Too Many Troops Have Died in the Name of Big Boy Pants

Mike Murry’s recent comment reminded me of this article that I wrote about three years ago. Macho posturing by America’s “leaders” has created enormous problems for the U.S. What is it with this obsession for “hardness” and “toughness” and “big boy” pants? Isn’t it a defining trait of a bully to whack people around precisely because he’s insecure and wants to compensate for that by feeling “big” through violence against the vulnerable? Just look at Trump and his bullying behavior. He attacks those he perceives as vulnerable (Mexicans, Muslims, women, and so on), even as he dodged the draft during the Vietnam War.

It’s obvious that many men in America see masculinity under assault, or they fear their own loss of manliness, hence those calls for “big boy” pants, and hence all those sports metaphors applied to war.

Time to put away the “big boy” pants, America. Instead, how about engaging in mature, intelligent, thinking and reflection, followed by action that ends our unwinnable wars and our national obsession with violence and weapons?

Bracing Views

Too many troops have died in the name of big boy pants Too many troops have died in the name of big boy pants

W.J. Astore

Jeremy Scahill is a reporter for whom the word “intrepid” may have been invented. He’s been remarkably bold in covering the creation of private mercenary forces in the United States (as documented in his bestseller, Blackwater) as well as America’s “turn to the dark side” after 9/11/2001, which led to “wars of choice” in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with interventions in Somalia, Yemen, and across the world in the name of combating terrorism. Indeed, the subtitle of Scahill’s new book is “The World Is A Battlefield.” And since there’s always a terrorist organization at large somewhere in the world, we are ensured of a forever war, a grim prospect on this Veterans Day.

I’ve written an extended review of Scahill’s Dirty Wars at Michigan War Studies Review, edited by the incomparable Jim Holoka.  An aspect…

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7 thoughts on “Too Many Troops Have Died in the Name of Big Boy Pants

    1. Not to mention the millions of unarmed civilians and others we’ve “wasted” in these mis-begotten enterprises cooked up by the C- dullards who magically wind up in USG policy-making positions right out of college without ever having served a day in the military.


  1. I really appreciate your mention of “bullying,” Bill. But bullying comes in many forms: some overt and above-board, like the kind of bullying you ascribe to Donald Trump. With him, what you see is what you get. Accept it or denounce it. Your choice. On the other hand, another form of bullying exists which sneaks up on you in the disguise of the ostensibly grieving parent of a dead soldier who died not because Donald Trump bullied him into joining the U.S. Army but because President George W. Bush and Senator You-Know-Her did, along with an enormous pack of cowardly United States Congressmen and women. I can recall only one Congresswoman, Barbara Lee, who had the moral fortitude to stand up to this sort of underhanded emotional bullying, which in former times people knew as “waving the bloody shirt.”

    I believe in criticizing people for what they have done, not for what they haven’t done, and Donald Trump hasn’t waved any bloody shirts at me. But a Mr Khizr Khan — currently enjoying his fifteen minutes of media fame — seems determined to do so, and all so as to advance the tainted political career of former Secretary of State You-Know-Her who, according to her own e-mail records recovered by the FBI, “authorized” the CIA drone murders of many Pakistani citizens of whom she could not have known one damn thing. And she did her killing over an unsecured cell phone so anyone in the world who wanted to know of it, could. If Mr Khizer Khan thinks he can wave his dead son’s bloody shirt at me thinking that in so doing he can emotionally bully me into voting for his war-vulture heroine, just because her name is not Donald Trump, he has another think coming. And so does she. Donald Trump has killed no one. You-Know-Her has. It’s that simple. I have no intention of rewarding mindless, maniacal murder. and I don’t care how many grandchildren the murderess has.

    Speaking of the ostensibly bereaved Mr Khizr Khan, I found it ironically amusing that he could castigate Donald Trump for “dodging the [Vietnam Era] Draft,” when Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney did as well. Neither did Barack Obama or You-Know-Her do a single day of military servitude (I refuse to use the misnomer “service”). Every sentient male of my generation who could manage it got out of wasting their lives in that horrid disaster in any way possible. Just because I couldn’t escape my own government’s clutches doesn’t mean that I wanted other men to fall victim to it. But Mr Khan seems to wish his own pain onto others just so he can have someone to share it with. Pure vindictiveness, in my book, emotionally camoflaged or not.

    And what, anyway, does dodging Vietnam Era military servitude have to do with the voluntary/mercenary/professional U.S. military today? No one — least of all Donald Trump — forced Khizr Khan’s son to sign up for Deputy Dubya’s and You-Know-Her’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. What did the young Army captain think would happen to him when he and his uniformed, armed associates went charging into someone else’s country, overthrowing their government, disbanding their army and police, destroying the physical and cultural infrastructure of the country while looting its natural resources and dividing one religious sect against another so as to set off a vicious civil war that has lasted for the last twelve years? How did he think that the Iraqi people would react to this unwarranted and unprovoked invasion? By greeting him and his friends as “liberators,” the way Vice President (and Draft doger) Dick Cheney promised? Since when have invaded and occupied people done anything other than try to kill and expell those military forces thrust upon them by American politicians concerned only about how “tough and stuff” they look to each other while pompously parading along the Potomac? The Vietnamese did not welcome me as a liberator. Luckily, they didn’t manage to kill me, but they did try upon a few occasions. Can’t say that I blamed them. They wanted me and my kind gone and made that known. So we Americans eventually left. But Khizr Khan knows nothing of this, nor does his war-vulture heroine You-Know-Her.

    Anyway, I don’t believe in human sacrifice, especially for the likes of Deputy Dubya Bush, Bubba Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or You-Know-Her. Khizr Khan can pimp out his own son’s death to help put You-Know-Her’s pudgy fingers on the trigger for the next set of needless American wars, but his cynical crocodile tears can’t deceive me as to the kind of emotional bullying he thinks he can practice with impunity. I’ve had real masters like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon wave the bloody shirt at me, so this novice at the tactic does not impress me one bit. He sacrificed his own son for nothing and now wants other parents to sacrifice theirs for even less. If I have anything to say about it, they won’t listen to the smarmy siren song of Khizr Khan and the other bloody-shirt wavers.

    Bullying comes in many forms: out in the open, or hidden behind a curtain of tendendious tears. Pick your poison.


  2. That’s a fair point about waving the bloody shirt. But I can’t join you in describing military service as servitude. Of course, they didn’t send my ass to Vietnam.

    CPT Khan doubtless died for his own ideals, not for Bush/Cheney’s or Hillary’s. From what I’ve read, he saw it as his duty to serve; he believed he could make the world a better place by spreading those ideals that are captured in the U.S. Constitution. We might call him naive, perhaps, but I wouldn’t question the honor of his sacrifice. Instead, I’d direct anger at the chickenhawks who sent him there under false pretenses, and you’ve done a good job at calling them out here.

    The Khans vented their sorrow at the convention. The Donald could have ignored it. Or recognized it. Instead, he attacked the family. He attacked their religion. He said he’d made his own “sacrifices” by making money and creating jobs. In short, once again he revealed himself to be a heartless horse’s ass. And that revelation always has value.


    1. When I returned home from eighteen months in Vietnam at the end of January 1972, I understood utterly what Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce meant when he defined two key terms in his Devil’s Dictonary:

      Patriotism: Combustible rubbish, ready to the torch of anyone ambitious to illuminate his name.


      Patriot: the dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

      As well, I came to understand what British pragmatist philosopher F. C. S. Schiller meant by “‘sacred,’ [a word] which generally means a fear that the things so denominated cannot bear investigation.”

      With these key thoughts in mind, you will understand, I trust, why I never passively accept, but always ruthlessly investigate, the Sacred Symbol Soldier or Taboo Trooper whenever I see some cynical political opportunist like You-Know-Her hiding in plain sight behind its undead corpse while the willing dupes and tools of “statesmen” and conquerors set piles of combustible rubbish ablaze so as to illuminate the names of their ambitious erstwhile rulers.

      So much for the “idealism” of professonal armed killers and their “sorrowful” parents. The U.S. military, like armed forces everywhere, has no shortage of self-described “idealists,” and I can still hear their “idealistic” mantras from long ago in Southeast Asia: namely, “Don’t knock the war, it’s the only one we’ve got,” “Grab ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow,” “Kill them all and let Gawd sort it out,” et cetera. I have no doubt whatsoever that I would hear the very same slogans cheerfully chanted by our vaunted Visigoths in Iraq and Afghanistan today. What idealism. What patriotism. What selfless devotion to Gawd and country, not to mention a tiny regular paycheck, a few meals a day, some badges, pins, and ribbons on the chest, and a license to kill. Yes, indeed. Idealism in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. If you can find it, you can have it. And so can You-Know-Her, who never met an idealistic killer or “grieving” parent that she wouldn’t exploit for all the power and money she could gain from the cynical deed.

      “But, hey! Look over there! Donald Trump said something outrageous and the Russians made him do it just to screw me for screwing Bernie Sanders.”

      There you have it, fellow Crimestoppers. Our next head of state, only without the head.

      I’ll stop here, because I think I’ve made my point about idealistic, patriotic killing by the armed forces of the United States. I wish to address the actual comments of Mr Khizr Khan at some length because I think they bear scrutiny, as does anything said by anyone waving the bloody shirt at others so as to mawkishly manipulate them into voting for still more dead soldiers which You-Know-Her will undoubtedly produce in quantity should the American people put her in charge of our idealistic killers. But I’ll get to that analysis in my next post.

      Beware a nation announcing its innocence en route to war.” — James Carroll, Crusade Chronicles of an Unjust War (2004)


  3. Moving right along, it seems appropriate at this point to peel away and disregard the overwrought emotional theatrics and studied indifference to who has, in fact, caused the deaths of whom. What did Mr Khizr Khan actually accuse Donald Trump of doing? As far as I can discern, Mr Khan’s indignant indictment falls under at least four headings. To begin with the relevant details: Mr Khizr Khan – a self-proclaimed “Muslim” – specifically criticized Donald Trump for, among other things, suggesting that (1) the United States build a wall on its southern border with Mexico and (2) ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Mr Khan also accused Donald Trump of (3) never having made any “sacrifices,” presumably of the human kind, and (4) never having read the Constitution of the United States in which stirring words like “freedom” appear prominently. So much for the main points of Mr Khan’s convention speech, which I think I have fairly and charitably characterized. Now I wish to uncharitably and unemotionally disassemble them for analysis.

    Taking the last of these — item (4) — first, Khizr Khan obviously has no personal knowledge of what Donald Trump has read or not read, so to claim that he does amounts to nothing but strident hyperbole. As a matter of fact, the Constitution says that all ratified treaties become part of the U.S. Constitution. The ratified United Nations Charter thus constitutes part of the U.S. Constitution. And the U.N. Charter specifically prohibits one sovereign state from waging or threatening to wage agressive war against any other sovereign state. Thus the U.S. invasion and occupation and destruction of Iraq by U.S. armed forces without U.N. sanction specifically violated the U.S. Constitution that President George W. Bush and then-Senator You-Know-Her and U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan had taken a “sacred” vow to protect and defend. So much for sacred vows when the idealistic killers have some idealism to kill for. So much for Mr Khizr Khan and his understaning of the U.S. Constitution.

    Additionally, and for Khizr Khan’s information and edification, the U.S. Constitution confers the power to decalare war specifically upon the Congress and not upon either of the other two branches of government, least of all the executive branch which has every incentive to abuse war as a means of grabbing more power to the President at the expense of the other two branches and the people, respectively. Since the U.S. Congress did not declare war on Iraq — or any other nation since 1941 — the “commander-in-brief” and his idealistic killers committed an illegal act — a crime — by invading and occupying and destroying Iraq. And U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan willingly took part in the crime, his “idealism” about doing so notwithstanding. No one drafted him. No one made him do anything. He had a choice. He made it. It turned out badly for him. But what has that to do with Donald Trump and whether he has read and undertsood the U.S. Constitution? Clearly, Mr Khizr Khan has some serious deficiencies of his own in this regard. Pot calling the kettle black, and all that.

    I’ve already spoken to the issue of human sacrifice — item (3), at least as demanded of Donald Trump and others by Mr. Khizr Khan. I don’t believe in it. Anyone who wishes not to sacrifice himself or herself for the political and economic aggrandizement of the amoral psychopaths who infest the upper echelons of the U.S. government has my hearty encouragement. Dodge all the Drafts that you can, sane people. Save yourselves. Your government officials, civilian and military, surely will save themselves. You can count on that. But you’re on your own. You really don’t want to kill or die at the behest of these greedy, insane people. Take it from a veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72): You don’t want to join the Buy Time Brigade (Middle East and Elsewhere 1991-????). Your political and military “leaders” will just kick you down the road like and empty can along with any responsibility for ending what they so stupidly started. No one should ever sacrifice themselves or anyone else they love for such monsters. Please spare me the “idealism.” I know its real name: Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight. Don’t fight for the rich. They will only make war on you.

    As for items (1) and (2) of Mr Khizr Khan’s bill of accusations against Donald Trump, they both involve the building of walls so as to restrict the movements of various populations based upon racial and/or religious considerations. Now, I have no sympathy for Donald Trump’s suggestions in this regard. I’ve stood on the Great Wall of China and I know from history that it never stopped the Mongols and Manchus from conquering China. Nevertheless, as a point of fairness, I do recall the U.S. military building blast walls in Baghdad, Iraq, and Kabul, Afghanistan, so as to restrict the movement of Muslim populations native to those countries. The U.S. military did this in awestruck imitation of the Apartheid Zionist Entity building kilometers of walls all over Occupied Palestine so as to restrict — if not render nearly impossible — the movement of Muslim populations on their own land. It occurs to me that both You-Know-Her and U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan had no trouble with these walls or their purposes. You-Know-Her even proposes spending billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars per year building more of these anti-Muslim walls because Benjamin Netanyahu told her to do so. U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan even died defending these sorts of walls and their purposes. Why would anyone calling himself a “Muslim” do something like that to other Muslims? I don’t get it. “Idealism” just doesn’t do it for me here. And so Mr Khizr Khan can take his strangely perverted understanding of walls and their purposes — at least when You-Know-Her and Benjamin Netanyahu find the building of them profitable — and wrap them in his dead son’s bloody shirt which should serve to hide them from deeper scrutiny in the U.S. corporate media. I really do get it.

    I don’t think that Donald Trump can win the Presidency of the United States because the Ruling Corporate Oligarchy has already selected You-Know-Her for their principle puppet. I think Donald Trump knows this very well, but has chosen to put on an entertaining reality TV show for the admittedly racist base of the Republican party — the original one, which seems about to implode. The Democratic Republican party, on the other hand, has now taken over the right wing of American politics — especially its neo-McCarthy red (or Putin) baiting Russophobia — which has left the older Republican party with no real reason to exist. But the Ruling Corporate Oligarchy needs two puppets to put on a puppet show, even if only one of the puppets — You-Know-Her — will suffice to deliver all the power and money that the One Percent demands as its due.

    I feel a deep sympathy for all victims of war. I hate war and want to see every last vestige of it exterminated. I want to see standing armies demobilized. I want to see nuclear weapons disassembled. I want to see U.S. arms sales embargoed. But I have no sympathy for anyone who would sacrifice their own child to war or demand that others sacrifice themselves or their children for the same insatiable beast. That beast has a name and everyone knows it. Americans can even vote for the beast this year if they so choose. Lots of children will then find themselves sacrificed to the beast, of course, because as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said of the 500,000 Iraqi children who died due to President Bill Clintons sanctions over eight years: “We think the price is worth it.” Yes, the Beast has a name. But that name is not Donald Trump. He hasn’t killed anyone and does not seem poised to do so. Mr Khizr Khan’s waving his dead son’s bloody shirt for the benefit of the Beast and her belligerence seems tragically ironic to me, but then I’ve had the bloody shirt waved at me so many times in my life that I just can’t fail to see what really lies beneath and behind it.

    I think that will about do it for now.


    1. Mike: for the Khans, the point was simple: Trump wants to ban Muslims. Trump is fanning the flames of bias and prejudice against Muslims. Meanwhile, they lost their son, who died in the service of the USA. If I were them, I’d be outraged as well.

      I remember when Ben Carson came out against Muslims. I was contacted by a Muslim-American officer who served with me in the Air Force. He was deeply offended at that Carson had said.

      Positions such as Carson’s and Trump’s create fertile fields in which extreme prejudice can grow. What next: Round up the Muslims and throw them in camps like we did to Japanese-Americans in WWII?

      Again, if Trump had a brain (and a heart), he would have simply ignored the Khans, or said something about respecting their loss. Trump’s reaction is really the issue here, especially what he said in the aftermath about all the “sacrifices” he’s made.


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