There Are No War Heroes. There Are Only War Victims.

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readJun 9, 2018

Yesterday President Donald Trump tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our serviceman who was killed and his fellow servicemen who were wounded in Somolia. They are truly all HEROES.” Three hours later he tweeted it again, this time with the correct spelling of Somalia.

A few days earlier, at the climax of his phony, insipid feud with the Philadelphia Eagles, Donald Trump lectured Americans that they must always stand for the national anthem.

“We stand to honor our military and to honor our country, and to remember the fallen heroes who never made it back home,” the reality TV president bloviated. “We stand to show our love for our fellow citizens and our magnificent Constitution. We stand to pay tribute to the incredible Americans who came before us and the heroic sacrifices they made.”

In both of these statements, President Trump was lying.

The US special operations soldier who was killed in Somalia (one of the “seven countries in five years” famously named in General Wesley Clark’s revelation of the US war machine’s plans for world domination) and the four others who were injured are not heroes. The US servicemen and women who have fought and died in America’s nonstop acts of military expansionism and wars of aggression are not heroes. They are victims. They are victims of a sociopathic power establishment which does not care about them, and never has.

If what I just wrote bothered you, it is because you have been conditioned to oppose such ideas by generations of war propaganda. If you believe that US soldiers are heroes, it means that you believe that they are fighting and dying for a noble cause; for your freedom, for democracy, for the good and the just. It turns the deaths of the fallen into a tragic but noble sacrifice in your eyes, which keeps you from realizing that they have actually been dying for the profit margins of war plutocrats, land and resource assets, and the neoconservative agenda to secure control of the planet.

There is nothing heroic about being thrown into the gears of the war machine and having one’s body and mind ripped apart for the advancement of plutocratic interests. But if your rulers can trick you into thinking that dead US soldiers died for something worth dying for, you won’t turn around and lay the blame on the war profiteers and ambitious sociopaths who are truly responsible for their deaths.

So they lie to you. Constantly.

People often counter this notion by pointing at World War 2, about which a case for the possibility of heroism in war can indeed be made. But the fact that this argument needs to reach back 73 years to the very brink of living memory in order to find a justifiable US war tells you everything you need to know about the weakness of that argument. Since 1945, when human civilization looked completely different and America itself was still an apartheid state, we have seen the US military spread around the globe, collapse nations, and butcher millions upon millions of people, all at the expense of the lives of US military personnel, and all without just cause.

The people whose lives have been used like Kleenex and discarded by the US war machine did not die for a good cause. They did not die fighting for freedom or democracy. They are not heroes. They are victims.

We need to talk about this. The way we can be shamed into silence for saying such things is truly toxic, because it prevents us from addressing the very real problem that the United States starts unjust wars constantly and spends soldiers’ lives like pennies. It probably is nice for the families of war victims to tell themselves comforting stories about how their loved one died fighting to make the world a better place, and normally I’d be happy to let them harbor that personal fantasy without saying anything to disrupt it, but people are dying here. Human lives are more important than the psychological comfort of those who would prefer to lie to themselves, whether it’s a grieving widow or just someone who doesn’t like thinking about how evil their government is.

Many of the men and women who fight and die advancing the depraved agendas of America’s unelected power establishment do so with good intentions. Many of them honestly, sincerely believe that they are forces of good in the world. But the longer we allow the delusion to continue that US military personnel are participating in something heroic, the longer we are necessarily perpetuating the delusion that acts of US military aggression are good and noble, and the more of these people will be needlessly killed, wounded and psychologically destroyed while enacting the corrupt will of evil people.

The correct response to news of a US serviceman or woman dying in combat is not gratitude and patriotism. The correct response is rage at the people who put them in harm’s way. The longer we continue pretending that their deaths are a glorious, noble sacrifice and not an unforgivable outrage, the longer those flag-draped coffins will keep flying home.

General Wesley Clark’s revelation has been coming true, but not in quite the way it was spelled out for him. The 9/11 attacks gave rise to the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which has enabled the United States to build up a military presence inside the borders of any nation deemed to have terrorists in it, which has in turn been made much easier as the regime change destabilization inflicted upon places like Iraq and Libya have caused terrorism to run rampant and widespread.The violence in Somalia has continued largely because of a US destabilization campaign. Now it is full of US troops, and its president is a dual US citizen from Buffalo, New York.

US troops shouldn’t be there. US troops shouldn’t be anywhere but the US. People join the military with the understanding that they are doing it to protect and serve their country, not that their lives will be needlessly placed in harm’s way securing the belt of oligarchic imperialism. It’s time to stop pretending that globalist military expansionism and neoconservative power grabbing is a heroic cause to serve, and begin calling it what it is: the depraved misuse of a defense force that is causing the needless, meaningless deaths of human beings.

And it’s time to start getting angry about it.


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