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Support the Troops by Keeping Them Out of Dumb Wars

Steve Russell
11/11/13

Armies are instruments acting out the will of politicians. So I have always understood, but Plains Indians back in the day had a different understanding. You could tell a leader not by his regalia, but by whether anybody was following. Warriors who lost belief in either the leader or the cause could simply go home, and on occasion they did.

While the traditional Indian view has moral superiority to recommend it, the instrumental view of an army is what wins wars. The moral weight of the decision to go to war falls on politicians, not on the soldiers.

The war my generation fought, Vietnam, was so odious, and the rationale for it such a steaming bucket of offal, that those of us who were taken in got tagged with the stupidity to an unfair degree.

Indians, as usual, get it even worse. The bad rap on us is that we choose to serve in the colonial military in the first place, and that, in the eyes of some, is corruption of our values before we finish boot camp, without regard to what foreign land we might be sent on some fool’s errand.

While I plead youth and ignorance to the charge that I put in a volunteer statement for Vietnam, I reject the idea that the defense of the United States and Canada is the problem of the colonists and we should leave them to it.

My dissent from John Marshall’s “domestic, dependent nation” fantasy has been public for a long time, as has my recognition that the “dependent” part is the primary challenge for tribal governments.

One of many things we are dependent for is defense, and those of us who believe that the need for defense is greatly exaggerated by US politicians need to stay engaged in pushing that view, because the fact of the matter is that our sons and daughters are hostage to that exaggeration in the physical sense as we oldsters are in the economic sense.

Our destinies are intertwined with those of the colonists without regard to our consent, and that is a relationship we can’t wish away. It’s not difficult to demonstrate, in the last war most North Americans agree was good, that the Axis powers would have assimilated white people and destroyed the brown people they did not need for servants.

Indian nations are not immune from the realist view famously expressed by a Brit, Henry Temple, the Third Viscount Palmerston (and those who are amused by hereditary titles, as I am, need to think seriously about the significance of blood quantum, which has legal roots in the idea of hereditary titles):

“(I)t is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

To those deluded souls who maintain that we have no national interests but only individual interests, we might ask what opportunities exist for our young people in the military as compared to staying home?

Military service changed my life for the better in spite of my permanent disability. I went from never having heard of computers to having enough skill to get a job without serious hunting. I got out in 1968, which was a very good year to know computers. I came out with a path to higher education and, much more important, the belief that I could walk that path.

Agree with me or don’t about the morality or the practicality of military service, our children volunteer, and they volunteer in greater numbers than other segments of the US or Canadian populations. Then they come home, and some of them come home broken.

We all come from warrior traditions. We now face the question whether our modern sons and daughters, who fought under the stars and stripes or the maple leaf, are entitled to the honors traditionally shown to returning veterans?

It’s plain that I’m too self-interested to be credible on this question. Not just because of my own history, but because my son did two combat tours in that damn fool stupid war in Iraq.

Paul, you’re a hero to me without regard to how the rest of the world treats you. I’ve joked with you that I would never have jumped out of an aircraft that was not broken, but your courage is at the root of that joke.

That time you refused to open up your .50 on that sniper on top of the apartment building, because you could see women had hung their laundry in the windows directly below his position…you made me so proud I can’t hold it in

I know you voted against that stupid war every chance you got. I know you did what you did for the troops around you and for your family, and you conducted yourself honorably by all the values I’ve tried to pass on. I love you and I’m proud of you.

Those who share my opinion of our veterans may be interested to know that the processing time for VA disability claims is down to merely 235 days. Sarcasm aside, that’s an improvement in spite of the setback imposed by the government shutdown.

The government has produced a streamlined process for disability claims, where the veterans who can put hands on the necessary records and fill out the form on line. The rewards for going this way are speed in processing and one year of benefits awarded as compensation for your work in presenting the claim fully developed. For information, click here.

The disability backlog varies considerably by the region where you live. While the website is a bit complicated, all the information you need to see what to expect in your region can be found here.

“I support the troops!” makes a nifty bumper sticker. If you do, then push the government to keep them out of dumb wars. And if they come home broken, spend the money to take care of them. These are the realities of Veterans Day.

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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Anonymous's picture
indigenous peoples being swallowed by the dominant culture has not changed, only the labels. If Crazy Horse was an Arab who's side would he fight on? the battle for the few to dominate the worlds resources never changes, now it's oil, next Water then what Air? It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. Douglas MacArthur
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Brilliantly said, this deserves a wider audience! Why are we still in Iraq and Afghanistan anyway?
Anonymous
kopczyn's picture
I never understood why native population serves in such numbers in armies... warrior's tradition, economical or social reason....really? Mr. Russell there is no just wars.
kopczyn
Anonymous's picture
kopczyn, all wars are just in somebody's opinion, and many trees have died in the debate over the objective standards for a "just war." Who died and left you in charge of these differences? I take it you are not willing to fight over the role? I respect the pacifist position, but even Mahatma Gandhi did not drink that Kool-Aid without some dilution. He held that a war was a terrible failure of leadership, but that it is better to resist evil violently than not to resist it at all. There was a time when I questioned the existence of evil. I was young, and young people should question everything.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
(to Anonymous), I am practically the first generation which did not need to use the force to defend itself in the last few centuries. And I feel lucky. I wish the same feeling for everybody. If our public representatives are responsible for war and peace then they should be trained into skills of peaceful diplomacy. Having behind us such powerful intellectual and economical machinery as this country do we really need to use warring shortcuts?
Anonymous