American Soldiers: Heroes or Victims?

By Arlen Grossman/ The Big Picture Report

“There was never a good war, or a bad peace.” — Benjamin Franklin

Clint Romesha was awarded the Medal of Honor Monday by President Obama, but with “mixed emotions” as he thought about his fallen American comrades in Afghanistan. As is typical in these situations, Romesha was repeatedly described as a “hero.” Sorry, I don’t buy it.

That same day there was a memorial service for legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, apparently killed by a mentally unbalanced fellow soldier he was trying to help. Kyle was honored as the military’s deadliest sniper, having killed at least 160 enemy soldiers in Iraq. The term “hero” was freely used for this extraordinary marksman. In this case, too, I don’t buy it.

I cannot accept the concept of “heroes” in combat. I cringe whenever soldiers are glorified, no matter the circumstances. In the words of Harry Patch, the last surviving  soldier of WWI, “War is organized murder, and nothing else.” There is nothing heroic about killing for your country, especially since World War II, our last legally declared war. Soldiers are victims for sure, but not heroes. There is nothing glorious about killing in wartime. War is senseless, stupid, and as William Tecumseh Sherman described it, “hell.”

I don’t doubt that Romesha and Kyle were exceptional and brave soldiers, and probably decent human beings.  But no soldier should be considered a hero when his accomplishments involve killing  “enemy combatants” who, when you come right down to it,  are defending their country from foreign attackers (Americans) in our country’s lastest destructive, unnecessary, and bogus war/occupation.


Let’s not perpetuate the myth that our soldiers are defending American soil or preserving our freedoms. Again, you have to go back to WWII for that. However brave those two decorated men and thousands of other American soldiers were, the fact that they were invading foreign countries primarily for the benefit of oil companies and other multinational corporations does not earn them the right to be called “heroes.” As former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan admitted in his memoir The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

You can make a case that invading Afghanistan was justified, as they were harboring the al-Qaeda that planned 9/11. But we quickly took care of al-Qaeda, and replaced the Taliban government. Does anybody know a good reason why we’ve been occupying that sorry country for the last decade? Afghanistan and Iraq are just two of many examples of wasted lives and bodies in American wars, interventions, and occupations since the Second World War.

And unfortunately, referring to soldiers as heroes only perpetuates what is indefensible, namely the glorification of war, the most ignoble of all human enterprises. When soldiers are portrayed as warriors to be honored and admired, it encourages recruitment of future soldiers and the waging of future unnecessary armed conflict. I prefer the old saying: “suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” That would be a dream and a goal worth pursuing. Exalting the young men and women going overseas and risking their lives, limbs, and minds to kill foreigners in our name for the benefit of America’s corporate economic interests is dangerous and immoral.

The soldiers involved in our overseas conflicts today– no matter their fate, no matter how brave and able–are really just victims, never heroes. They shouldn’t be going around the world helping build an empire. They should be coming home.

Also published at OpEdNews, February 16, 2013
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, foreign policy, Iraq, Iraq war, media, military, war and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to American Soldiers: Heroes or Victims?

  1. kateconsiders says:

    Just found your blog today through your quote quiz in the Herald. Excellent piece about not calling soldiers heroes. Signed up to be a follower of your blog. Looking forward to reading your work. I am a HUGE quotation person too, scouring the net daily for gems. I put one or two on my classroom board each class.

  2. You make a good case, but if it involves killing people in a foreign country, I would have a hard time calling a soldier a “hero.” “Brave” or a “great soldier” I can live with, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go. Bottom line, I just don’t like anything that glorifies the act of war, especially our illegal and immoral ones.

    • List of X says:

      I assume you were responding to my comment here…
      I am not glorifying war at all and I agree with you on that. But there are some actions that could be called heroic no matter where and by whom are performed. For example, a person running into a burning house to save a child would be a hero whether he were a passerby on a street in Nashville, or a solder of invading army in Kandahar,

      • How about this scenario, “List,”: Soldier of invading army sets fire to house, killing adults inside, but soldier runs in to save a child. Is he a hero? Gets tricky sometimes…..

        • List of X says:

          If it’s the same soldier, he would be a criminal whether he is part of invading army or this happens in the US. I think the same standards should apply.

          • I’m confused. First you said he is a hero, now you say he is a criminal. This hypothetical American soldier did his job, killed the “enemy” by burning down their house, and then saved the child. Why isn’t he a hero?

          • List of X says:

            Sorry if I weren’t clear. My hypothetical example was that a soldier runs into the house and saves a child – without setting fire to the house or killing others in the process. Being a part of invading army should not change anything, but being directly responsible for the fire would.

  3. Very well said Mr. Grossman. Once again you are right on point. Those unfortunate men who are duped into believing they are serving our country when they are sent overseas to commit murder on behalf of the empire are victims. They should be pitied and given psychological help, not glorified as heroes. Thanks again for your blog. It’s nice to know there are a few sane people with open eyes out there.

  4. List of X says:

    I agree with most of your points, but I think heroism is still possible even in unjustified war. Doing something brave far above and beyond one’s duty, like saving the lives of fellow soldiers or civilians should still count as heroic.
    Another problem is that a word “hero” had lost a lot of meaning, now that we even call sports stars “heroes”

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