The Road to Peace -
Patriotism or Internationalism by Ian Antius
Awhile back I read a printed version of a talk given by Robert Jensen entitled "Saying goodbye to patriotism." In
it, Jensen calls patriotism "perhaps the single most morally and intellectually bankrupt concept in human history."
goes on to dissect the two main definitions of patriotism in use within this country today: as loyalty to the war effort by
the jingoists and as the "real" essence of this country by some in the peace movement. He ends with: "We must say goodbye
to patriotism because the world cannot survive the patriotism of Americans." (For the full text see Saying goodbye to patriotism
So what is this "Patriotism of Americans" that Jensen is saying the world cannot survive? I would like to put forward
one veteran's view of it. As for my feeling about "Americans," please see Why I Hate "America."
For me the question of patriotism has been something I've struggled with since my high school days, when it was used
to justify the draft and the war against the Vietnamese. I joined the service with the patriotic belief that I was doing my
duty. By the time I left, I no longer considered myself patriotic but didn't see it as a real problem.
Then in 1989,
the first Bush tried to legislate patriotism by outlawing the burning of the flag. It is telling today that, since September
11, those who cried the loudest in opposition to flag burning, calling it a desecration of a sacred symbol, have not uttered
a word as the flag has been turned into clothing, used to hawk every product imaginable, and ripped to shreds on car antennas.
veterans were among the first and the loudest to challenge the law and to oppose any attempt by this government to mandate
patriotism. Soon after the law went into effect, we openly burned 1000 flags and were an important part of the effort that
resulted in getting the law overthrown. I am proud to have been a part of that battle and to be one of those who put a
to this fascist attack on the ideals of freedom and democracy that the people of this country hold dear. Back then,
while I considered myself 'savvy' to international events, I did not understand the real role that patriotism plays in preventing
peace. But the times have changed and I with them.
Since September 11th, the U.S. has been waging a war against the
people of the world under the aegis of fighting terrorism. George "War is My Middle Name" Bush reveals his definition of a
terrorist when he declares, "You are either with us or with the terrorists!" Attacks on civil and legal rights like the USA
PATRIOT Act and Bush's war on Immigrants are raising the stakes and dividing the country. As with his definition of terrorist,
he is making patriotism a dividing line. By defining both who is a terrorist and who is a patriot, this government hopes to
overwhelm any protest and to steamroll opposition to its plans.
By labeling who is a terrorist and-by implication who
is not-the government can equate anti-war with terrorist, with traitor, with enemy. Then laws to protect us from terrorists
will make opposition to their war illegal and they will round people up, turning the country into one large concentration
camp. Fantastic? It has happened before, and is now happening quietly to thousands of non-citizens and citizens across the
The hallmark of the days in which we live is a sea of change where our rights
are sacrificed at the altar of Security. Again, like a generation ago, we must be patriotic in order to not be labeled traitors.
For a government to be able to go to war it needs a willing populace, or a controlled one at the least. Patriotism, and loyalty
to this government, will lead us like docile cattle down the road to an Orwellian future which the imperialists have in store.
So the people who say that "Peace is Patriotic"-among whom I count many veterans-are going to be in a real bind as
the definition of patriotism becomes redefined. First it's patriotic to stand tall against an evil dude and his weapons of
mass destruction and liberate the people. Then it gets redefined so that it's patriotic to "support our troops" because we
are at war. Finally, it becomes patriotic to give up
your rights and freedoms so that the government can protect
them. Following patriotism will lead us, like it did the German people in the 20s and 30s, into a hell of our own government's
Within the patriotism issue are two important aspects that we need to understand in order to see the role of
patriotism. One is the "Support the Troops" motto and its imagery of yellow ribbons. The other is the belief that soldiers
can never refuse orders.
The call to "Support our Troops" targets the citizenry, you and I, and it holds our loved
ones in the military hostage to gain our support for war. It uses our love and concern for our loved ones in the military
to lure us into believing that the only way to ensure their safety is to support yet another 'all-out war' for someone else's
money. Never mind who put them in harms way in the first place by starting a war. Never mind who harms them with experimental
drugs and the horror of depleted uranium weapons. Our feelings for our loved ones are used to redefine the terms of the debate
and to drag us along for the ride by our heartstrings. Once the war starts we must "support our troops."
is the line that a soldier cannot refuse orders. Some veterans have told us that if the troops disobey they will endanger
the lives of the other troops with whom they are in battle. Another variant of this is that the person in the military signed
a contract and has no recourse. There are other reasons. Always more reasons. The argument holds that it is the military's
place to decide and the soldier's duty to follow: That a person is legally bound and duty bound to follow orders unquestioningly
once the uniform is donned.
But international law and precedents like the Nuremberg Principle, our world's recent history,
and respect for life, especially human life, all hold that blind obedience and misguided love for a flag are no defense when
a government wages an immoral, illegal, and unjust war or commits other crimes against humanity. Soldiers and citizens alike
owe their first allegiance to what is right.
Both of these positions are very emotional because they involve the lives
of our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our relatives and friends. But they lead us down the path of supporting
an unjust war. The government counts on our emotion to obscure the real issues and to inspire a knee-jerk response in support
of the war. "Never mind the reasons for the war, our troops are in danger and they need your support," we are told. "If you
don't support the troops you must be un-American."
Like Jensen, I believe that it is no longer possible to be patriotic
to this government, to both wave its flag and to be for peace. It is no longer possible, if it ever was, to redeem patriotism
or to wash the blood out of the flag. The times call for something more. They call for internationalism. Internationalism
is taking the ideals of freedom and democracy we hold dear and applying them not only to the people of this country, but to
the people of all countries.
Embracing Internationalism is understanding that the world is divided into the haves and
the have-nots. Further, it is realizing that one has more in common with the have-nots-who constitute the vast majority of
other human beings who walk this earth-than with the narrow, wealthy interests that drive nations to war for gain-the imperialists!
Internationalism is about wanting peace-real peace-not the kind imposed at the muzzle of an assault rifle manufactured in
Texas. Internationalism is about honoring and respecting humanity.
Real peace will not be possible with people barricaded
behind the walls and borders that patriotism erects around a country. One of the wonderful things about humans going into
space is that we can see the earth as it really is, not as humans have portrayed it with artificially drawn borders. Those
borders, and the patriotism within them, hide the real division that exists in the world-the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
If any gulf war needs fighting, it is this one. Patriotism and demands for blind loyalty keep the have-nots fighting among
ourselves while the wealthy few provoke and manipulate us. Internationalism unites us and shows us the way to lasting peace
and justice for all
But we must not be fooled into thinking that somehow doing the right thing will be easy.
No, it often comes at a great price; prison, beatings, loss of jobs and even death. A quick look at the history will confirm
that. During the civil rights of the 50s and 60s many were jailed and too many were killed for daring to stand for equality.
The anti-war movements during both the Vietnam and the first Gulf War saw soldiers sent to prison for refusing to deploy and
for disobeying orders. But what is the alternative? Do we really want to be the good Germans of our time?
Call to Conscience to Active Duty Troops and Reservists
ends as follows: "If the people of the world
are ever to be free, there must come a time when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the soldier of a
What does it mean to be a citizen of the world? It means looking at the people of the world as brothers and
sisters. It means that those in the military must look beyond lies and deceit, cast off their blinders of "just following
orders" and act as people of conscience, in unity with humanity. It means we all must look past the borders of countries and
emotional patriotism and, instead, act as a unified people of the world, as internationalists.