Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Find the Cost of Freedom

It doesn't seem like we need Veterans Day anymore as everyday has become Veterans Day judging by how often Americans pay deference to soldiers having fought in this protracted War on Terror.  Hardly a day goes by where someone isn't paying tribute to military personnel on facebook.  Memes abound, as we are continuously reminded of their brave service, particularly elite forces, which have increasingly become the subject of books and movies and even reality shows.  I don't knock these fearless warriors, but I have to wonder about the extent of this idol worship.

They certainly aren't protecting my freedom, as is so often noted.  What goes on in the Middle East pretty much stays in the Middle East, despite all the dire warnings.  These Islamicists are doing no more than what religious conservatives would like to do in the United States -- create a theocracy.  As far as I'm concerned it is up to Iraqis and Afghanis to fight their own wars.  We would be far better off not getting in the middle of these conflicts, yet we have been aiding and abetting one side or the other for more than 60 years now.

It seems what we are protecting is a vast military industrial complex.  Literally, a trillion dollars is spent each year on the defense industry.  The F-35 fighter jet has cost $1.5 trillion alone.  The contract to build this "state of the art" jet was signed 18 years ago, and only now have the first prototypes been tested.  It is already obsolete as the Chinese have had plenty of time to develop their alternative version, the J-31, which was shown off at an air show during the APEC meeting President Obama is attending.  It came in at a fraction of the cost of the F-35.  Republicans decry what they consider profligate spending on domestic programs, but don't bat an eye at the cost overruns on this colossal failure, which they pushed through Congress during Clinton's administration, claiming we needed to upgrade our Air Force.

Maybe Congress should be thinking more about the veterans they want us to extol, many of whom find themselves living below the poverty line.  Even enlisted soldiers increasingly have to rely on food stamps to make ends meet.  Yet, Congress continues to appropriate money for the military's latest gadgets while many returning soldiers struggle to find the treatment and health care they need back home.

George Bush makes a big show of entertaining wounded warriors at his Crawford Ranch in Texas each year.  We are supposed to think of Dubya as a great guy because he does so much work with these veterans now that he too is retired.  If he had such a "profound respect" for these men and women he never would have engaged us in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place!

Alas, we are supposed to ignore such things on Veterans Day and pay our respects to those who have served this great country in battle.  If we really had that much concern we would do more to end war, not continue to perpetuate it in the defense of our military industry.

Any little uprising is a call to arms these days, as witnessed in the Sunni rebellion.  The venerable John McCain, who seemed to suffer inoperable brain damage during his time in a Vietnam POW camp, will mostly likely be serving as head of the Senate foreign relations committee next January, no doubt pressuring Obama even more to send troops to quell this uprising.  As it is, Obama has already committed 1500 troops to be redeployed in Iraq.  It's like Catch-22.

Americans seem to live vicariously through our soldiers, oblivious to the hardships, the traumatization, and neverending medical costs these veterans incur after two, three, or more tours in the Middle East.  We don't seem to question the political motivations like we did in the 70s when Vietnam lingered on for 10 years.  We just accept it as part of "the cost of freedom."

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