Memorial Day: It’s the Least Wealthy Who Serve and Suffer the Most in War

“People like us don’t have children in the military”.

I come in contact with a lot of military families. What is notable is the majority of people in the military don’t come from the upper middle class or wealthy communities. And the ones who have seen combat are not mindlessly gung-ho. If you have lost family members in wars, as my family has, you tend not to be mindlessly gung-ho either.

When troops were committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, my local news station interviewed people about whether they would support the wars. In a very wealthy community one mother was quite gung-ho; but when asked if she would like to see any of her children involved, said in a very icy tone, “People like us don’t have children in the military” without any hint of embarrassment. Clearly this was a job for the lower classes. And that is how it has turned out.

One soldier interviewed said “The United States did not go to war in Iraq, the US Military went to war in Iraq, the rest of the country went to the mall.”

In the late 1930s and early 1940s debate raged for years about whether to resist the Nazis by force. The antiwar people, many of them conservative Republicans, dominated. And then Japan attacked. And everyone dreaded it, felt fear, but felt they had no choice. Everyone sacrificed, everyone wanted it to end. No one took it casually. Everyone was affected. Everyone hated it. You seldom went shopping, there was nothing to buy. It was all going overseas. No cars were built. The car factories all turned into tank factories. You made do with what you had already.

During Vietnam there was a draft, everyone was at risk. Large amounts of troops (600,000) were deployed. So this made everyone think –Is this really our only choice? And the resistance began.

Now we have a volunteer army. So people volunteer for the lower rank positions because of a mixture of pride, patriotism and financial need. People who don’t have the financial need rarely volunteer for low rank positions, the riskiest of all positions. And wealthy people keep their kids out, including congress. Most members of congress do not have children in the military. Democrats didn’t want to vote against Iraq because it might make them look wimpy. That would be their big “risk”. Not loss of life or limb. Just a bad career move.

So now the majority of us are protected from direct service. Our military is so powerful that we don’t fear large armies in mechanized vehicles landing on our territory. We don’t sacrifice as a country. We go to the mall and cut taxes. And this makes it too easy to start unnecessary wars casually, for the wrong reasons, for trivial political reasons, where it is our least wealthy who suffer most and where hundreds of thousands of civilians in other countries, many of them children, die horrible deaths in the cross fire. And most of us don’t give it a second thought.

Because it’s “them”, not “us.”

So for the enlisted men and women who volunteer to protect us from the genuine maniacs in the world, I give my heartfelt thanks whenever I meet them, which is often. For the politicians who casually start unnecessary wars and misuse our troops, nothing but contempt.

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