It’s Immoral To Serve In An Immoral Military: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readMar 28, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

Deciding to enter the military is only morally justifiable if your country’s military is used in a moral and just way. There’s a weird, power-serving taboo against saying this which is born of the idea that it’s more important to protect the feelings of “our troops” than to discourage people from enlisting in the most murderous war machine on earth, but it’s true.

This doesn’t mean that those military personnel are more responsible for the depravities they help enact than the government officials who sent them there, and it doesn’t mean they’re irredeemably evil — it just means they’re doing something immoral. We all do immoral things and make bad decisions from time to time. All it means is they need to course correct.

Yes, many of those who enlist in the military are just doing what they feel they have to do to make some money in an unjust system, but it’s very revealing that people don’t tend to extend this same charitable sympathy to those who turn to crime out of the desperation of poverty. Most people in prison are guilty of far less egregious offenses than the things US and allied military personnel are routinely ordered to do, because they didn’t commit their crimes at the behest of a powerful government.

And yes, to be sure those who join the military are pummeled with lies and propaganda by the culture they grew up in about what their military is and what it does, but many people who commit crimes are pummeled with false narratives and false promises by the people around them as well. That’s exactly how joining a gang tends to work, for example. Those who Charles Manson manipulated into committing murder weren’t exonerated just because they were manipulated. Manipulation is a mitigating factor in assessing morality, but it doesn’t prevent military service from being immoral any more than it prevents Mafia murders from being immoral.

Unless you live in a nation which uses its military solely to protect its own borders and never to abuse its own citizenry, then if you choose to enlist you are doing something immoral. The US alliance is literally always at war overseas, and enlistment is therefore never moral. I guess it could even be theoretically possible for a military to always be at war overseas and still be moral, if it were fighting for moral reasons. There is no moral argument to be made that the US alliance does this, though; it wages wars of aggression for power and profit.

Refusing to acknowledge that it’s immoral to serve in an immoral military serves no one but military recruiters, war profiteers, and the imperialists in Washington DC and Virginia. Make this clear as a society so that people can begin course-correcting away from that abusive path.

They keep making comparisons to WWII in order to groom us for WWIII.

We don’t actually need to accept that the world’s major powers are going to be engaging in increasingly dangerous brinkmanship with each other throughout the foreseeable future. Empire propagandists keep telling us we need to lay back and accept this, but we don’t.

This trajectory toward war and nuclear holocaust is being driven by people within the US government and its allies, and there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them. We can turn this ship away from the iceberg any time we wish to. We’ve just got to want it enough.

People who get really into 9/11 truth or the JFK assassination often talk about how Americans would wake up if they could just really grasp what their government did, but it’s important to emphasize that this is equally true of the things the US is undisputedly publicly known to have done recently in places like Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, etc.

Completely undisputed public facts about things the US has done since 9/11 are far more evil than just assassinating a US president or killing a few thousand Americans in a false flag terror attack. They killed millions of people since 9/11 in wars for power and profit, right out in the open, on public record.

Really the problem isn’t getting information to Americans about the evil things their government has done, or even getting them to see it and grasp it. It’s getting them to see it deeply enough and consider it sincerely enough that it blasts through all the psychological compartmentalization and propaganda-induced conditioning that’s been holding their worldview together.

That’s a big part of what I try to do here. I don’t do any groundbreaking investigative journalism, I don’t break any stories, I just try to find ways to help people truly see the empire for what it is with fresh eyes in such a way that it transmutes their worldview.

The more we learn about psychology and sociology the more undeniable it becomes that the question of whether or not you’ll lead a happy and abundant life ultimately boils down to luck of the draw, but our systems don’t reflect this. We still punish the poor for being poor, still punish addicts for being addicts, still lock people up for reasons that really amount to having been abused as children and being born in the wrong neighborhood. It’s profoundly cruel, and at this point it’s completely unscientific.

The realization that you only have it good by pure dumb luck should open up a transformative compassion in you for those who got dealt a less fortunate hand, but instead many people jam their heads up their asses and insist everything they have is the result of hard work and virtue. Human predisposition toward egotism causes us to lose our compassion for those who did nothing other than have less luck than ourselves, solely because of what it would mean about us and our cozy little “me” stories.

We’ve still got a lot to learn, and more importantly our systems still haven’t caught up to what we’ve learned already. It’s all a process of growing and becoming a conscious species, but god it’s excruciating to watch sometimes.

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