“In The Legions Lie The Power”

One nation under god point of gun

By Astra Navigo

An Insular Military…

“In legio recubo auctorita est” – an old Roman saying, and a bit of gallows-humor; toward the end of the empire, thinking Romans saw that the legions, far from being a loyal part of the governmental structure, had morphed into a power of their own – insular; bound to separate loyalties and increasingly separated from and disdainful of the civilians they were ostensibly sworn to protect.

The notion of ’empire’ had decayed to the simple understanding that if a legion could be deployed to protect a piece of ground, that ground was Rome. Everything else was ‘barbarian’. Often, the legions were feared more than the barbarians in remote provinces – in fact, large landowners simply employed barbarian levies to protect them – sometimes from the legions themselves. These large estates on the frontier became so self-sufficient that they turned away Roman tax collectors – and became the foundation for feudal Europe in the dark and middle ages.

While I’m sure some of you already know where this is going, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some recent history, as well.

In the early ’70’s, the United States made the fundamental decision to turn from a conscript-army to a volunteer force. What our leaders forgot – if they ever knew – was this: Volunteer forces carry within them a sickness of sorts – they are almost always drawn from working class conservative society, and as such do not reflect society as a whole. Nations which practice this process eliminate the stress of conscription (never popular), but they also run the risk of creating a military which lacks the values of the society as a whole.

This has never been so evident than it is today.

Evangelism and Fundamentalism – With An M-16 On Top…

Jeff Sharlet, a correspondent for Harper’s Magazine, puts it very well: “When Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in January, he inherited a military not just drained by a two-front war overseas but fighting a third battle on the home front, a subtle civil war over its own soul. On one side are the majority of military personnel, professionals who regardless of their faith or lack thereof simply want to get their jobs done; on the other is a small but powerful movement of Christian soldiers concentrated in the officer corps.”

He tells a story of a group of soldiers in Iraq, who spray-painted “Jesus Killed Mohammad” on the side of their BFV (Bradley Fighting Vehicle); of a U.S.A.F. Major General (the commandant of the Air Force Academy), who made the National Day of Prayer services at the academy exclusively Christian, and who openly tells evangelical cadets to ‘share the gospel’.

Christian-Air-Force

That all this flies in the face of both the UCMJ (that’s the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the U.S. Constitution should go without saying – that the military is not only left alone with these actions, but encouraged to do anything which ‘improves morale’ should be appalling to anyone with any degree of sense.

The military, up to this point, has operated outside of politics and religion, and with good reason – every nation which has allowed its military to engage in either has invariably wound up with people wearing uniforms running the country. Even the Romans had a law against it; their failure to uphold that law or live to that standard cost them their Republic.

Today, however, we’ve seen the military undergo a transformation – the past twenty years have drawn a generation, home-schooled by Fundamentalist parents – into its ranks; devoid of any real contact with ‘the world’ (defined as ‘anyone outside the Fundamentalist Christian community’) ; these children of the postmodern Christian era have donned their country’s uniform for very different reasons.

They Serve Themselves Who Take The Oath…

To them, it is not an obligation to national service – it’s a chance to prove to their friends, parents and older siblings that they are willing to ‘defend’ the America they were brought up to believe could exist again, under the right circumstances – an America devoid of the corrupting influences which have brought about its decay; an America where ‘God’ was first.

Drawing volunteers from regions which are predominantly rural and with extreme-Conservative Red State values, the current demographics are shocking when examined in the light of day.

While over 80% are self-identified as ‘Christian’, over 30% of America’s military self-identifies as ‘Fundamentalist Evangelical’. Muslims are one in four hundred. Jews are scarcer still, and at the bottom are the list are atheist/agnostic, at less than one half of one percent.

This was recently brought home to me in a conversation with someone online. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, with two tours in Iraq. I was asking him what he thought of the war. He was in favor of it – and thought that destroying Islam would be a good idea ‘while we were at it’.

It's Not Fascism When We Do It

I expressed horror at that idea – and he replied, “I didn’t put on the uniform for you. I put it on for me, and mine.”

It was very evident to me who ‘his’ people were – fellow Fundamentalist Evangelicals.

The U.S. Constitution – An Inconvenient Truth…

This attitude is reflected in the highest levels of the American military. The Officer’s Christian Fellowship (founded during WWII and concerned primarily with the spiritual well-being of military officers for several decades), recently stated that “…if Satan cannot succeed with threats from the outside, he will seek to destroy from within.” Today, the OCF views its mission as a twofold-objective: Bringing America ‘back to God’ – beginning with ensuring that the military is first converted, and converted to a Fundamentalist form of Christianity.

Civil Liberties - not using

Most believe that the notion of ‘separation of church and state’ doesn’t exist – and the senior officers are using America’s military academies as a means of spreading that gospel-of-a-revisionist-Constitution. Little mention of the First Amendment is made there – in fact, many senior officers either plead ignorance or confusion when the twin-concepts of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause are mentioned in conversation.

For the “God Soldiers”, a constitutional republic isn’t enough. They want a theocracy.

Aryans; Nazis; Fundies – All One Big, Happy Family…

There’s a malevolent side to this – far beyond the idea of an insular military which increasingly views Civilian America as The Enemy.

With the advent of the War on Terror, a segment of society which embraces Christianity and which dislikes Islam has found a new home – wearing the uniform of one of the four branches of the U.S. armed forces.

Recruiters have found that Aryans, neo-Nazis and other extremists are fertile ground for recruiting, even though the official stance is that these people are not suitable candidates. The military doesn’t escalate many investigations beyond the unit commander’s level – oftentimes a late-twentysomething captain whose biggest concern is maintaining a full complement of personnel, not worrying about the content of the individual’s character.

The increase in extremists in the military has shown up in places like Baghdad and Kabul, where Aryan Nations and anti-Arab/anti-Muslim graffiti have sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. Dealing with the problem is nearly impossible, with troop-strength the main concern. Militia movements are gaining ground in America for the first time since the ’90’s; steeped in the ‘God/guts/guns’ philosophy of the extreme right, they’ve drawn most of their new members from former American military personnel.

Connecting the Dots…

America is now in a dangerous position. Our military is now more aligned with extremist elements than with the majority of the country. Half the nation engages in outright-worship of the American Soldier; in fact, stating that you have reservations about the current conflicts in which we are engaged will garner you names – like ‘Obama-lover’, ‘libtard’, ‘socialist’, or worse. In my own case, I’ve been ‘asked’ – albeit politely – if I wouldn’t be happier living in another country, where the ‘belief-system more closely reflected my own.’

This sort of exclusionary-thinking is common to extremists of all stripes – it’s the sort of thing which sent people to camps and gas-chambers by the millions in Europe about seventy years ago, and that sort of thinking has taken root here in America – because, as they’re quick to point out – it’s not bad when we do it, and when ‘God’ tells us it’s all right.

One nation under god or bite my ass

The economy is circling the drain, and shows no real signs of stopping. The next 15 months are going to tell the tale; we’ll either fix it or we’ll have civil unrest like we haven’t seen since the American Civil War.

The military will then be in a position to take center-stage. They’re convinced that America has ‘strayed’ – and that it needs to be ‘taken back’, ostensibly to a time when everyone was a Christian, and where ‘Christian values’ were the standard by which America operated.

Their handmaidens, the half of America’s civilians which offer them adulation and worship, are all too willing to allow troops in the streets, if they’ll ‘restore America to greatness.’ That this has massive implications for the future of America and the rest of the world also goes without saying.

“A soldier without discipline is but a brigand,” said Marcus Aurelius. In the legions, lie the power.

_______________________________________

Reading:

The Crusade for a Christian Military (Jeff Sharlet; Harper’s Magazine – May; 2009)

Religion in the Military(‘Fault Lines’ – June; 2009 [YouTube video]

Return of the Militias (Southern Poverty Law Center – August; 2009)

A Few Bad Men (David Holthouse; Southern Poverty Law Center – July; 2006)

Dozens of Active-Duty Troops Found On Neo-Nazi Sites (Kevin Baron; Stars and Stripes – July; 2009)

Top Ten Ways To Convince Muslims We’re On A Religious Crusade (Chris Rodda; The Public Record – September; 2009)

About astranavigo

Astra is one of the clever monkeys occupying space on the Third Planet From The Sun. While it was an early wish of Astra's to be one of the first to go to Proxima Centauri, he knows this is not to be; instead, you can find him here (some of the time) using simple tools to create communication. Holding up a mirror and saying 'Looky! Mistofer Emperor! Y'ain't wearin' no clothes!" is but one of the services he provides here. Others are subverting prevailing wisdom, peeing in people's Cheerios, trashing on their Imaginary Friends (he does this a lot,) and shifting paradigms without benefit of a clutch. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he hopes he'll never have to learn the true meaning of some of his dystopian fiction.

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14 Comments on ““In The Legions Lie The Power””

  1. I am aware that this behavior is not only happening in the military but is being encouraged in some circles. But you have presented a more complete picture than I have read before.
    It is a modern day horror story. For those of us who value our freedoms, it is frightening beyond words. The one type of government I will never willingly live under is a theocracy run by these fundamentalist extremists.
    I am grateful to you Astra Navigo for your perspective on a serious situation.

  2. Thanks for your comment, David – I appreciate it.

    I’ve gotten offlines and hatemail for this one — the culture of soldier-worship is inured in the American psyche now; it’s more than a ‘let’s-set-things-right-from-Vietnam’ response — it’s a genuine adoration which is unhealthy in the the extreme.

    Now, think of what we’ll do with 100,000+ troops like this who are going to come home next year – to no jobs; no placement help; bad medical care – and a belief that ‘they’ (meaning, ‘the rest of America’) are actually to blame for their condition?

    They’re inured to the reason which governs; they’re insular in the extreme – and as we know, people with that mind-set are far too cavalier with the basic human and civil rights of ‘unbelievers’.

  3. I was born and raised in a military family and have seen some of this first-hand (particulary the hero-worship of soldiers) – and this kind of isolation from the rest of the culture disturbs me. While I find many individuals in the armed services to be honerable people, the willingness with which they respond to orders they would *never* obey from a civilian boss causes me to question whether or not they are the guardians of freedom that our government wants us to believe they are.

    All I have to say is that I’m glad that I have the legally-recognized right to amass an arsenal of own in case those troops wind up serving a master that has it out for me…

  4. Very clever graphics subtley attributed to some non-specific organized religious zealot group. Large numbers of “facts” based upon random observations fuel the inevitable jumps and leaps of specious inductive reasoning that make this one of the funniest paranoia fantasies I have ever read. If in fact there is any truth to your suppositions, one effective solution would be for you and your largely un-represented demographic to join the military yourselves – you know, balance that socio-political-religious hoard of zealots with your own presence. Noam Chomsky would be proud of your efforts to demean a whole segment of society which offends you.

  5. [QUOTE=ronbreen}… balance that socio-political-religious hoard of zealots with your own presence.[/QUOTE]

    Kinda hard to do that when you are heavily outnumbered by the zealots…

  6. Ron – while I’ll cheerfully admit that our ‘links’ section is broken, you can still copy-and-paste and do some of the additional provided reading which backs up what I’ve said here.

    Connecting the dots isn’t hard.

    That said, I’d love to see your side of things — just why are my conclusions ‘specious’, and why is this at all ‘funny’?

  7. In one of the last issues of the now defunct Omni magazine, which carried a more in depth analysis of our new future science than any other magazine before or since, they devoted an entire article to the new war; a future world centered almost entirely around urban warfare. The military branch of the government has devoted a great deal of its resources to the development of urban warfare technology, from electric shock weapons to poisonous gasses. It’s bred a military that specializes in the invasion of cities. A noticeable character trait among military minds is when they have new toys, they just can’t wait to use them.

    There are many psychological consequences involved with training minds to become killing machines. The experiences of hand to hand combat disturbed the emotional well-being of Vietnam war veterans for many years, even with the indoctrination of films and seminars designed to de-sensitize them. Among the more successfully indoctrinated, military men are right up there in the statistics of worst domestic violence offenders, along with police officers.

    America has spent a great deal of money on dictators in foreign countries as part of the applauded platform for raising democratic awareness and Christian integrity. By carrying this agenda to the home front, we might find a great deal of young men and women faced with the moral trauma of other military personnel conscripted into the army to fight their own country. Nothing was really quite as pathetic in Central America as the soldiers who signed into the military because the pay gave them a secure position. They were often ordered to shoot at people who had once been their friends and neighbors. It doesn’t take very long in this type of setting for morale to drop very low and the most energetic forces to be the fanatical groups whose main pleasure seem to be in blood letting and not any particular conviction of right and wrong, and of the blatantly mercenary soldier. I don’t think America, which watches war through remote control, is prepared for any of this.

  8. Karla, I’m not surprised at all that you ‘get’ this.

    America’s military, inured to inner-city fighting for at least two decades now, wouldn’t find it a difficult ‘reach’ to start shooting up downtown Philadelphia rather than downtown Baghdad. All it would take would be the ‘right kind’ of soldier (they already have them, in droves); the ‘right kind’ of officer (they have them, too), and the ‘right kind’ of circumstances (you can fill that in yourself).

    The other dirty secret – that the ones who stick around derive pleasure from bloodletting and are responsible for some of the worst acts of domestic-violence and other violent acts – is also something which isn’t discussed, but for which the evidence abounds.

    No; connecting the dots, it turns out, isn’t hard at all….

  9. I must say that by and large I am really happy with this web site. After reading your post I can tell you are educated about your writing. Looking forward to future posts. Thanks!

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