What exactly did the U.S. military do to deserve this hands off and sacred standing? We all of course know the rhetoric. Those in the U.S. military go overseas and fight for "the freedom of everyone in this country." As a result, those who participate in the U.S. armed services get points on federal job applications, but most of all, they are considered by many to be outside of any realm of criticism and analysis that isn't praiseworthy. Where did this immortal status for the U.S. military actually come from?
Speaking as an African born and raised within the U.S., the U.S. military is not responsible for any abilities, opportunities, claims, actions, and chances I have to do absolutely anything during my time on this Earth. This country's capitalist system was built on the blood of enslaving my ancestors and its continued political and economic dominance has since been based on exploiting mother Africa, and African people everywhere (not to mention Indigenous people and many other peoples). As a result, racism has always been official policy here. That's why my father, a man born and raised in Streveport, Louisiana, in the U.S. South, was drafted into the U.S. military in the 1960s for the Vietnam war while at the same time he could not vote in his native Louisiana. He could not live where he wanted. He couldn't go to school where he wanted. And, I was forced to grow up watching him live through his trauma (before I was eventually able to experience plenty of racist trauma of my own) from his experiences growing up under the racist and violent "Jim Crow" segregation laws and practices of the South.
So, just from my personal experiences, I'm sure even the most ignorant among us can see how irritated it makes me to hear that my "freedoms" are owed to anything the U.S. military is or was doing. Especially since saying that is completely disrespectful to the people who are actually responsible for any benefits I've gained. I'm talking about those brave young and old people who stood up for justice against segregation; the civil rights workers. This is ill refutable. And understanding this makes the current reality that much more ridiculous when ignorant people from all angles are calling our protesters "disrespectful" when the truth is by protesting they are respecting the best and bravest traditions of our people. Of course, those who are leveling the "disrespectful" charge are talking about us being disrespectful towards the U.S. and its symbols of which the military is one of its most important propaganda mechanisms. We understand this, but us respecting the U.S., which has never respected us, is the same as asking Jewish people to respect Nazi Germany. Not going to happen and nothing you can do can make it happen. The U.S. owes us more than it can and would ever be willing to pay. Not that we are saying we want payment. We don't. We want justice. So, this imperialist and white supremacist argument that we somehow owe the U.S. something is dead in the water here.
Its difficult for many people of today to understand the political conditions during the Vietnam war from 1965 to 1975. I was a small child during that period, but I've aggressively studied that era and I encourage everyone to do the same. What you will find is that the 60s was a time when widespread usage and access to television was a relatively new phenomenon in this country. The owners of this new media outlet had not yet perfected control over its usage (similar to how the internet is at this point). Consequently, as it relates to Vietnam, much of the intricacies of the war were openly televised in ways that would never happen today. Bodies were regularly shown being shipped back to this country. In a way, people in this country were able to partially experience the war in vivid terms. Plus, the involuntary military draft made the cost of war as real as its ever been in this country. Most working class people, like my family, had to face the reality that going to Vietnam could happen. And, this was true regardless of what information you had or didn't have about the situation. The sense of loss was real here in a way most people today cannot understand in an environment where the imperialists have learned (from the experiences of Vietnam) to wage their wars in ways that do not directly touch the lives of everyday people in this country. Nowadays, there's no involuntary draft. Only the direct families of those who are fighting are feeling the impact. Most people in the U.S. cannot even point out Iraq and/or Afghanistan on a map if you offered them money to do so. As a result, most of these people today view war through an idealistic view that is fueled by fiction like Rambo and other imperialist propaganda efforts, but that wasn't the case in the 60s.
In fact, the crush of the draft and the visual of people actually dying in war caused many in this country to become openly antagonistic against the war effort. The anti-war movement blossomed and cross sectioned with the Black power movement and other movements for justice. People actively and militantly sought to shut down the military complex at any cost. Recruiting offices were bombarded and shutdown. Troops returning from the war were attacked and ridiculed. And, for a brief period of time, the people who refused to go to Vietnam, those who burned their draft cards, were touted as the brave souls that they were. Clearly, their courageous position represented the best of the old African proverb that "even a dead fish can swim with the current" meaning anyone can take orders to kill someone, regardless of whether those people should be killed or not. There's obviously no courage in doing that, but that was then, and this is now.
The U.S. capitalist class, led by people like the Rockafeller family, the primary owners of Chevron and all NBC outlets, learned how to direct the propaganda outlets they owned. Mass media, never true news, became even more consolidated in the camp of propaganda for capitalist interests. A campaign evolved that was instigated by Rockafeller, McGeorge Bundy, and other bourgeois capitalists to re-frame the military and police. Shows like "Dragnet" and "Adam 12" sought to present police as friends and servants to the community. Relationships were formed with institutions that led to the military and police becoming regular and active participants in all institutions of this country from sporting events to even church activities. Often, as is the case with professional sports, the military's participation is bought and paid for. The tide was changed where people who assaulted returning Vietnam vets were made to feel ashamed of their actions. They shouldn't have called those vets baby killers, right? In reaction to this propaganda the notion was advanced on a systemic level that instead of being attacked, military personnel should be honored and respected and thus the current phase was ushered in where the U.S. military achieved this "untouchable" status where criticism for their actions is concerned. Notice I said the U.S military and not the personnel serving within it. The objective of the capitalists was to make every imperialist action they endeavored overseas untouchable. They simply used the people in the military as pawns to tug at people's heart strings. I have too many people I know who are combat vets who are being screwed around by the government for me to be confused about how little capitalism actually cares about these people. All one has to do is drive by any off ramp to illustrate and confirm that "supporting the troops" is nothing more than a bumper sticker designed to make people here feel that they are compassionate (as long as they aren't forced to actually face the effects of war).
The truth is U.S. military folks did kill babies in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of babies by conservative estimates. Just like they did and are doing the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and so many other places. And, although we are completely aware that economic conditions are the reason people join the U.S. military in this country in the first place (its not patriotism. People in this country are bribed with perks like the G.I. bill to join. That's not the same as millions of Vietnamese children and elderly people volunteering to fight against U.S. imperialism with no promises of anything besides defending their country), it has to be said that people in the U.S. military are manipulated, but they have gone and committed atrocities against humanity for no reason other than to advance capitalist interests. They are used for this purpose and that is the reason 22 of them commit suicide each day. That is the reason so many of them suffer from psychological trauma from their experiences. They are the real reasons any lack of safety you feel for being from this country actually exists. That all needs to be said and those combat troops who courageously choose to speak out against these wars need to be uplifted. They are telling the real truth that needs to be told.
The question we have to ask ourselves today is how it is that imperialism has the capacity to trot out someone like commentator Bakari Sellers (regularly on CNN) who feels the pressure to side step criticizing the U.S. military when his father - Cleve Sellers - was one of those brave warriors from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the 60s who fought so courageously for the gains we have as African people today. Cleve Sellers burned his draft card in 1967. It was his organization that led the charge to destroy the draft, yet 50 years later, his son has a national audience, yet cannot speak unfiltered truth about the U.S. military being a thug organization. That's right. No different than a street gang. In fact, in many ways, the street gang has much more legitimacy for its reasons to exist. At least their enemies, misdirected or not, do make incursions against them. In the case of the U.S. military, opposition is mostly fictional. North Korea has never posed any threat to the U.S. It was the U.S. that bombed North Korea into submission in the 50s. It was the U.S. that killed thousands of North Koreans. It is the U.S. that continues to this day to test nukes off of Japanese islands. The North Koreans have done nothing except attempt to defend themselves for 70 years, yet most people in this country are convinced they are the aggressors. From Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Un this is true. Insane.
Those of us who care about truth and justice have a responsibility to take up positions that are unpopular in a backward society, regardless of the cost. We have to do that because so many before us did the same thing. Colin Kaepernick is paying a personal price for his courageous stand and he is a solid example of what we should be teaching our children. During the Vietnam War it was Muhammad Ali and others. And, we can't do that by side stepping difficult questions just because they make things uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is what has gotten us everything we have today. Its time to tell the truth. The U.S. military (including police) is nothing except the trained security organization for the super rich. Their sole purpose is to keep the world's populations under control so that their bosses can plunder the world's resources. That's the reason they bully Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and anyone who doesn't bow down to their interests. That's the reason they have 100 military installations in Africa. And, its the real reason they have your family convinced that suggesting any type of criticism of anything they do is tantamount to denouncing God. They are consistently on the wrong side of history. I remember when U.S. National Guards people pushed my father around on the streets of San Francisco. I was a very young boy when my people, disgusted with U.S. oppression, revolted on the streets. My dad, simply wanting to find out how he could keep his family safe, asked a question just to be man handled and pushed down. That's your troops in action. No, not the side of justice, ever. And, anyone who continues to try and act like the U.S. military in any way represents justice is just as much a part of the problem as those white supremacists marching in the street. Justifying white supremacy forcefully and intentionally or quietly and institutionally is still justifying white supremacy. Stop perpetuating this lie and start telling the truth. The U.S. military is the enforcement wing of this white supremacist system (and the fact so many Africans make their living in this institution does absolutely nothing to change that). The educational institutions here are the propaganda training wings of this system. And, the flag is the rallying symbol of this backward system. You can't partition it out and defend parts of it. Its all rotten. If you don't have the courage to face that then stop adding confusion to the struggle and leave it alone. All you are doing is soiling the dedicated work of those who have the courage that you couldn't wake up with on your best day.