Friday, November 10, 2017

A Veterans Day Reflection

Bob Bossie []
Friday, November 10, 2017 4:56 PM
   Two weeks after graduating from high school at age 17, I joined the US Air Force for four years where I maintained nuclear weapons carrying aircraft, among other things. Thereafter, I worked for the military-industry for five years which, I might add, paid me very well. During those nine years, no one ever asked me if what I was doing was moral or not. No one in my church, school, family or social circles. I say this, not to impose guilt but to emphasize the degree to which being part of the military is considered a normal thing to do in the US. We call it military "service." The military is embedded in every aspect of our life, culture, economy and, yes, our religions. Now, I must ask, if you loved me or cared for me in even the smallest manner, wouldn't your love or care require of you to ask me about the morality of my actions? If you believed the actions of the military were wrong, wouldn't your love for me and others require that you do everything in your power to oppose military actions? In this spirit, I offer the following edited reflection which I sent out for Memorial Day last year. - Bob

A Veterans Day Reflection
Bob Bossie, SCJ

The popular image of Veterans' Day is a celebration or remembering of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  A celebration of their heroism, sacrifice and patriotism.  However, in order to unpack the true meaning of Veterans Day it is important to understand that morality has a subjective and objective component.

For me, it's easy to see how the former mentioned virtues apply on a subjective reading of events:  persons believe that they are fighting to preserve a higher good and thus puts themselves at risk to stand for what is good, save a comrade, etc.  Yes, on the subjective level, persons are truly acting in a heroic fashion and this is what many cling to in order to make sense of their death or injury or to justify their killing of other human beings and the destruction of cities and the earth itself.

However, the objective or systemic component of morality often paints a different picture as has been well described by deceased General Smedley Butler:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service …. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General... and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents....

WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

― Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier

   Popular culture tends to conflate the objective and subjective components. In fact, some persons do so to help justify their sacrifice or that of their loved ones. If they didn't, they couldn't live with the reality of just what they really sacrificed for. And so they build up the myth around flag, democracy, patriotism, etc. These persons are some of the staunchest defenders of the military often saying to those who oppose such wars that they couldn't protest without the sacrifice of the soldier to ensure such liberties. Today, I believe polls show that the military is considered the most respected institution in the U.S. This has led to the popular comment “thank you for your service” when learning a person was in the military.

Others conflate  subjective and objective components to serve their ends of domination, empire, resource control, etc. During these days surrounding Veterans Day, this conflation is most evident in the parades, church services, movies, poetry and song depicting the heroism and struggles of the average soldier. For one to say anything negative about the wars they fought is to be seen as critical and condemning of the soldier and their sacrifice. In this quagmire it is difficult to find any real objectivity.

Yes, it's most difficult to admit that the subjective goodwill and sacrifice of so many was done to serve the criminal interests of the few. But it can be done as Smedley Butler has shown, and as many current veterans of U.S. criminal wars have also done.* In taking that step, they have begun to reclaim their lives by resisting the crimes for empire that continue even today.

*Some examples of those who those who have taken a stand:

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Veterans for Peace

Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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