(Printed in the Ithaca, NY, Journal, December 11, 2012)
Cornell Hockey Charity is Propaganda for Empire
By Caleb Rossiter
(Co-director of the American Exceptionalism Media Project and former consultant to the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation)
With Christmas nearing, what kind of Scrooge would oppose the charitable act of the Cornell hockey team last weekend, (‘Frozen Apple’ to Benefit Wounded Warriors Project, November 22.), when the team wore camouflage uniforms and auctioned them to raise money for “Wounded Warriors” from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Even though I applaud the courage and patriotism of our soldiers and the kind instincts of the hockey team, I am that Scrooge.
The Cornell event is just one of the thousands of daily acts of propaganda that tug at our heartstrings to justify, indeed glorify, our empire, the network of dictators we keep in power in exchange for oil and other natural resources for our corporations, and bases and cooperation for our soldiers and spies. NFL anchors wearing camouflage, the Golden Skillet’s military appreciation week, college basketball games on aircraft carriers, Caribou Coffee raising money to send drinks to troops, service members going to the front of the line at the bus station -- all of this propaganda thanks soldiers, but what are they being thanked for?
We are told that our troops protect us and bring freedom to other countries, but they are actually the sharp end of the spear for an imperial policy that kills and debases people all over the world for wanting what we consider our birthright: the right to choose their own government. Bahrain, Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Djibouti? Just a few of the repressive regimes our armed forces have sustained as part of what the Pentagon calls our “long war” for control of the Middle East. Vietnam, El Salvador, Iraq, and now Afghanistan? Just a few of the countries we have devastated so our elites will have cooperative foreign elites to give them resources and bases.
The Cornell event recalls another “charitable” act from my home town of Ithaca, when I was drafted in 1970 to kill or be killed in the Vietnam War. As I recounted in a 1996 book on the anti-war movement (The Chimes of Freedom Flashing), Ithaca Mayor Jack Kiely, an all-around nice guy and former Marine who had been my coach in Ithaca Pee Wee hockey, hosted a monthly breakfast send-off for draftees. Through a system straight out of the 1948 Shirley Jackson short story “The Lottery” the good people of Ithaca captured young people without college deferments who had the misfortune of their birthday falling on a losing number, and sent them off to death and wounds with pancakes and handshakes.
Who was the kids’ better friend, the smart, mature mayor or confused, immature me, with the draft resistance leaflet I handed out at the draft board and placed in the Ithaca Journal as an ad: “Sons of America, Don’t Accept their Lies”? I was trying to stop more unnecessary deaths in an immoral war that was already lost; the mayor was trying to comfort the kids the government had grabbed.
Similarly today, the Cornell hockey players mean well, but their charity event sustains an atmosphere that will lead to the wounding of more warriors. Why? Because they treat their event as being above politics, when there is nothing more political than presenting empire as normal, moral, even honorable.
As we tend to our wounded young people we also have to ask why they were sent to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in the first place. It was to help America’s elite retain control of those regions, and unlike the troops, that neo-colonial mission is abnormal, immoral, and dishonorable. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement in his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” anti-imperial speech at Riverside Church is still true: “the greatest purveyor of violence and repression in the world today (is) my own government.” Come home, America, and bring the troops, ships, drones, and spies with you. Then we wouldn’t have wounded warriors who need charity.
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