First they tell you what to think the wars are for. They’re for protection from evil enemies, for spreading democracy and human rights.
Then you discover that wasn’t so. The evil enemies were actually human beings and no threat. The wars on terrorism have created many more enemies and spread terrorism far and wide. They’ve endangered rather than protected. They’ve damaged democracy at home and abroad. They’ve violated human rights and normalized their violation.
Then they tell you to keep the wars going for the sake of the poor fools sent into them and coming out of them with PTSD, brain injury, moral injury, and suicidal tendencies. If you’re not for harming more troops you’re “against” the troops.
Then you discover that this is all a twisted lie, that these one-sided slaughters that so devastate even the aggressors have no benefits, that people could have better and better-paying and more satisfying and less environmentally destructive jobs in peaceful industries for less financial, moral, and societal expense. It turns out the wars are for weapons profits and resource control and political domination and sadism.
Then they tell you it isn’t your right to have an opinion on the matter at all, that the troops themselves can decide what the wars are for. Even retroactively, they can simply choose some nice things to say the wars were for. And the wars can have been for different things for each person. It’s a question of personal preference.
If you don’t believe me, check out the hash tag #WhatIFoughtFor, pointed out to me by Coleen Rowley and created by a “human rights” organization. One guy declares that he fought for his family. That’s nice. How much more pleasant for him to love his family than for him to be willing to kill and destroy for a larger salary for the CEO of Lockheed Martin, or for the creation of ISIS, or for turning Libya into a hell on earth, or for the advance of climate change, or for any of the other actual results.
Others declare that they fought so that one particular collaborator or refugee could flee the hell that their fighting created or contributed to. That’s nice too. Surely veterans’ groups promoting kindness to refugees is better than veterans’ groups promoting hatred toward refugees. But what about the idea of ending the wars that create the refugees? What about the millions killed, wounded, traumatized, and left homeless for every one charismatic refugee whom someone claims after the fact that they were somehow fighting for?
And if veterans simply get to declare what they fought for, what is to stop the veterans among the fascists who come to Charlottesville from declaring that they fought for white supremacy? Surely they will be given louder microphones for that claim than will any members of Veterans For Peace. And if the contradictions between those who say they fought for genocide and those who say they fought for women’s rights are compounded by those who fought for some particular nice thing about their own family or town or non-profit funder, what becomes of public understanding?
Once war is understood as having no actual justification, but rather as having as many different justifications as participants, what if it occurs to someone to suggest that perhaps war isn’t justifiable at all?