Stormtroopers For the Empire

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U.S. soldiers in charge in Iraq. Photo by Carolyn Cole/ L.A. Times

We tend to forget, but Veterans Day originally celebrated the end of World War 1, the defeat of "the last of the German Kaisers," and the common fervent hope that war-mongering empires were no more. Marking the 1918 Armistice, The Nation noted, "If the mills of the gods have caught and crushed (the) Kings of Bavaria and Bulgaria, they have still much crushing to do....We hope and trust that the spirit of revolution abroad will not die until all the makers of secret treaties are cast out, and with them, as among the worst enemies of mankind, the armament-manufacturers...Under our very eyes is dying the greatest of modern empires...May it be the last of the empires!"

Alas, it wasn't, in large part thanks to America. In an impassioned response to a Reddit thread, Iraq veteran Daniel Crimmins of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division lamented his own and so many others' blind acceptance of the post 9/11 "good vs. evil rhetoric spouted by the cowboy in chief," and the awful damage that came of it. Gut-wrenchingly, he charts his disillusion: "You fight, you kill, you watch friends die, and you notice a distinct lack of change...(You kill a random Iraqi) and his wailing, ancient mother is cradling his body, spitting at you...Then you realize you haven’t seen anything to support the idea that these poor fuckers are a threat to your home."

He considers "all the fuel, the ammo and missiles and grenades. Maybe you start to see a lot of people making a lot of money on huge amounts of human suffering....Maybe your heart breaks a little every time some asshole brags about a 'successful' drone strike."

"Then you get out, and you hate the news. You hate the apathy, and you hate the murder being carried out in your name. You grew up wanting so bad to be Luke Skywalker, but you realize that you were basically a Stormtrooper, a faceless, nameless rifleman, carrying a spear for empire, and you start to accept the startlingly obvious truth that these are people like you. If all of America was one dude, that dude would not give a shit about the little brown people we’re burning and crushing and choking to death." Still, he says, there is hope: "Some of us care, and I think there are more every day.” To remind us why there need to be, Kurt Vonnegut remembered and Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance."

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Iraqis grieve. Photo by Joe Laibie/Getty Images

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