Recently, I went to Arlington West. It is a display on the beach by the pier in Santa Barbara where every Sunday veterans and antiwar protesters stick 1,000 wooden crosses into the sand. Each cross represents five soldiers who were killed in the Middle East. The protesters also post updated statistics of the wars, including the number of soldiers wounded, the civilian casualties and the current financial costs. I was moved, but in an unexpected way.

I felt uneasy because I thought those military men and women got what they deserved. Wait, “got what they deserved” is too harsh ― most were only teenagers. “What else did they expect?” is more accurate. But we all know what they expected: to get away from home, to have new adventures, and to learn new skills such as firing guns, tanks and missiles to kill people. They expected to be heroes.

Sure, when I looked at those crosses I felt sad for all of the needless suffering and waste of human lives. But I also thought of a quote from Henry Kissinger. He is a former national security adviser, secretary of state, Harvard director and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He said, “Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

For thousands of years politicians have sent soldiers off to die in wars; billions have died for political ambition and corporate greed. Soldiers and most the masses have been indoctrinated into believing that they are heroes. “They give their lives for your freedom.” “If they didn’t fight you would be speaking (insert a foreign language here). And it has worked; even some pacifists who would rather die themselves than kill another have accepted the propaganda that soldiers are heroes and should be looked up to and honored.

At Arlington West, I thought about those 4,000 dead soldiers (plus many more wounded) and that all of them volunteered to become trained killers — that’s what soldiers do. Most didn’t join the military because they wanted to bring peace to the world. If they wanted world peace, they would have enlisted in the Peace Corps.

Many of them signed up for the military to get away from the American back country or slum ruts they were born in. It is no coincidence that the lower the class ― the less educated the people ― the more brainwashed they are to beat the patriotic drum. The military is and always has been a money-making killing cult. Soldiers are conditioned into blindly following what the leaders tell them to do without questioning.

Others joined the service because they wanted world adventure or college tuition — not to save America. They enlisted to become soldiers; they wanted to learn how to fire guns and artillery, how to drop bombs — how to kill people.

Soldiers claim that they join to serve America; if you question them they will tell you they want to kill America’s enemies, whoever they are at the time. Yet, if any of these patriots would have been born in another country — even the country they are now fighting — they would have joined that military and be fighting America’s soldiers. Some people join the armed services out of national pride; but in many cases their nationalism is just an accepted disguise for racism. And their patriotism was embedded only after they joined, only after they were brainwashed into believing peace can only be obtained though war and by heroes.

We could end every war on Earth today and we could prevent all future wars, if all soldiers would simply put down their weapons and refused to fight any longer. But there will never be peace on Earth so long as we make soldiers our heroes instead of mediators.

Doyle Barnett
Santa Barbara