Memorial Day

On this national holiday weekend, which honors U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces — and which marks the unofficial beginning of summer — (thanks Wikipedia), I would like to share with you some of my favorite writings/speeches about the problems with militarism and war.

• “Supporting Our Troops While Condemning the Systems That Exploit Them” (Desireé B. Stephens, 2024):
“Memorial Day is a time for heartfelt remembrance, a day to honor the valor and dedication of those who have laid down their lives. Yet, it is also a time to confront the uncomfortable truths about how our government often exploits the very individuals we seek to commemorate. … Our government, through policies and practices, has historically leveraged military service as a pathway for those with limited options, creating a system where the most vulnerable are funneled into the line of fire. This exploitation is compounded by the nature of the conflicts in which our troops are engaged. Wars waged under the banner of national security often mask deeper geopolitical and economic interests. These conflicts inflict immense harm not only on our service members but also on innocent civilians around the world. … On this Memorial Day, let us extend our support to the families and communities of the fallen. Their grief is immeasurable, their loss irreplaceable. Let us also stand in solidarity with our veterans, many of whom bear physical and emotional scars long after the battles have ended. Our respect and gratitude for their service must translate into tangible support—accessible healthcare, mental health services, and robust reintegration programs. At the same time, let us raise our voices against the systemic exploitation of our troops. We must demand policies that prioritize diplomatic solutions over military interventions, that invest in our communities rather than in the machinery of war. Our commitment to peace must be as strong as our commitment to honoring those who serve.” (From Let’s Have the Conversation, newsletter by Desireé B. Stephens; subscribe here to read the entire article and a variety of her other deeply insightful writings on decolonization, community-building and more.)

• “War Is a Racket” (Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, 1935): “WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows. How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle? Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out. Again they are choosing sides. …” Read the piece in its entirety here at