Moral Low Ground


Tots Today, Troops Tomorrow

Somebody give that kid a gun... (Photo: US Army)

Somebody get that kid a gun… (Photo: US Army)

Something rather interesting happened to me this morning after I posted a Facebook comment regarding photos of a very young child playing with actual military gear.

The child in question belonged to a cousin of mine. The photos were taken at his nursery school and appeared to be of a ‘Bring Your Dad to School Day’ involving my cousin’s husband, who is an American soldier, and some of his more innocuous gear. There was what looked like a flak vest and a walkie-talkie. Fascinating stuff for a four- or five-year-old, no doubt. The kids were loving it.

But I saw something else in those photos. I saw the glorification of the military. In the course of my work, I have written about how the US military targets children as young as 11 for martial grooming via Junior ROTC programs. I have been alarmed by the military’s “first to contact, first to contract” motto that spurs recruiters to meet quotas to feed Washington’s unending appetite for military interventionism. I have been deeply concerned that children are sometimes forced into JROTC programs, and that under Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ act, all US public schools must provide children’s contact information to military recruiters. I have been shocked to learn that around 10 percent of recruits enrolled in the US military are children under the age of 18.

With this information swirling in my head, I commented on my cousin’s Facebook photo:

“Harmless show-and-tell or militarist indoctrination of our children? JROTC programs target children as young as 11 for grooming. The US military needs to keep the pipeline of young ‘uns willing to kill, die, maim and be maimed– inside and out– flowing.”

To which another cousin immediately told me to “SHUT UP BRETT!” He and I have often locked horns on Facebook. You see, he’s an Air Force Pararescueman. For those who don’t know, Pararescue is an elite, male-only outfit tasked with life-saving personnel recovery and treatment in both combat and humanitarian situations. Their motto is “That Others May Live.” My cousin has no doubt lived that motto while serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere. He really believes in what he does, and in the military in general.

But he also exhibits a disconnect with reality that’s either rooted in (willful) ignorance or in that insidious mentality that infects the brains of those who have fought under every flag, be they ancient Romans, Christian Crusaders, Nazi storm troopers or, more recently, our very own US troops– namely, no matter what outrages or horrors our side may commit, they’re justified– or at least usually excusable– because we’re different. We’re the good guys. We’re exceptional. This is the very same mentality that led President George H.W. Bush to publicly declare in 1988 after a US Navy warship accidentally shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing all 290 innocent passengers and crew, that, “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”

What my cousin and his ilk– that is, the vast majority of our troops and most of the American people– fail to acknowledge is this indisputable truth: since the end of World War II, no nation on earth has killed more innocent people outside its own borders than the United States of America. Because as Donald Rumsfeld infamously declared during the Iraq travesty, “we don’t do body counts on other people,” the number of victims of US militarism is difficult to discern. But it is certainly in the millions. No other nation– not the Soviet Union of old, not China– even comes close to the number of foreigners slaughtered. In this, we are indeed exceptional. And which branch of our military is responsible for the bulk of those deaths? The Air Force. It was the Air Force that carried out the Army’s request to strafe Korean civilians. It was the Air Force that carpet-bombed Southeast Asia back to the Stone Age during the 1960s and ’70s, dropping more bombs on tiny, impoverished Laos than fell on Germany in all of World War II and poisoning land, water and bodies– to this very day– with toxic chemical agents.

Speaking of World War II, it was the Air Force (then under Army command) that obliterated entire German cities, sometimes for the sole purpose of terrorizing an already vanquished population. And let’s not forget that the Air Force is the only organization in the world to ever unleash the ultimate weapon of mass destruction– the atomic bomb– not once, but twice against yet another already vanquished foe.

When faced with such indisputable truths, people like my cousin usually react in one of two ways. They either withdraw into some painful soul-searching, or they defensively and reflexively lash out while failing to address those truths. In the wake of my Facebook comment about children and militarism, my cousin predictably chose the latter. Here’s what he wrote:

“It’s hard for me to believe that more of your family members don’t block you. Pick an appropriate forum to talk about your dumb bullshit, nobody wants to read that crap when they just want to look at some kids having fun playing with gadgets. Your free speech shouldn’t override your common sense you fucking moron, especially for someone who thinks he’s so educated.”

Personal attacks are the weapon of choice of those who cannot refute irrefutable facts. This story illustrates more than just a spat between cousins. It is indicative of a military fetishist society reminiscent of countless fallen empires spanning the course of ‘civilized’ human history. Such societies invariably commence martial indoctrination at an early age… ‘the better to recruit you with.’

Perhaps that’s why some observers compare military recruiters to child sex predators. Perhaps that’s why some of America’s more enlightened schools— and even one of our nation’s largest cities— have banned JROTC programs, and why Berkeley, California passed a resolution calling military recruiters “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”

In the end, I deleted the ‘offending’ comment from my cousin’s Facebook page. Not because I believe I said anything wrong, mind you, but simply out of a sinking despair upon realizing that like my other apoplectic cousin, the majority of American moms and dads would likely be more offended by my truth-telling than by the fact that their kids are being groomed to be future killers– and future casualties– in our nation’s never-ending wars of imperial aggression. These same parents then often wonder with slack-jawed incredulity why anyone would want to kill their baby, who was only trying to spread freedom (at gunpoint) to the unwashed and brutish heathens of Whereverstan, or why those who have lost so many of their own children as a result of said freedom-spreading seem hell-bent on striking back at America.

We reap what we sow.

It starts with our children.

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  1. BrianMay 14, 2013 at 2:18 pmReply

    First of all, thanks for linking directly to the recruiting page, irony number one. Secondly, how does calling out your lack of common sense in choosing to post on your family’s Facebook pages turn into a personal attack? Foul language? Telling you to put in on your own page? Telling you that you’re acting dumb for being so smart?

    Irony number two, is that you think my response to that is a personal attack, yet, here you are putting me on your webpage for everyone to see how indignant you are. Brett, you are a proselytizer. Just put it out there in your own space and let people come to their own conclusions, don’t make it so personal…

    • Brett WilkinsMay 14, 2013 at 2:39 pmReplyAuthor

      If wanting to stop the world’s leading mass-murderer from senselessly slaughtering millions of innocents makes me a proselytizer, then I am guilty as charged. I notice you cannot or will not refute the irrefutable fact that the organization to which you proudly belong is responsible for the deaths of more innocent people in more countries outside its own borders than any other organization on earth. This is the important point here.

      I did not mention your name in this article. A handful of your immediate family and even fewer of mine may have been able to infer your identity. The rest of my 2,500 Facebook friends and Moral Low Ground followers had no idea who you were until you left this comment, nor did the thousands who will probably end up seeing this (it has been cross-posted on the Canadian site Digital Journal as well:

      Also, if you cannot see how calling someone a “fucking moron” who spreads “dumb bullshit” is a personal attack, well, then I can’t help you.


  2. BrianMay 14, 2013 at 3:02 pmReply

    Great point, maybe you should bring up the fact that you’re a citizen of the United States of America (“world’s leading mass-murderer”).

    Not gonna apologize for that one friend, don’t make familial events your soap box.

    • Brett WilkinsMay 14, 2013 at 3:13 pmReplyAuthor

      As a citizen, it is my responsibility to hold my (mis)leaders accountable for their crimes. Anything less is an abdication of duty. Anyone who is silent in the face of American mass-murder is complicit.

  3. L-Dawg 86May 14, 2013 at 3:19 pmReply

    brett- that dude is right… you’re a fuckin’ moron.

  4. Bradley GrandersonMay 14, 2013 at 4:46 pmReply

    “World’s leading mass-murderer?” Most civilians killed? Hmmm, how about Stalin’s purges? Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution? Zaire/Congo wars? Pol Pot’s killing fields? North Korea?

    • Brett WilkinsMay 15, 2013 at 1:30 amReplyAuthor

      All of the examples you list are internal atrocities. My assertion is that since the end of WWII, no nation on earth has killed more innocent people in more countries OUTSIDE ITS OWN BORDERS than the United States. The USSR killed tens of thousands, perhaps as many as 100,000, of foreigners during that period. China has had only one foreign intervention– the invasion of Vietnam– during that period, in which the dead numbered in the low tens of thousands.

  5. ajmacdonaldjrSeptember 24, 2013 at 5:32 pmReply

    Good article. You’re absolutely right.

  6. DanielleNovember 28, 2013 at 2:25 pmReply

    Brett, thank you for your insightful commentary. Be it American blasphemy or not, you are dead on. More people need exposure to ideas like yours and to be challenged to think critically about these things.

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