One of the most interesting bromides to enter the American political lexicon after the 9/11 attacks has been the line that Americans have been taught to say to American soldiers: “Thank you for your service.”
Yet, hardly anyone ever makes a critical examination of what exactly the “service” for which they are expressing gratitude actually consists. It’s just automatically assumed that the service consists of “defending our country” or “protecting our rights and freedom.”
My hunch is that when the bromide is expressed, most people have in mind Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s because oftentimes the bromide is accompanied by a reference to the “ultimate sacrifice” that some soldiers have made, which means they have been killed in battle.
Yet, there is one glaring fact about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: They have nothing to do with protecting our country or our freedom. They never have. That’s because neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has ever attacked or invaded the United States and tried to conquer our country. As a practical matter, that’s the only way they could take away our freedom.
What then is the real service that U.S. troops have performed and continue to perform in Iraq and Afghanistan for which people express gratitude?
Killing people. That’s what U.S. soldiers have been doing in Iraq since 1990 and in Afghanistan since 2001. They have been killing people. Lots of people. Hundreds of thousands of people. And they continue to do so on a regular basis.
It would probably not sit well with many Americans to state the obvious to some individual soldier or to the troops in general: “Thank you for your killing.” It’s more palatable and more comfortable to say instead, “Thank you for your service.”
Let’s break it down a bit more.
Why have they killed all those people? Why do they continue to do so?
Again, it has nothing to do with protecting our country or defending our freedom because no one, and certainly not the people they are killing, are invading and trying to conquer the United States, which would be the way to take away our freedom.
The reason they killed so many people in Iraq and Afghanistan was to oust the governing regimes in both countries from power and replace them with regimes that would look with more favor on the U.S. government. The reason they have killed multitudes of people since their initial invasions has been to ensure the continued existence of the regimes their invasions installed into power.
That’s what killing ISIS members is all about. In large part, ISIS consists of members of the regime that the U.S. invasion ousted from power in its initial invasion of Iraq. Not surprisingly, it wants back in. A classic civil war for power.
It’s no different in Afghanistan. The country was already embroiled in a civil war when the U.S. invaded in 2001. The U.S. invasion ousted the Taliban regime from power and installed the group that was revolting against the Taliban regime. Ever since, the Taliban have been fighting to regain power. That’s what civil wars are all about — the quest for power, oftentimes between two brutal, corrupt, and tyrannical groups, which is certainly the case in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The horrible irony is that it has been the U.S. government, not the Taliban or ISIS, that has destroyed the freedom of the American people through the adoption of powers that ordinarily characterize totalitarian regimes: secret mass surveillance and the powers to incarcerate, torture, and assassinate American citizens as part of their process of keeping us “safe” from the enemies that U.S. interventionism produces.
Of course, there is also the out-of-control spending and debt necessary to sustain this ongoing, perpetual killing program, both of which constitute a grave threat to America’s economic well-being.
Whether they want to believe it or not, that is the “service” that Americans are actually thanking the troops for when they say, “Thank you for your service.” The reality behind the bromide, as discomforting as it might be, is: “Thank you for killing people and, in the process, contributing to the destruction of our freedom and prosperity here at home.”