Pence Tells Soldiers: Some of You Will Die for the Empire

VP predicts perpetual war at West Point graduation

“Back then, soldiers trained for war but didn’t necessarily expect to fight in one. …His casual assumption that today’s young graduates – most of whom were kindergarteners on 9/11 – will see combat in both ongoing and future wars reflects life in an increasingly militaristic and unhinged society”

Time was that a stint, or even a career, in the military did not necessarily translate into any serious combat duty. That may seem hard to believe eighteen years after 9/11, but this middle-aged middling major is just old enough to remember such a bygone era. As a cadet at West Point (2001-05), having joined the army just months before the September 11 attacks, most of my professors and tactical officers had never been to war.

The colonels had joined in the early 1980s and, at worst, saw limited combat in the petite (and absurd) conflicts in Panama and/or Grenada. The captains and majors commissioned in the early 1990s. As such, most just missed Persian Gulf War 1.0, a few deployed to Somalia or the Balkans, and most hadn’t seen the elephant at all.

Back then, soldiers trained for war but didn’t necessarily expect to fight in one. The Cold War, post-Vietnam army was built as much to contain America’s enemies, and to deter war, as it was to actually engage in combat. Those days seem charmingly quaint from the viewpoint of 2019. Indeed, when I entered the U.S. Military Academy on July 2, 2001, my expectation was to travel the world and maybe do some light peacekeeping in Bosnia or Kosovo, not to fight extended wars. How naive that seems now.

Instead I spent a career training for and deploying to wars across the Greater Middle East. Hell, that’s been the story of my entire generation of soldiers. When I graduated in 2005, this still seemed unique and profound. More than a decade later it’s simply the mundane way of things. So it was, this past week, that Vice President Mike Pence addressed the graduating class at West Point, and reminded them to prepare for ever more war.

The content of this bellicose, and banal, speech should have been remarkable; should have raised Americans’ collective “spidey-sense.” Instead, hardly anyone noticed that Pence, like a Punxsutawney groundhog, was veritably predicting many more years of winter (read: warfare). Still, the vice president’s oratory was disturbing on a number of levels.

First off, he bragged about President Trump’s absurd military budget and explained that the cadets should be honored to join “an Army that’s better equipped, better trained, and better supplied than any United States Army in the history of this country.” Evidence for such an assertion was glaringly absent, and none in the audience had the opportunity to ask why this unsurpassed army hasn’t won a single war in this century.

Also absent was any discussion of the tradeoffs inherent in ballooning defense spending, the opportunity costs of such largesse, or an explanation as to why the US spends more on its military than the next seven nations combined. And why should he have brought any of this up? Defense spending is politically popular; it’s the one type of public outlay that draws essentially no criticism.

Next, Pence engaged in some genuine truth-telling that revealed the nature of military service in a time of forever war. He informed the cadets that “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.” This should have been a controversial statement, an alarming prophecy of perpetual war. Only in 2019 that’s the norm for military members and their families. They should expect combat, because almost no mainstream political figures demonstrate the capacity or intent to reign in the American war machine.

Pence went further, though, and actually listed out where these newly minted officers should expect to fight. Sure he listed the usual suspects – “Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq” – so apparently the war on terror will roar on indefinitely. However, Pence also listed a few other places where the young officers will join “the fight,” including the “Korean peninsula,” the South China Sea, and Europe (against “an aggressive Russia”). Mind you, there are – as of yet – no actual shooting wars in any of these locales, thus labeling them ongoing “fights” is both provocative and irresponsible.

Nevertheless, the true surprise, and most distressing of all, was the VP’s casual assertion that “some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.” This was a clear reference to Venezuela, Washington’s stated policy of regime change there, and to the recent kick off of Cold War 2.0 with what John Bolton labeled the “troika of tyranny” – Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Never mind that not a single one of these tinpot tyrannies presents a significant threat to the US, Pence still gleefully paraded the old ghost, and villain, of “socialism.” It was all so 1980s!

Pence’s retro foreign policy, and outrageously pugnacious rhetoric befit the actions of an empire, not a republic. His casual assumption that today’s young graduates – most of whom were kindergarteners on 9/11 – will see combat in both ongoing and future wars reflects life in an increasingly militaristic and unhinged society. That such crazy is so routine is even more problematic.

The normalization of war can be just as detrimental to a republic as war itself. The barbarians are not at the gates, folks. War is not a foregone conclusion or a national necessity. Each successive occupant of the White House only needs you to believe that in order to centralize the power of an increasingly imperial presidency, stifle dissent, and chip away at what remains of civil liberties.

Seen in its proper context, Pence’s speech would have raised alarm bells in a healthy, functioning republic. But America in 2019 is far from that. Instead, the VP’s staggeringly absurd speech registered as barely a blip on the media’s 24-hour news cycle. After eighteen years of perpetual conflict, members of the military, and the populace at large, have grown immune to the inertia of war.

As such, the republic’s bleeding is internal, as American Democracy dies a slow, opaque death from the inside out. It may be too late to reverse course, and one wonders if a distracted and apathetic public even notices…

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army mayor.


  1. Mikhail Garchenko says

    Well, if that is the case, do something useful for us, and KILL YOURSELF, cretin..! 😛

  2. Séamus Ó Néill says

    Let me inform Danny Sjursen ,retired US army major ,that the greatest ” tinpot tyranny “on planet earth is the regime in which he served. Neither Cuba , Venezuela nor Nicaragua has created wars all over the planet to steal everyone else’s natural resources and murder hundreds of millions in the process. Take your drugged up mercenary “soldiers” and your thieving genocidal “army” back to your “exceptional” cesspit and leave everyone else alone….you are loathed and detested by all , feared by few and laughed at by many !

  3. skinner15 says

    This guy is a nutter, he believes in Rapture, a mental affliction where he believes that God is coming down to save him, and kill everyone else.

    He should be in a mental facility, but the patients there say he is as mad as two Donald Trumps.


      These “rapture” nuts are suicidal. Not only that, they like Pence are actively attempting to destroy America.


  4. JustPassingThrough says

    pitiful pence.
    what a disgrace to the office.
    what a disgrace to humanity.
    this boy should be back in IN slopping the pig(s).

  5. John C Carleton says

    Pence is an Israhell firster.

    Instead of American children dying doing war crimes for the benefit of the little Non Semitic crime cabal of Israhell, Russian Expat & Spawn Khazarian pedophiles, located in New Khazaria, Occupied Palestine, Americans need to hold Fair Common Law trials, for war crimes, pedophile, bribery, treason, followed by Fair Hangings, in Sodom and Gomorrah on the Potomac.

    Followed by blowing Tel Aviv into the history books!

    1. DarkEyes says

      Methinks, Pence is a traitor. What he is doing here is backstabbing his boss, Mr. Trump.

      Pence, the alleged traitor to his bos, is already on the Presidential Election tour only for Pence. Never trust somebody who is not loyal to his employer.

      West Point hotspot is an snobbish Kindergarden where kids from a certain age are learned in a sophisticated way how to play with guns, airplanes and aircraft carriers.

      After graduation more than half will go to one of the alphabet secret services.
      There they get extra courses how to “steal, cheat and lie”.

      Result of the finetuned kids: believing in perpetual wars, believing and this is the most satanic implantation, to let them believe it is all for their country.

      There is still room on Arlington field but not all of them can claim place, so hurry up with the perpetual wars, when space is gone it is gone.

      Pence is a disgrace to the American people.

  6. CHUCKMAN says

    “…the VP’s staggeringly absurd speech registered as barely a blip on the media’s 24-hour news cycle.’


    And a good measure of how corrupted American thinking has become.

    Chief in the minds of people like Pence is the notion that America is no longer unchallenged, number-one in the world.

    And the only way of dealing with that fact, unacceptable to them, is to to think of fighting.

    A bleak outlook indeed.

  7. silver749 says

    Pence, 58, has not served in the military. But he has talked emotionally about the Bronze Star his father earned.Says My life never took me into the armed forces, but I’m proud to say that my dad served in the United States Army. MMmmm. If that doesn’t say everything.

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