Warfare-statists are horrified over what President Trump told Mrs. La David Johnson, the grieving widow of a U.S. soldier who was recently killed in Niger. Trump said to Mrs. Johnson, “Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
Trump’s statement reminds me of what Herbert Spencer wrote back in 1902 in an article entitled “Patriotism”:
Some years ago I gave expression to my own feeling — anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called — in a somewhat startling way. It was at the time of the second Afghan war, when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenaeum Club a well-known military man — then a captain but now a general — drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying — “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”
As far as I can tell, warfare-statists are not accusing Trump of lying to Mrs. Johnson with this particular statement. Instead, it seems that they’re horrified that he spoke the truth to her.
After all, let’s face it: Sgt. La David Johnson did sign up to serve in the U.S. military. No one forced him to sign up. No one conscripted him. He signed up of his own accord, totally voluntarily.
I just wonder why Trump didn’t complete the thought. Why didn’t he tell Mrs. Johnson that her husband had died for nothing or, to be more precise, he died to expand U.S. hegemony in that part of the world, which, in my books, is equivalent to dying for nothing?
Suppose the United States was invaded by North Korea. Hundreds of thousands of North Korean transport ships and planes have crossed the Pacific Ocean, disgorging millions of North Korean troops on California beaches. Tens of thousands of North Korean planes are bombing San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Santa Fe.
Mobilizing to defend the country against the invasion, the U.S. government calls for volunteers to join the military. My hunch is that tens of millions of Americans would immediately sign up to join the army. They would be signing up to defend their country and the rights and liberties of the American people.
But that’s clearly not what La David Johnson signed up for. The United States has not been invaded by another country. Equally important, no nation-state has the remotest capability of pulling off such an near impossible feat. Certainly not a poor Third World country like North Korea. Not even China or Russia. America is in no danger whatsoever of being invaded, much less conquered.
In fact, with the possible exception of Great Britain in 1812, the United States has never been in danger of being invaded and conquered by anyone. No, not even by Nazi Germany. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if Hitler’s army could not even cross the English Channel to invade and conquer England, the possibility of crossing the Atlantic to invade and conquer the United States was nonexistent. And no, not even by Japan, whose attack at Pearl Harbor was simply limited to trying to knock out America’s Pacific fleet so that Japan would have a free hand in securing oil from the Dutch East Indies.
And, no, not even on September 11, 2001. Those terrorist strikes, which ironically were committed in retaliation for Pentagon and CIA interventions abroad, entailed a few terrorists striking a few targets, not a full-scale military invasion of the United States.
Ever since World War II, however, the U.S. government has involved itself in invading and conquering other countries. Or assassinating foreign leaders. Or initiating coups.
The purpose of these regime-change operations? To expand U.S. governmental control over various parts of the world, the same way that the British Empire once did.
In fact, that Spencer quote from 1902 is helpful in understanding what La David Johnson died for. He died for the same thing that British soldiers were dying for in Afghanistan in 1902. No, not to protect the freedom of the British people because Afghanistan was not threatening the freedom of the British people. Johnson, like those British soldiers in 1902, died for the sake of empire, for hegemony, for control.
When he signs up to join the military, every U.S. soldier knows that America is not under any foreign invasion or threat of invasion. He also knows full well that he is now required to obey the orders of the president to go to Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Korea, Vietnam, or anywhere else to kill or be killed. While the soldier inevitably gets convinced that it’s all for “freedom” here at home, it’s all a lie because no one in those faraway lands is threatening the freedom of the American people.
But here’s the rub: No one is supposed to say that. Everyone is supposed to say that U.S. soldiers are killing and dying overseas to keep us safe here at home and to protect our rights and freedoms.
It’s a lie that is repeated all across the land, including by those who criticize President Trump for lying. It’s repeated in big sports events, airports, and even church services, the one place where you would expect truth to be stated.
Notice that even while criticizing Trump for his horrifyingly truthful statement to Mrs. Johnson, no one asks the important question: What in the world was La David Johnson or other U.S. soldiers doing in Niger? I’ll bet that at least 95 percent of Americans can’t even identify where Niger is on a map.
Too bad Trump couldn’t bring himself to speak the whole, unvarnished truth to Mrs. Johnson and, for that matter, to every other American family who has lost a loved one in some overseas military operation: They signed up for empire and they died for empire.