You want to “honor our vets,” do you? Try one of these on for size.
5. Stop Sending Them Off To Die For No Reason
This one might be the simplest, and it’s surely going to sound naive to some, but if we were truly going to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans, we’d do more to ensure their sacrifice was necessary. There were over 4,000 U.S. troops killed in the Iraq War. Despite the architects of that great lie’s denial of reality, the truth is that none of those 4,000+ men and women needed to die in Iraq. There were no WMDs, and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Bush Administration left diplomacy in the dust.
While it’s true that Hussein was not a nice man, and was indeed was a nightmare for many of his own people, we’ve seen through the Arab Spring that you can only repress a people so much, before they want the one in the seat of power removed. Perhaps Egypt’s transition to Democracy has been bumpy, but no Americans had to die to remove Hosni Mubarak, or even Mohamed Morsi.
Ensuring that we only commit the lives of our younger generation to the most worthy of causes would be honoring our veterans by showing them we’ve learned from our past mistakes. By not sending their sons and daughters off to war needlessly we honor them. By showing the world in fact that we are not going to treat our soldiers like human capital in a cynical pursuit of war mongered profit margins we honor the sacrifice they are willing to make in defense of our country, and not in defense of Dick Cheney’s checking account.
4. Stop Killing People with Drones with No Oversight
Sure at first glance, drone warfare seems more humane — less commitment of American “boots on the ground — but what will the consequences be when a Yemeni or Pakistani man sees his mom killed by a drone? More radicalization. Every single innocent civilian that is killed as “collateral damage” in a targeted drone strike is a gift of propaganda for those who would manipulate the easily manipulated into carrying out revenge against those that killed their loved ones. The result of these kind of unfettered, unchecked military aggression quite simply will be more terrorism, which means more war, and in the end we come right back to #5 on this list…we honor them by sending them off to fight and die less, not more.
Drones are a great tool, and will have many non-lethal applications in the future. But using them like we do, it is only going to cause more bitterness and hostility in the regions of the world that are still developing, coming into the information age themselves. Perhaps not every drone strike could be replaced by a SEAL Team Six raid or its equivalent, but it seems like the smaller and more targeted we make the operations, the easier it will be to explain to the world why we did it. There’s nothing wrong with exercising great restraint over an awesome capability. That’s just called benevolence, and it’s something our foreign policy has been sorely lacking for decades.
3. Free Chelsea Manning
There is one notion that I think this country needs to disabuse itself of immediately — that any and everyone who puts on a uniform and serves in the military is a “hero” by default. They are certainly to be praised for making a sacrifice of their time. They are certainly to be commended for volunteering to put themselves in harm’s way ostensibly to protect you and me from the “bad guys,” but the kinds of people that instigated the infamous helicopter attack that Chelsea Manning exposed are not “heroes.” They dishonor the sacrifices of all the men and women who have managed to serve without committing horrific war crimes.
In every American war there have been instances out right, coldblooded murder and shameful human behavior. Fort Pillow in the Civil War, Wounded Knee in our egregious and genocidal war on the natives, My Lai in Vietnam, and the list goes on. Chelsea may have leaked “too much,” but instead of focusing on the war crimes she exposed, the government has convinced a heartbreaking number of people that she is the one to be punished, not the ones who sullied their uniform and our nation’s reputation with their abject barbarism.
Freeing Chelsea Manning would send a signal to all veterans that we care not only about the victory on the battlefield, but about their reputations. All it takes is one, single massacre of innocent civilians for us to lose all our moral high-ground, and sending away the whistleblower who did no wrong except to expose those kinds of atrocities sends the message that we’re above reproach and that the lives and reputations of those not worthy to represent us at a Bingo parlor, much less on the field of battle, is plain wrong.
2. Pay Female Soldiers the Same and Aggressively Defend Them Against Rape Culture and Sexual Assault
It’s bad enough that in this day and age women are still grossly underrepresented in society in general. From boardrooms to retail spaces, women are still paid less on average than men for the same exact work. Sadly, that systemic misogyny still exists among even those who share a common pride in serving their country. Worse than females in the military getting paid less though, is the fact that a culture of rape and sexual abuse — against female soldiers — exists as well. Even after it became a huge story this summer, recent reports show an actual increase in the number of military sexual assaults.
Clearly it’s time to take the prosecution of these disgusting crimes out of the hands of the power structure that appears more interested in cloistering together and hiding the assailants than it does in honoring the rights of all our military personnel to not be sexually assaulted. If you want to think about it in terms of veterans as opposed to active duty personnel, think about how many PTSD and therapy bills we’re going to be rightfully paying for all the victims of these crimes. Think of the betrayal these victims must feel, coming home to a nation that they signed up to defend, only to be raped or otherwise attacked by someone on their side. Cleaning this mess up needs to be a top priority for every branch of the armed forces.
1. Care For Them When They Do Come Home
Yes, this is the “no shit Sherlock” moment of the century here. Or is it? Apparently while everyone in Washington was sending our boys and girls off to die in Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, no one thought about the millions of boys and girls who would be coming home in need of not only their G.I. Bill and its educational promises, but in need of deep psychological and physical care. The V.A. backlog is the real scandal of the modern age — not Benghazi, not the IRS nonsense and not even the out of control NSA (you can’t call it a scandal if your populace turned a blind eye or even encouraged the encroachment on our privacy for more than ten years in the name of freedom not being free) — but the fact that we have hundreds of thousands of people who did their part and went away to war for us, and now can’t even get the basic care we owe to them.
Honoring our veterans would mean doing something to curb the alarming trend in suicides among their population. Honoring then would be spending whatever we needed to spend in order to make sure they have jobs to do when they come home. We train these men and women to be efficient at everything they do. They can build bridges in remote countries. They can create makeshift aqueducts, and they most assuredly could help patch up our broken highways and bridges here at home.
It’s time to honor our veterans by honoring our commitment to them. Platitudes are nice, but they won’t pay the bills, and they won’t help these people sleep better at night.