OpEds | PHIL MURRAY
WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT
Marketing wars, indirectly, on the backs of the wounded——and getting rich in the process.
You have surely spotted one their commercials. They spend millions airing them. They normally feature a celebrity, like Trace Adkins, or Dean Norris. The message is always the same: Help our wounded “warriors”. In my time we called ourselves “soldiers.” Now, when we need to cosmeticize our ugly wars, and the public infantilization via television allows for such whorish grandiloquence, the old GIs have become “warriors.”
These campaigns, besides the questionable use of the funds collected (WWP’s CEO, Steven Nardizzi makes $375,000 a year), are devious instruments to propagandize imperial wars (a variant of the “support our troops” shopworn, dishonest appeal). For how can you easily separate the soldiers fighting a war from the war purposes themselves? You can’t. To most people, if the soldiers are noble—by definition, they’re our guys—then the war must be noble, too. Hell, that’s not ever the case these days, if it ever was. The warmongers and paid manipulators know that. They know all the tricks to make people enlist in all sorts of stupid and criminal crusades.
But these campaigns also serve a secondary and no less poisonous purpose: they reinforce the idea of privatism in American life. Yeah, those thousands or millions points of light that Poppy Bush was so enamored of. Yeah, let’s have ordinary Americans send their last dollar to support injured soldiers put in harms’ way by the imperial overlords—who live lives of ghastly luxurious excess.
I say, let the government pay. It already has the people’s money. It has trillions of dollars to pay for these wars, starting with extravagantly overpriced weapons, and certainly trillions to rescue fatcat bankers, whenever Wall Street calls—but the soldiers have to go literally begging and no one objects? That’s bloody nonsense. The passivity of the American public in the face of this highhanded theft, this privatistic disease so endemic in American society, injected from the cradle via indoctrination, is simply a disgrace. In fact, make the billionaires pay. That would surely stop all these effing wars once and for all.
But you get the point. These campaigns are based on lies, and the biggest, most cynical lie is the most often repeated to tug at our ignorant, unthinking hearts: “They suffered their wounds to protects us“. “They died for us.” Really? What do you mean us, Kemo Sabe? No war of choice, no imperialist war (look it up) in which our soldiers are sent to fight in countries they or the majority of Americans ever heard of, and even less understand, is a war in which our military “fights for us.” American soldiers in such theaters of war are almost always interventionist troops, occupation troops, invasion troops. We have had our boots on the ground in scores of nations since the close of WW2, and not a single time it has been for the benefit of American security (or the people we are supposedly helping), but for the benefit of naked American corporate power, in the defence of global capitalism. So no matter how loud the gallery of propagandists crow, how much the brainwashed publics applaud and cheer, these things are not the same. They will never be the same thing.
Not to mention that we never sent a single soldier to fight for freedom or democracy anywhere. That’s a truly colossal crock. True democracy scares the devil out of our rulers. Ask any of the big shots and corporate managers that pay off the Republicrats to carry out their designs. Ask the Koch brothers, or Jeff Bezos. Or Jamie Dimon. They have no use for democracy—except pseudo democracy, which they use as a mask for their oligarchic power.
TV solicitations on behalf of soldiers are the perfect storm in terms of disgusting cultural conflations. WWP’s spots combine them all: jingoism • sanctimony • outright lies • warmongering • and the capitalist moneymaking impulse.
Our soldiers, bearing our uniforms and insignias, an army recruited from the neediest sectors of American society, this professional army, often commits heinous crimes that alienate the population they are supposedly “saving”. They create and aggravate conflicts that only enrich the promoters and direct beneficiaries of wars: the arms merchants and their constituencies; fortify foreign criminals (or put them in power); and by so doing strengthen the global power of American elites bent on world domination. All of this unnecessary mayhem spawns endless resistance in myriad distorted ways, thereby insuring the power elites have more justification for their endless “wars on terror”, which are virtually stifling any remnants of democracy in one nation after another. As for the soldiers, what they see and do mentally deranges them.
Many vets know that much of PTSD is caused by a bad conscience. Brutal memories of war that will never be erased. That’s what redeems many of these poor guys put in harms’ way to enrich a puny cabal of ultra-rich plutocrats. They are frequently haunted by their conscience. They have a conscience, and that’s a sign of their decency. But they should not need to go around imploring the public for charity, not in a nation that has more billionaires than any other.
A hard rain’s gonna fallNo one likes to be told he lost his sight, his limbs, or his mind for the sake of an ignoble, criminal war, acting as an uncomprehending tool in a criminal enterprise completely different from what the official propaganda told them it was. And no family wants to hear their father, brother, sister, or other kin died or was wounded for life for such sordid goals.
But the words of Smedley Butler (1)—not exactly a “bleeding heart liberal”— ring true today as they did when he fist uttered them, perhaps more so, in the age of global, endless imperial wars:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.” ― Smedley D. Butler (War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier)
Over the decades many vets have come to figure the truth—the ugliness of their deeds as tools of a sociopathic empire— after years of service and severe disablement. The realization has haunted them. They remain a minority, albeit a precious minority. But their existence and passion inspires many…
Meanwhile what do these rich celebrities know? When was the last time they put their fat, ignorant, privileged asses on the line for something that really mattered? Do any of these celebrities know how many veterans feel about this charity? (2) Well, celebs have little time for such encounters with unpleasant truths. That’s why, as far as I’m concerned, Trace Adkins can shove his cowboy hat up his fat behind.
Wounded Warrior Project: Trace Adkins and the West Point Cadet Glee Club
Wounded Warrior Project TV Commercial, ‘Decade of Service’ Featuring Dean Norris
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
PHIL MURRAY is an antiwar vet residing in the St. Louis area.
(1) Smedley Darlington Butler was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
(2) For a broader critique of WWP, see this article in The Daily Beast.
Remember: All captions and pullquotes are furnished by the editors, NOT the author(s).