Chris Hedges – When Rory Fanning, a burly veteran who served in the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion and was deployed in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2004, appeared at the Donald Trump rally in Chicago last month he was wearing the top half of his combat fatigues. As he moved through the crowd, dozens of Trump supporters shouted greetings such as “Welcome home, brother” and “Thank you for your service.” Then came the protest that shut down the rally. Fanning, one of the demonstrators, pulled out a flag that read “Vets Against Racism, War and Empire.”
“Immediately someone threw a drink on me,” he said when I interviewed him on my teleSUR show, “Days of Revolt.” “I got hit from behind in the head three or four times. It was quite the switch, quite the pivot on me. Questioning the narrative, questioning Donald Trump’s narrative, and I was suddenly out of their good graces.”
Nationalists do not venerate veterans. They venerate veterans who read from the approved patriotic script. America is the greatest and most powerful country on earth. Those we fight are depraved barbarians. Our enemies deserve death. God is on our side. Victory is assured. Our soldiers and Marines are heroes. Deviate from this cant, no matter how many military tours you may have served, and you become despicable. The vaunted patriotism of the right wing is about self-worship. It is a raw lust for violence. It is blind subservience to the state. And it works to censor the reality of war.
“A lot of soldiers who’ve come back from war see themselves as anything but a hero,” Fanning said. “To throw that term around loosely is dangerous. It’s a way to manipulate soldiers. It buys their silence.”
“Soldiers are not encouraged to talk about the realities of war when they come back,” he said. “They’re labeled a hero or warrior. That’s a major problem. It leads to further seclusion, isolation with soldiers. We talk about the suicide rates amongst veterans—22 a day. It’s because we’re not allowed to talk about what we saw overseas, how unjust it was, how we feel like bullies. How many innocent people have been killed since 9/11? Throwing out words like ‘heroes’ does a disservice to the experience of veterans and all the innocent people that have been killed since then.”