Photo: Jayel Aheram
“The hardest thing for me in Vietnam wasn’t seeing the wounded and dead,” said Johnny Cash after he visited soldiers in the late 1960s. “It was watching the big transport jets come in, bringing loads of fresh new boys for the war.”
The Man in Black’s comment captured a truth that couldn’t be overstated on Memorial Day: The best way to honor those who have died is to ensure that less deaths will follow them.
It is time America ends more than a decade of being at war.
It’s easy to pay lip service to supporting the troops. Politicians have this down pat, don’t they? Anyone running for any office, anywhere in America, can talk endlessly about how much they love the troops, yet the foreign policy positions they support often tell a very different story.
John Quincy Adams proposed that, “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.” His vision for a non-interventionist foreign policy has not just been ignored; it’s been demolished. With anywhere from 660 to 900+ bases worldwide, our government today is constantly sending our military on monster hunts that are secretive, expensive, endless, illegal, immoral and counter-productive.
Americans have had enough. Iraq is now viewed as a mistake by a majority and our long war in Afghanistan grows more unpopular by the day. Our war-weary country isn’t interested in intervening in places like Libya, Syria, Iran, and Ukraine. On a broader scale, record numbers of Americans want our government to stop using our military to police the world.
More Americans than ever recognize that sending a new generation to fight and die in yet another unnecessary and ill-advised wars doesn’t support the troops or honor their memory.
This isn’t an idea unique to non-interventionists. It’s espoused by active duty military and veterans themselves. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan increasingly say these wars weren’t “worth it,” and Ron Paul—the only major party candidate in 2008 and 2012 to seriously suggest ending the wars—received more support from the military than any other Republican running for president… both years.
Meanwhile, many individual veterans and current members of the military have said that supporting the troops means ending the wars. Here’s just a small selection of their own words:
- “If people want to support the troops, then they should support us coming home.” – Marine Sgt. Liam Madden
- “There’s no reason, no justification, no legal or moral cause for the continued presence of American forces anywhere overseas. The best way we can show our support for our troops is to bring them all home—now… alive.” – Air Force veteran Lee Wrights
- “It’s not a good sign when the people doing the fighting are saying, ‘Why are we here?’ They realize they’re being utilized for other purposes—nation building and being world’s policeman—and it’s not what they signed up for.” – Marine veteran Glen Massie
- “As we remember our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day, every American should also do the most patriotic thing they can to honor their memory: Ask questions. Do not blindly trust what our government says about the supposed necessity of entering a conflict abroad, the alleged seriousness of external threats or Washington’s overall rationale for war.” – Air Force veteran Jonathan Brown
- “To truly honor fallen soldiers requires self-reflection, questions and action…Are we allowing the blood of soldiers and civilians to be spilled in war because we are not willing to do the hard work of peace making?” – Army veteran Michael McPhearson
- “You want to support the troops? Get them the hell out of the line of fire.” – veteran George Masters
These opinions are hardly isolated anomalies. In fact, there’s an entire organization of more than 4,000 military families dedicated to exactly this principle: If you support the troops, bring them home.
Perhaps Dwight Eisenhower said it best a half century ago, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
Ike was right. Support the troops. Honor the fallen. End the wars.