I’m saying Americans don’t know enough about anything to have a well-informed opinion; this is all superficial. At the end of the day, yeah, we don’t like to get our asses kicked. We have a lot of national pride that’s based around the notion that we can kick anybody’s ass—we’re the biggest, baddest boys on the block. And in Iraq, we’re not winning, so a lot of Americans have their ruffles up. I guarantee you, had we invaded Iraq, had it gone easily—let’s say it went as easily as it appeared to go; we got rid of Saddam, we bring down the statue and peace and prosperity breaks out—there’d be a small, little element in the so-called anti-war movement; they’d be screaming about violation of law, etc. They’d be shouted down by the vast majority of Americans who would thump their chests with national pride and say, “No, we did the right thing. To hell with international law. We got rid of Saddam. We’ve instilled democracy. And it’s a good thing we did.”
Of course, things have gone sour, and now a lot of Americans are jumping on the bandwagon of “Hey, we shouldn’t have gone there.” But, again, at what point in time, I ask these newfound converts to the anti-war movement, did this become a bad war? See, that’s a key question people have to ask. I say it was a bad war the day we invaded Iraq, because it’s an illegal war. It’s totally out of keeping with my personal vision of what America stands for—you know, a nation of laws, the rule of law; we stand for individual freedoms and liberties and justice; we stand for the Bill of Rights; we stand for a whole bunch of things. But we don’t stand for planning and implementing wars of aggression.
I don’t think America represents a nation that embraces war crimes, and a lot of people were willing to sweep all this under the rug had we won, had we been victorious, which tells me that they have a superficial understanding of what the United States represents, or they don’t agree with what the United States represents and they have a new vision of what America should be—perhaps a global empire. Who knows.
I think you’ve said that you think Americans, by their nature, are violent.
What I said was that America, as a country, is addicted to war and violence. We have a national addiction to war and violence. I’ve also said we’ve devolved… into a nation—and as proud as I am of [spending] 12 years in the Marine Corps, and I love my military service, and I’m very proud of our armed forces—but they do not define us. They serve us, and they serve a larger cause. That’s why we take an oath when we join the military to uphold and defend the Constitution.
But today, pretty much the symbol of America is the military. That’s what many Americans use to define who we are and what we are. If you look at how the State Department has seen its position erode vis-à-vis its interface with the rest of the world, and how the Pentagon has become the preeminent ambassadorial representative around the world. It’s the military that’s taking the lead. M-1 tanks, F-15s, B-2s—these are the symbols of national pride. What an absurd situation to be in! I would have thought that the statue of liberty, the flag—so many other symbols out there that stand for the basic precepts of what this nation is—would be the symbols we would rally around, but it’s the military. And why? Because it’s reflective of the sad reality that America today is a society that has been militarized in so many ways, shapes and forms, staring from our economy, which has fallen into the military-industrial-complex trap that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about, all the way to our entertainment, where we glorify war on television and in the movie theater.
So few Americans today actually share the burden of service. When you have the vast majority of Americans who don’t know what military service is about, but glorifying it, again it shows that there’s a disconnect there—because those who serve in the military for damn sure don’t glorify war.
Monday, April 24, 2006
More from Scott Ridder
As promised, here's an interview with Ridder in San Diego CityBeat. Clip: