It's a privilege to honor all veterans this year. My only son is in the military, having finished his second deployment in Iraq.

So I'm often asked, "How can you say you genuinely support the troops when you are such an outspoken critic of war?

Here's my simple response: I am pro defense, but against "offensive" warmongering.

Decidedly, I am opposed to our nation's policies of bullying and policing the world, empire building and setting up artificial democracies. We fund a regime one decade, only to depose it the next. We buy elections and make secret deals to further our interests around the globe.

Our hypocrisy is repugnant to other countries, particularly when it comes to giving Israel preferential treatment and not requiring the same accounting of its war machine as we do from other governments.

When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, Americans heard the phrase "Better there than over here". In other words, fighting terrorism overseas would prevent another 9/11 on our soil.

Does anyone still believe that, particularly after the Ft. Hood massacre, the car bomb incident in New York, and the latest discovery of the in-flight packages from Yemen?

Ideological extremists have broken up into smaller, autonomous cells and are spreading throughout the globe, finding punctuated attacks to be far more effective and fear-producing.

So why is our nation continuing to send more troops to Afghanistan? And with escalated violence in Iraq, we may soon see a turn-around in policy, not to mention the disturbing plans on the table that itch to engage Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen.

People cry, "Remember 9/11". But is the disproportionate spilling of the blood of our soldiers and innocent civilians the right way to do it?

Instead of sending in a conventional military, letters of marque and reprisal, allowing elite forces to capture bin Laden dead or alive, would have been the better strategy.

This little-used, Constitutional allowance worked quite well in the days of marauding, coastal pirates.Thousands of American lives would have been saved and the 3,000 would have been honorably avenged. Instead, look at these sobering statistics:

3,000 people from various religions (including Islam) and nations died on 9/11--not just Christian Americans.

In so-called retaliation against terrorism, we've killed 1, 421,933 Iraqis, although none of the 9/11 hijackers were from there.

In doing so, 4,427 American sons and daughters died in combat.

For chasing elusive bands of terrorists in Afghanistan, we've sacrificed 1, 371 on the altar of nationalistic power.

And here's the bigger picture of what war has done and continues to do to our children:

When you add up not only battlefield deaths, but the wounded-in-action, those medically evacuated due to illness, disease or injury, American casualties total is 89,457!

We've not only done this without hesitation, but are increasing our efforts and expenditures, despite the government's admission that it does not have enough money to adequately care for the returning wounded.

Unnervingly, 196 soldiers committed suicide while serving in Iraq between March 2003 and Oct. 31, 2009, and there were 35 such suicides in Afghanistan.

1,000 veterans per month attempt suicide, and 18 A DAY succeed--approximately 540 a month!

To date, all of this this carnage has cost the American people $1,104,520,566,357 and climbs every second.

What Americans don't seem to grasp is that the Afghans don't like the Taliban, but they don't like us either. Whenever we enter a village and begin to interact with the occupants, the Taliban retaliates. They want us to leave.

The Southerners wanted the Northern troops to leave, as well. After the Civil War, Union troops still occupied southern States for several years (in some areas, up to a decade) to maintain order and help with reconstruction. Southerners just wanted to pick up the pieces of their devastated lives and properties; they didn't want or need the help of armed Yanks.

The war is over in Iraq and Afghanistan. The people just want their country back to govern as they see fit, whether it agrees with us or not.

We want our sons and daughter back. They do not need to die for a mission that has been politically sabotaged. If some Afghans want protection and resources as they rebuild their schools and communities, private, international contracts are the answer.

If we Americans really love our  troops and consider them our national treasure, then we will adamantly oppose sending them into a failing, prolonged mission that has only a slim chance of success.

Soldiers should be placed in harm's way only when it comes to defense or a measured retribution (if attacked by another NATION--not rogue cells within nations), and even then with as little personnel as possible and engaged only long enough to accomplish the sole objective.

Did you know that a standing army as it exists today in the US is unconstitutional?

Our Founding Fathers were wary of such an idea and no doubt could see the potential for powerful expansion and abuse. As an exception, the Constitution allows for Congress to raise money for a standing army as needed, but FOR ONLY TWO YEARS!

The late Harry Browne, Libertarian nominee for President in 1996 and 2000 said:

"We have a strong national offense", but what we really need is a good national defense. Anything more than that is unnecessary and wasteful.

In fact our founding fathers were strongly opposed to a standing army, knowing that having troops at the ready meant that they were more easily used for "adventurism".

They specifically stated in the Constitution that we should have a standing navy, but that there should be no standing army in peacetime. We currently have the Army Reserve and National Guard, who are trained and can be called up quickly in an emergency, so we don't really need a standing army. I also believe that we should have a standing Air Force."

A professional army is a danger to a free society. In addition, taking our tax dollars to finance an enormous military presence around the world is unethical and breeds mounting resentment.

Our founders envisioned a citizen militia, similar to what operates in Switzerland today.

All young people are conscripted into paid, basic training around the age of 19 (those not fit or who conscientiously object can opt for a small time in civilian service). After that, they remain in the reserves for ten years with the choice of additional specialized training.

All reservists are allowed to keep their weapons at home. Not only does this enable the Swiss government to quickly and effectively assemble troops throughout the nation in the event of an attack, but as a plus, violent crime remains consistently low.

At first, such conscription sounds objectionable until one realizes Switzerland has historically stayed a neutral country. It has not entered into any modern global conflicts, and only keeps a trained, citizen militia for defense purposes.

Although detailed plans were drawn up for Hitler to invade Switzerland, it never happened. Many attribute this to the imposing fortifications built into the Alps for just such a scenario and of course, the well-armed, well-trained Swiss citizens who knew how to traverse and defend these mountain outposts.

In other words, Switzerland's focus was on defense. And it worked.

Whether this following conversation ever took place is questionable, yet the statement is solidly true:

Fifteen years had passed since VJ day, most of those at the meeting were WWII veterans, and men who had fought each other to the death at sea were now comrades in battle who could confide in one another. Someone at the table asked a Japanese admiral why, with the Pacific Fleet devastated at Pearl Harbor and the mainland US forces in what Japan had to know was a pathetic state of unreadiness, Japan had not simply invaded the West Coast.

Commander Menard would never forget the crafty look on the Japanese commander's face as he frankly answered the question. “You are right,” he told the Americans. “We did indeed know much about your preparedness. We knew that probably every second home in your country contained firearms. We knew that your country actually had state championships for private citizens shooting military rifles. We were not fools to set foot in such quicksand.
I'm all for massively downsizing our military personnel, conventional hardware and property around the world, and spending more money on defensive technology with private, innovative contractors that can protect the US from missile attacks.

Our "boots on the ground" can be specialized, smaller forces that can address conflicts as they arise when any Americans are in danger or our international commerce comes under attack. And we can privatize even more of the military's support operations and suppliers.

Even if all of these changes were to occur, one thing remain critical: the vigilance of the American people--NOT THE GOVERNMENT!

Libertarians always look at precedence and the slippery slope that follows, which often makes us unpopular with the "relief now, safety now" citizens.

Beefing up on counter-terrorism in the US to circumvent attacks at home sounds initially positive, but we've already seen that the Department of Homeland Security is not only watching radical Muslims with suspicion, but Christians with strong pro-life beliefs, returning vets, libertarians and conservative "tea party" attendees.

And who can forget the nightmarish raids by the police after Hurricane Katrina, as they went door to door in New Orleans, confiscating the people's guns in flagrant violation of the Second Amendment!

As it now stands, Americans will steadily forfeit more privacy and other cherished freedoms in order to feel safer from attacks in our nation. And indeed, even the police, guards and reserves, under the command of a corrupted, run away government that wants to destroy the Second Amendment, will remain a threat to the citizens.

(Note that 20,000 full-time Army troops are being trained at Ft. Dix and Ft. Stewart for "at home" enforcement during a natural disaster or large scale terrorist attack.)

I want to feel just as safe as you, but I ask, "At what price?"

I want peace in the world, not contrived compliance. Mutually beneficial contracts secured by the prosperity of the free market work better than guns, military aid, my money or my son's life. If goods are allowed to freely cross borders now, it lessens the chance soldiers will be forced to do so in the future.

I want my son to come home safely to raise his three adorable children and walk the littlest one, Joscelin, down the aisle. I want your son and daughter to come home.

I challenge you to speak out bolder, longer, stronger, but temper your words with compelling wisdom and reason. Do not be intimidated and easily threatened. Get out, be seen, march, rally, even protest--not just because you're against war but because you are for the future of America.

America's future sits at my feet; they are my grandchildren. The future sits at your feet and around your table, in school chairs and pews. They are truly our treasure to guard and nourish.

I could not prevent my son from going to war, nor could I stop your child. However, it's not too late nor impossible to secure better choices for their children.

We can educate our neighbors, influence our communities and change our leaders, but it will require courage and sacrifice--perhaps of our reputations and fortunes--much as it did the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Will you stay the course, will you pay the price?

I was an associate pastor for fourteen years. I saw a young mother through a terrible divorce and custody battle for her four children. Her former husband was quite well off. Before their marriage, she had been under psychiatric care for depression and he used this against her in court. She never graduated from high school, so the only job she could get was as a waitress with odd hours. The deck was stacked against her.

On our last day in court, her lawyer asked me to step aside. Quietly he implored, "You can't allow her to pursue this! She's going to lose...big time, you know. Why invest all this money and let her down?"

I didn't blink. "Because," I replied. "She wants to leave a record for her children that she did all she could, even against incredible odds, to win them back."

She lost the case, but gained the lawyer's respect. He dropped his fees. Her audacity, persistence, and love for her children spoke volumes. Today she's still a waitress, but enjoys a wonderful relationship with her children!

What will history record of us? Will we take an unswerving stand regardless of the odds? Will your children and their children know that you did all you could to win them back from from foreign fields?

Some people have asked, "But if we leave Afghanistan now, won't the sacrifices of our soldiers have been in vain?

I pondered long and hard on that question. My son, a bronze star recipient, engaged in many firefights, had IED's detonate around his vehicle more than once, and lost close being a high school buddy. Only seconds after waving to each other as their vehicles passed, a massive explosion ended his friend's life.

I propose a war memorial to the slain in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, let it be a memorial with a different focus: not on what was done in a foreign land, but what happened in the United States of America to the people back home.

Why can't it read that the eyes of the people were opened and their hearts broken, and they finally took back their country and children from the war merchants?

Why can't it be etched in enduring stone that together, they "beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks...and they learned war no more."(Isaiah 2:4)*

It can, but for now, you and I must be willing to labor untiringly in the quarry, and lift the hammer and chisel to carve out such a reality.

1. Information Clearinghouse

2. Casualties
3. article; "90,000 Casualties, but Who's Counting?"

4. VA Hid Suicide Risk

*The Hebrew word for sword in this passage, Cherev, often has a violent, offensive connotation as opposed to defensive.

Mary Diane's article is originally featured at Using My Liberty.

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