veterans day

The American establishment, through the course of a year, goes through a ritual of remembrance – of the heroism of their soldiers, in – to use a much touted term that Americans love to use – ‘keeping their country safe’.

There’s the Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day and Armistice Day. All of these are public holidays, demonstrating how seriously the American government takes the sacrifices of it’s fighting men and women.

All that is true. To those who narrowly survived, the final moments of the act of getting ready to give one’s life for his country are surreal. Soldiers who have been there and back have spoken of an out of body feeling of everything happening in slow motion, devoid of fear or concern – a state of mind where no reason, no response to external stimuli can stop them from going ahead with the act. They have spoken of a moment of pure exhilaration, of virtuosity.

But here’s the thing. What if the cause itself is questionable? What if a soldier is feted, regardless of whether the war he fought was a just or an unjust one. Sadly, except for the American Civil War – which cannot be counted in the list since it was a war Americans fought against themselves – and the two World Wars, I have not found a single war America waged that was a just one.

Let’s take each war and see for ourselves if my statement is true…

The Indian Wars (earliest settlements upto 1924): 426 American soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, for essentially decimating the native American population who were simply fighting for control of their own homeland.

The Korean Expedition (1871) : The first American military action in Korea, to forcibly establish trade routes through Korea into Central Asia, against the will of the Korean monarch who ruled with an isolationist ideology that simply wanted to mind it’s own business.

The Spanish-American War (1898) : A textbook example of land-grab and hegemony. The fruits – the snatching of Cuba, Phillipines, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Caroline Islands in the Pacific, from Spain. No one stopped to ask the locals how they felt about the whole thing.

Samoan Civil War (1899) : Valued as a refueling station for coal fired ships, Samoa was a tiny chain of islands of people who simply wanted to be left alone. Until the Germans, British and the Americans arrived and stoked up a proxy war.

The Phillipines-American War (1898-1902) : Nothing really, just some Filipinos fighting American occupation of their homeland. 86 Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for this sterling piece of ruthless hegemony.

The Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) : Again, plain run-of-the-mill, rebellion against American intervention in China. Another 50 Medals of Honor here, for successfully cowing down a populace who didn’t want external interference.

Invasion and occupation of Veracruz, Mexico; Haiti; Dominican Republic (1914-24) : 63 brave American servicemen awarded the Medal of Honor for their selfless butchery of the poor natives who were just minding their own business.

Occupation of Nicaragua (1909-33) : 2 Medals of Honor, for the glorious fight to ensure that only the US was allowed to build and control a proposed trans-isthmian canal connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The Korean War (1950-53) : Does anybody find a legitimate reason why a country should intervene in some place half a world away without direct provocation or concern of an existential threat? But as far as the medal tally goes, this was a fruitful one. It dredged up 145 Medals of Honor. Brave, really brave.

The Vietnam War (1965-1975) : I guess I won’t waste my time writing about this open and shut case of pure evil. 234 Medals of Honor here. Seems like the more devilish the intervention, the more medals are showered upon the suck… umm soldiers.

Afghanistan and Iraq wars (2001-ongoing) : Perhaps the most unjust of all wars ever fought by a group of humans, in history. The sequence of events directly, on and immediately after 9/11 have raised so many questions that believing it could have been an inside job is no longer a conspiracy theory. The number of Medals of Honor is only 18. For a 16-year long conflict, this seems a tiny number. Maybe it would be more if inanimate objects, such as drones, could also be made eligible for medals.

The reason why the presence of a 9/11 conspiracy cannot be ruled out is simple – if a whole population of Americans can be made to move on, accepting that a stupid, irrational idiot named Lee Harvey Oswald could have single-handedly killed a President, then they can be made to believe anything.

Another farcical day is approaching – Veterans Day, celebrated every November 11th. Yes, those very same veterans who on return are first treated as pariah and then made to run from pillar to post, just to get their post-discharge benefits. So, November 11 is round the corner, a time to remember those who fell while fighting ‘to save Americans in America’.

Even though those wars are being waged multiple time zones away.

On Veterans Day, there will be parades, open convertibles with ‘Gold Star Parents’ proudly waving at the adulation from the crowds. Doesn’t matter to them that their son or daughter died fighting an unjust war that they had no business being in, in the first place. Doesn’t matter that most of the soldiers who are shoved into America’s wars are from poor, barely literate families, while the sons and daughters of the rich are able to get deferments for ‘bone spurs’.

On Veterans Day, there will of course be veterans, young and old – on wheel chairs, brought out once a year from the mothballs, their brains befuddled by PTSD, Agent Orange and Moral Injury. Moral Injury, because their minds could have withstood almost anything, except the memory of that little Iraqi girl they accidentally shot or that old Afghan woman they accidentally drove their Humvee over, when all she wanted to do was cross the street to get some naan for dinner that night. Oh yes, those veterans will all be there, their alcohol-puffed faces jaded and sour.

If you are standing, watching the extravaganza with an American friend, he will tell you,” Of course, they fought to prevent attacks by aliens within America.”

You’ll then gape at him and stutter,”But, almost all those attacks so far have been by American citizens, within America – some even by blue blooded white Christian Americans!”

Your American friend is ready with a repartee, sure in his strong Christian faith…”Okay, but they fought to stop the ideology from coming in and destroying us.”

You want to ask him him how an ideology can destroy a citizenry, unless it itself is vulnerable. But you let it go. This is when you suddenly realize you forgot you had a meeting to attend and you excuse yourself and quickly depart.

Veterans Day? A more apt name would have to be “How do we live with ourselves day”