On This Memorial Day, Reflections on Hot Dogs, Beer and the Draft

Steve Russell

I wish you a good Memorial Day, with plenty of hot dogs on the grill and beer in the cooler.

Those of us who choose to defend ourselves in the class warfare begun by the one percent should, on Memorial Day, give some thought to a different one percent, the one percent of us who choose military service.

At the outset, I should confess to the greatest political error I made in my life. I was opposed to the draft. Don't get me wrong. It was true that the draft was not fair. It was more likely to fall on guys like me than guys like Willard Romney (who did his public service as a missionary living in a very impressive mansion in France) or George W. Bush (who had the pull to get into the Weekend Warriors back when they did not have to fight) or Dick Cheney (who had "other priorities").

In spite of the fact that the draft was not fair, working class guys volunteered, as I did, in greater numbers than volunteers of the class that produced Al Gore and John Kerry.

That's all changed now, and one one percent runs the country while a different one percent fights the country's wars. The natural result of those two facts is that the latter one percent is more expendable than ever. After all, they volunteered, right?

In my generation's war, Vietnam, everybody knew somebody who went and most of us knew somebody who did not return. A combat tour was a year, and if you went back for another, you generally did it on purpose.

In WWI, they discovered something they called "shell shock." In WWII, where everybody had to fight for the duration, they called it "combat fatigue." The current jargon is "post-traumatic stress disorder" and we know now it's not peculiar to soldiers. The second most common instance of it is women who are victims of rape or repeated battering.

PTSD is more common because the current crop of soldiers are seeing a lot more combat than any soldiers ever in human history. Historically, a state of war mobilized an entire population. Taxes went up to pay the costs and able-bodied men had to have a good reason not to fight. It's not that way in these recent wars. We put them on credit and they are fought by hired gladiators.

Like all wars, they have given us some incredible stories of heroism. The heroes now, though, are not ordinary Joes, but professionals. Takes away a lot of the romance to think of combat injuries like a worker's comp claim, no?

This generation of soldiers is filing for VA disability compensation at a rate greater than any prior generation. The current administration increased the budget for VA health care more than any other in history, because the prior administration that gave us two wars on credit had not funded VA medical care and did everything possible to stop Sen. Jim Webb's update of the GI Bill...reason being, "we can't afford it."

As I write, the unemployment rate for returning veterans is twice the unemployment rate for civilians in their age cohort.

Combat tours are still a year, but they amount to every other year indefinitely. At Skipcha Elementary School, where one of my grandsons attends, there's a whole generation of kids that have had at least one parent, and sometimes both, in combat zones every other year for their entire lives. They think all kids celebrate life events on Skype.

The rest of us can read about the one percent in uniform maybe three times a year: Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, and when the President awards a Medal of Honor in the White House and we catch part of the citation reading on the national news. Some of us then pause and reflect on the superhuman devotion that decoration represents in modern times. It was not always so. The troops that perpetrated the Wounded Knee Massacre got Medals of Honor for opening up on women and children and old men with Hotchkiss guns. One thing that has gotten better in modern times is that war crimes get known more quickly and sometimes even prosecuted.

There were always war crimes, though. War is ugly. Always has been. That's why I was wrong to oppose the draft. The more people who have to bear the burden, the more likely our leaders will find ways to accomplish our goals that do not involve going to war.

These are strange times to live in, when most of the benefits of our society flow to one percent and social mobility is at an all time low. And the most devastating burdens of our society fall on a different one percent.

Enjoy your hot dogs.

Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.

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husbandofmoonlight's picture
I can only share my own experiences with anyone who would listen for the last 37 years; after release from active duty in 1975 as a Sgt-E-5 of the USMC--and "Honorably Dishcarged" in 1978----- I am proud to say that I have spoken with and counseled no less than 22 young men and women OUT of serving the US Military as a direct result of my own experience. Those who were/are Native American I remind them that they are in international legal terms; members of "domestic dependant nations" and cannot be conscripted; therefore should not serve their "captors"; and that as a result of the US Government violating the treaties, ending the illegal wars of aggression against our ancestors, the USA violated those treaties with illegal legislation known as USC Title 25;they are in reality prisoners of war. In addition we recommend that all of them read extensively as much as possible the Geneva Convention's statutes concerning "wars of aggression", and that the "only legal war" is one of "self defense"; that the legal ramifications of "participating as Soliders,Airmen,Sailors or Marines in ANY "war of aggression" is a "violation of international law" and that by their participation they would be; "war criminals". That they would be giving up most of their lives best years since "war crimes" do not contain statutes of limitation, nor do they carry with their commisions any "exemptions from charges" as a result of their "volunteer status". Unlike during the Vietnam era where the draft determined the lives of many of my contemporaries "I" "foolishly volunteered to risk my life for the USA"----while at the time I was exempt from the draft because of my status as a member of a "domestic dependant nation" under the Geneva Conventions. Accordingly I am reminded that I "earned" by that service the "right" to speak about it with anyone I choose; as well as offer my "earned opinion" that the "service" was a needless waste of my time as well as a foolish risk of my life; all for a Nation that still does not recognize their errors and repeats them with "ruthless regularity" with "new illegal wars of aggression"-----all over the planet, for frivilous reasons wasting trillions of their tax payers dollars (that they recently have been borrowing from China---what a joke)---and slaughtering millions of innocent people, while laying the surrounding land a toxic dump or waste land. In addition to this we offer extensive educational references on their own Native American History and their rigthful place amoung humanities' most accomplished people (collectively)and that to serve the criminal USA in any capacity other than resistance is to betray their descendants; by ignoring the power vested in them to "resist occupation" and stand up for their rights as sovereign nations members. We are happy with our approach and recommend it to others. In this manner we assure that our children's children's children will be free of the occupiers oppressive tactics and with our non participation we state our cause. Thank you for your time. Husband of Moonlight
swrussel's picture
While I accept dual citizenship and I think most Indians do, I don't have any beef with those who do not. Historically, the political force behind the Snyder Act, conferring involuntary citizenship on Indians, was the fact of Indian conscription in WWI coupled with states not allowing Indians to vote. Citizenship was supposed to stop that, but Arizona Indian veterans still could not vote by law until they got an Arizona Supreme Court decision in 1948. Yes, Arizona, home of the code talkers and Medal of Honor winner Ira Hayes. We still had no reliable protection for the right to vote until the same time African-Americans got it, in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. You, of course, have no interest in the government of an occupying nation. I differ with you on that. The other place I differ with you is that defensive wars are not the only wars permitted by international law. A police action authorized by the United Nations is also lawful, and the most prominent examples of that are Korea and Gulf War I. This is why the Bush administration pushed so hard to get Security Council authorization for Gulf War II, not that failing to get authorization stopped them. Then there have been wars in an international law gray area, where strong words were written that appeared to some to authorize force, but did not spell it out in so many words. For example, Libya and some of the interventions in the former Yugoslavia. It's all more complicated than it looks, and the main thing young men need to know is that the courts will never endorse your legal analysis over that of the government. So if you disobey orders based on international law, you may be correct in some cosmic sense but there will be immediate consequences.
husbandofmoonlight's picture
According to "Blacks Law Dictionary" the United Nations is an organizatoin that was "started by the allied powers in WW2 for the stated purposes of preventing war, providing justice and promoting welfare and human rights of people"----by and large I would argue that they have been a miserable failure. As for "dual citizenship" that you and other "Indians" exercise---I do not know what the "folks in India do"---nor do I care (why do you insist on refering to Native Americans as "Indians"----they are Native Americans---none of them "migrated from India"----) since I do not "vote" as a result of the treaty listed herein; which would be an absolute mockery of my status as a "Prisoner of War" (Medicine Lodge Creek Treaty of 1868 by virtue of its power as a "treaty ending an ilegal war of aggression against several Plaines Tribes"--the Comanche and Kiowa just two of them---is enough documentation to establish the fact that those members of those tribes were "not given the vote" as a context of the treaty---therefore any other legislation "passed after the fact" is irrelevant---and should be disregarded. "Our legal analysis" is correct in that any court deciding any point of law regarding Native Americans is an "assumption" "forced by dominate powers upon the lessor" and nothing else while those people are "Prisoners of War"----in other words; Native America---ALL of Native America is STILL at war with the USA---- If "others" wish to lay down for them--by accepting YOUR analysis*--we would never even attempt to stop you/them since if nothing else; you/they and any others would serve a valuable purpose: i.e. a "negative example". *We will provide you with ample "citations"-----but for now: Article 6 of the US Contitution (a very convenient document thus far) clearly states that "All Treaties are Supreme Law"--- "Supreme Law" is defined by BLD----as: the state of being supreme, or in the HIGHEST STATION OF POWER; PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY; SOVEREIGNTY; SOVEREIGN POWER............ Taking both of these facts into consideration; why would ANYONE wish to be a willing participant in their own "oppression" by joining the "oppressors master paln"? Please provide citations for YOUR assertions------and PLEASE---any "legislation" passed concerning "Native American Tribes" with "treaties" signed in good faith with the US Government are NOT proper AUTHORITY since those peices of legislation "abrogate" the treaies unless they are referenced IN THE TREATY------ THEY ARE NOT I assure you. Then we are reminded that without tacit compliance with such absurdity as the US Governments assertions of authority by force---the USA would be forced to "deal fairly"---- that would be something new for them. The USA has not been involved with any factually "legal wars' except the Civil War---which ironcially was fought by one side(the South who started it at Ft. Sumpter) for the "right of one human being to own another human being as a piece of chattel"; which has proved throughout history to be counter productive and often very destructive socially. All of the other wars have serious questions attached to them if they are studied carefully---with an open mind unrestricted by hyperboli and propaganda; and that inlcudes especially the "War of Independence" from England. As for the "last" Bush administration: only in the USA could a "confessed war criminal" receive--- $100K "speechin fees"---and Secret Service Protection on the way to the "forum". But then he was recently convicted in Kuala Lampur for War Crimes and it may well be that his days of liberty are numbered-----only time will tell. The duplicity and hypocrisy that the USA conducts itself under is and will be a major deciding factor for the entire world when the time comes for them to decide the "FATE" OF THE USA-----SINCE THEY ARE A CRIMINAL NATION; THEY PLACE THEIR FATE IN THE HANDS OF OTHERS BY THEIR ACTIONS-------it really is that simple. The rest of the world will soon decide whether they will "allow" the continued existence (at least in its present form) of the USA---they only have their history to decide their future by: and it is criminal by all international standards; and recently has become an international laughing stock. They have not "won" any of those wars you write of--since the USA does not "bring treaties of peace to those they can defeat"---just ask the Japanese-----they were forced into "unconditional surrender" in 1945; after the USA became the FIRST to use Nuclear Weapons---twice---and each time upon known civilian populations' a "War Crime" itself. The USA still has not paid the "promised reparations" to the Vietnamese people who signed a "treaty with them" in 1973-----after the USA could not "win" THAT war started over yet one more "false flag"----these are actions of a "criminal nation". In April (27-28-29) of 1975, "myself and a few other Marines single handedly helped evacuate Siagon"--I remeber it very well and ---THAT was what looks like a "lost war to me"----. But then, only the Americans would think about "bringing Democracy to others at the muzzle of a gun" as "being civilized"----but then, they waged war upon the Native Americans to bring them "civilization and Jesus"----one more act of a criminal nation. "If the USA were any other criminal nation the 'Americans' would invade the USA to keep the world safe; and they would be justified." Thank you for your valuable time. Husband of Moonlight
m8lsem's picture
I do remember in 1966 getting Greetings from the President of the United States. Having volunteered for JAG and having been turned down because of my eyesight I rather thought I would get bounced at my EAD physical, but I passed. Guess the UCMJ is very much more difficult to see than it is to determine whether that figure 200 yards away is a good guy or bad guy ... Notwithstanding all that followed, I must agree with you that ending the draft was a very bad thing to do. It may have been the opening salvo in Class Warfare by the 1% ...
woundedbearcharlton's picture
I DON'T DRINK BEER it is a vialation of the pac of cheif drowning bear of the cherokee
woundedbearcharlton's picture
nothing tast as great as coffee and a hotdog
mitchellflint's picture
I volunterred and beat the draft. I don't drink alcohol, and no hot dogs because of the phosphate content for we dialysis patients. I still did my thing anyways, and helped out the Boy Scouts too. Great article Steve!