“We don’t owe the troops thanks for preserving our freedoms; we owe them an apology…”

May I weigh in with one little observation on the Colin Kaepernick kerfuffle? As a former G.I. organizer and as a peace activist, I must object to the cliché that everyone, on both sides, mouths mindlessly. It is that we must honor our troops “who have been fighting and dying for our freedom.” Even plenty of G.I.s, active duty and vets, smirk at the hypocrisy of such statements.

Now, I have no problem with recognizing the suffering American troops have and continue to endure (and let’s not forget the suffering that has been visited on the people the US has invaded). But we really must parse this claim of fighting and dying for our freedom.

Has there been any, even one, military intervention overseas since World War II that did anything for “our freedom?” Travel to Saigon, travel to Fallujah. Check out how all that killing worked out. Many young people have gone into the military out of economic necessity and many also hoped to do something good for the country.

But if I could prove to you (and I could, obviously) that every intervention in the Middle East has amplified the hatred of the West, that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Yemen and Syria have only increased the number of outraged young people willing to wage war against the West, then what? What if you thought you were fighting for freedom but it turns out your fighting made things worse, led to the creation of Isis, to the blowback terrorist attacks on Europe and the US?

Perhaps it’s time for all the tin-pot patriots, soft-shell politicians, and knee-jerk flag-saluters to examine the words they use and look behind them to see if there is any truth lurking there. Don’t try to sugarcoat these disasters with sanctimonious rhetoric. We don’t owe the troops thanks for preserving our freedoms; we owe them an apology, a huge apology, for tricking them into wars that were not in their interests or the country’s.

Why do we allow the pentagon and the war addicts to use popular sporting events as a place to glorify colonial wars, to recruit the next generation of cannon fodder? Colin Kaepernick is trying to make the simplest statement, against hatred and against ignorance. It’s time for the yahoos to pipe down. And maybe, just maybe, his actions will lead us to more thoughtful reflections about who we are and where we want to be gong in the world.

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