a tyrant). Why is failing to accept the validity of the transaction in question not at the same time a critique of the conditions that compel people, often of little means, to sacrifice their lives for the psychological wage of lionization? It has not long been the practice of elite across the epochs to amass troops by offering them honor and glory on the battlefield, to serve the cause of their country or their people, and to marginalize those who would question the worth of the sacrifice? Wouldn’t robbing them of their legitimizing rhetoric deal a blow to warmongering?
The war-makers and their corporate masters have no country or people in their hearts. The wars they wage—Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.—are not just wars. They’re wars for profit and power. The people who die in their wars die for tragic reasons.
What if the heroes are not those who make war? What if the heroes are those who prevent and stop war? What if our brothers and sisters are more precious to us alive, whole and among us than dead, maimed, and absent?