The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web

Military involvement is reason for shame, not pride

Lately, there have been a number of letters and articles justifying personal involvement in the US Armed Forces. For instance, Robert L. Bettiker '90 was thrown out of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps because of his sexual orientation: according to an article in The Thistle, he was looking forward to serving his country. Ralph T. Soule G proudly notes in a letter in The Tech that he has served his country as a naval officer for the past seven years ["Freedoms require protection," April 6].

What does it actually mean to "serve your country" in the way that Bettiker and Soule suggest? Follow orders, without question, at the behest of President Bush. What kind of orders?

A good example is the invasion of Panama, where 30,000 soldiers "defended our country against tyranny and oppression" and the right to depose the Panamanian head of state that certain people in Washington didn't like. I never wanted to invade Panama. I don't know anybody that lives there and most US citizens don't either. What happens in Panama has zero effect on my life, and likewise with nearly all North Americans. The "country" that was served by the invasion is a tiny number of managers and wealthy that have investments in Panama, not me nor the vast majority of US citizens. Furthermore, "the tyranny" we were defending ourselves from was elsewhere, not in the United States.

The true mission of the armed forces is murder, or the threat of murder. We couch it in amusingly Orwellian terms, like "peacekeeping force" or "fight for freedom," but let us not deceive ourselves. The large standing army the United States maintains is to intimidate other governments, so that they will do what the US State Department tells them. Having a gun pointed at someone's head is very persuasive. Periodically we exercise that gun to convince others that it is real.

People that buy into the "serve my country" lie, and join the Army, directly participate in the genocide that the Army commits when it invades Cuba, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama, or whatever the next small, defenseless country might be. The United States invades others, not vice versa. Invading soldiers always rape women and loot stores with impunity and this includes US servicemen. Those of the Panamanian Defense Forces died defending their sovereign territory against US attack. When the US bombs fell in the poor neighborhood of Panama City, where the Panamanian Defense Forces were headquartered, bystanding mothers with babies at their breasts were killed -- nobody wants to know how many. Euphemisms like "defending freedom" mask the bloody violence, who does most of it, and why it is done.

It is true that perfectly nice people join the Army, learn to kill on command without feeling and stay perfectly nice civilians. To justify their participation they must rationalize their deeds, in order to reconcile the magnitude of their crimes with their own morality.

Peter Mott G->