Armistice Day and Vets

Armistice Day is today. Like other fine holidays (this one celebrating the end of a horrifying and thoroughly unnecessary war) the government did something self-serving to it.

Thank a Vet? by Laurence M. Vance

I say self-serving because if every veteran of every war is honored, that ostensibly honors every war the government orders them to fight. It becomes much harder to criticize warmongering, war misconduct, or war crimes when these are cast as besmirching “men in uniform” one is only allowed to honor. One is never allowed to hold them responsible for their choice of volunteering to follow orders, whatever they may be—George Bush’s orders, for example.

1918 is instructive because, as many historians now realize, not only was World War I not a just crusade against “the Hun,” American intervention in that war would cause World War II, by overturning a just settlement, creating a bitter Germany, redrawing the map e.g. dismantling Austria-Hungary, and ensuring a series of events that would put Hitler (or someone fascist like him) into power. This is an indication of how rarely fighting wars is the answer, and how rarely going off to fight them is worth honoring.

Are veterans responsible for their actions? Yes, they are, like anyone else. Are veterans responsible for unintended consequences of their actions? Yes, they are, like anyone else. And if veterans are worthy of honor and respect, they will take responsibility, as some have, for what they have done. Politicians and generals give orders, but “men/women in uniform” follow—or refuse.


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