I served in the U.S. Air Force from 2000-2007. My AFSC was 3C0X1 (Communications computer systems operator). My highest rank was E-5 (Staff Sergeant), and I received an honorable discharge. I separated, because I realized 9 things about the military that would have kept me from joining in the first place if I had known them in 1999. None of these reasons are derogatory towards the troops. All of these reasons have to do with how the military treats the troops unethically. The purpose of this essay isn’t to defame servicemen and women. The purpose is to raise awareness of how the military system treats people and forewarn new recruits that they’re signing up to be treated unethically in at least 9 ways.
1. The military is a death cult that brainwashes you.
The military is painstakingly designed around the cult model, and the two biggest red flags that the military is a cult are its unethical indoctrination process and totalitarian, pyramid shaped caste system. Other warning signs are the use of an inside language, in-group symbols, rituals, in-group socializing, constantly telling you that the military is your family, convincing you that military history is your history and other tactics that convince you to base your identity and purpose in life primarily on the military. Individually these practices aren’t necessarily sinister, but the military goes to extreme lengths to use every trick in the book every day to convince its members to base their identity on the in-group and devote their life to it. That’s what cults do, and the military does it better than anyone.
I’m not saying this to attack the troops. I’m not saying, “You suck because you’re a brainwashed slave in a cult.” I’m saying this to raise objection to the military using unethical brainwashing techniques on its troops. This is a human rights violation on a mass scale, and the only reason the military isn’t shut down by the police for operating a death cult is because the military operates outside the law.
2. You’ll kill and possibly die to defend the very ideals you swore to fight against.
There’s no country in the world that wants to take away America’s freedoms. The only people in the world who want to take away Americans’ freedoms are the very politicians who every active duty soldier swears an oath of allegiance to, and they’ve been very successful at it, especially since September 11th, 2001.
America is no longer the land of the free, and it’s also no longer a representative democracy. It’s a corportocracy controlled by the rich, for the rich. America doesn’t even defend democracy abroad. America is the only country actively toppling democracies. Look that up. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s common knowledge.
If you join the United States military you won’t fight for truth, justice or freedom. You’ll fight for a government that crushes public dissent and locks up more people than any other country in the world in a for-profit prison system that uses inmates as slave labor. You won’t fight for peace. You’ll fight for a country that commits human rights violations, spies on its own citizens and locks up whistle blowers while protecting war criminals. You’ll fight for a country that destabilizes weaker countries to allow multinational businesses to fleece them out of their natural resources and outsource jobs to their sweatshops. The American military might fight against terrorism, but it also engages in terrorism and creates more terrorists every time it kills innocent civilians, which is literally every day.
There are no serious foreign threats to America’s way of life. Possibly the biggest threat to the average American’s quality of life is America’s own industrial war complex, which directs billions of tax dollars every year to killing goat herders while America’s schools crumble from lack of funding.
If you support America’s military mission, you won’t make the world a better place. In the end, your noble sacrifices will make the world a worse place, but don’t take my word for it. If you want to know what America’s military stands for, ask the good people of Diego Garcia.
3. The military cares about you the same way a slave owner cares about his slaves.
The military will convince you to love it so much you’ll get military tattoos, wear military-themed civilian clothing and yell at anyone who criticizes the military, but the military doesn’t return that loyalty. Sure, the military gives its troops a lot of perks and bonuses, but like all other cults, the pampering stops the second you start questioning the organization. If you don’t drink the Koolaid you’ll get thrown out in the streets for “failure to conform.” If you breach the military’s puritanical code of ethics the military won’t hesitate to throw the book at you as hard as possible to make an example of you. The military also loves group punishments. Sooner or later you will be punished for something someone else did. Your superiors won’t care that it’s unfair. Group punishment dehumanizes you, conditions you to police your peers and reinforces the idea that higher ranking personnel wield total and unquestionable power over you. It’s a powerful psychological tool to keep you obedient and submissive.
4. You will lose almost all of your civil rights.
You will lose the right to free speech, the right to assembly (at least, the right to assemble with any group that opposes the agenda of the military). You’ll lose the right to work a second job at any business the military disagrees with. You’ll lose the right to enter businesses (including many night clubs) that the military disagrees with. You’ll lose the right to self-determination. You won’t be able to quit your job when you’ve reached the point where you hate it or disagree with it. Your home life will affect your work life. You can be demoted or even lose your job for legal trouble you get into on your private time. There will be limits to what kinds of tattoos you can get and where you can get them. There will be limits to what kind of piercings you can get and even what kind of civilian clothing you can wear on base. You can’t even make a private sex tape. You can theoretically go to jail for not doing a jumping jack, not buttoning your shirt, talking back to your boss, quitting your job, not taking your hat off when you go inside, not saluting the flag or walking on the grass. You can even get charged with destruction of government property for getting a sunburn on your day off.
Just to be safe, Article 134 or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that says pretty much anything you do can be considered against the law; someone in your chain of command just has to say that some thing you did was bad, and that makes it against the rules. See for yourself:
““Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.“”
You’ll lose many more rights listed in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that nobody will go out of their way to tell you about until after you’ve signed your soul away. And if you ever complain you’ll be told, “You knew exactly what you were getting into when you signed up.”
Individually, some of these points may seem trivial to you, but when you add them all up, the end result is that the government owns you completely. If you only want to do whatever the government allows you to, then you might not even notice your own loss of freedom and dignity. But if you do value your rights and freedom, and if you realize that the government you’re fighting for is holding a metaphorical gun to your head 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you might start feeling claustrophobic 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once you realize that you’re not fighting for anyone else’s freedoms and rights except the robber barons who own your corrupt politicians, the cost/benefit analysis of giving up your rights to a death cult that doesn’t care about you ceases to add up.
5. Your self-worth will become based on rank.
When you go through basic training you will be told that upon graduation you will become an adult. In fact, you will become more than an adult. You will become a member of the elite echelon of society. Your maturity and responsibility will make you superior to the petty, selfish, undisciplined civilian herd.
However, the reality of life in the military does not reflect the propaganda you will be fed in basic training. The reality of your day to day life is comparable to what you experienced in high school. Everyone in the ranks between E-1 to E-4 are treated like high school students. The ranks of E-5 and E-6 are treated like teachers, and E-7 to E-9 are treated like school administrators.
When you wear the bottom four ranks you will be treated like children. Your superiors will look down on you, talk down to you, bully you and rub their rank in your face. You will be made to do menial chores and do the bulk of the work. You will be punished severely for any and every infraction possible. You will even be punished for things you didn’t do wrong, and you will have very little recourse to fight this, because your worth is based on your rank, and your rank is that of a peon. When you reach the middle tier ranks you will finally be treated like a human being. Your job will mainly involve training the lower ranks and managing paperwork. You will be less accountable for your actions and will have comfortable leeway to bend the rules. When you reach the top tiers of the enlisted pyramid you will become a figure head. You will spend most of your days doing paperwork and giving speeches. Since there are very few people above you to hold you accountable, and all of those people are in your club, you will be almost unaccountable for your actions. You will have to seriously screw up to get in trouble.
The power dynamic between the officer corps and the enlisted corps is comparable to slave owners and slaves. The slave owners are treated like gods and literally dine on golden plates under golden chandeliers. They have total power over the lower class and destroy their underlings lives with the snap of a finger. They are trained to believe in their superiority and wear their arrogance on their sleeves. They are less accountable for their actions. They will get in far less trouble for committing the same crimes as enlisted troops if they get in trouble at all. Being an officer is a very good life to have… and a very immoral one. It is an obsolete class structure that degrades the value of the lives of the human beings who wear enlisted ranks and directly contradicts the ideal of human equality.
This is a strange way to live, but other than being degrading to the lowest ranking troops, it might not seem like a compelling reason not to join the military. What new recruits need to be aware of is that after you’ve been indoctrinated to base your identity on your rank, that indoctrination doesn’t always go away after you leave the military. If you spend 4 years as a low ranking enlisted troop and then separate, you’re likely to go back out into the real world with a subservient mindset. But If you spend 4 years as an officer and then separate, you’re likely to go back out into the real world believing the human population is divided into those who deserve to be obeyed/served and those who deserve to obey/serve, and you’re one of the gods among men who deserve to be obeyed and served. These delusions of grandeur may feel empowering, but they’re indoctrinated insanity, and leaders who think this way tend to act more like dictators than mentors.
Theoretically you’re supposed to get preference when applying for federal jobs. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. For all the other jobs out there, military experience can sometimes hurt your chances of getting a job because many civilians see veterans as dumb grunts who can’t think for themselves. Veterans can potentially suffer the irrational stigma that they’re unstable killers suffering from PTSD.
You won’t get much if any VA medical help unless you were injured while in the military or you retired through the military. Even then, the VA system is famous for being a nightmare. Don’t take my word for it. Visit a VA hospital before you join the military and see what you’re signing up for.
You can retire in 20 years, but a large portion of your paychecks in the military are made up of housing pay, Cost of living adjustments and other side benefits that you don’t pay taxes on. This looks great at the time, but your retirement pay is based on your taxable income. For enlisted troops this is only enough to live well on in the Philippines.
The MGI Bill has finally become usable, and it’s a really good deal. The VA will also vouch for the down payment on your house, which is a really, really good deal. But no matter how good the monetary benefits of joining the military are, it’s still all blood money.
7. Life in the military sucks…but don’t take my word for it.
8. Military culture is devolving into a maniacally politically correct, anal-retentive bureaucratic snow flake office Hell.
I’ll explain what life is like in the Air Force, and you can just subtract a few degrees for each of the other branches: Cussing at all is frowned up, and in a lot of offices it’s banned. The only kind of music you can listen to at work are Pop and Christian. You can’t make crude jokes. You can be court martialed for sexual harassment for saying the word “vagina.” There was a public service announcement commercial that ran on the Armed Forces Television Network at my first duty station that said, “You don’t have to do anything to be guilty of sexual harassment.” Literally. It literally said that. You can’t smoke anywhere but at isolated, designated smoking areas, and you can’t smoke at all on some bases. You can’t put your hands in your pockets. You can’t walk and talk on your cell phone. You can’t walk on the grass. You have to wear standard-issue reflective clothing when walking around at night. You’ll get yelled at for wearing any article of civilian clothing on base that you wouldn’t wear to church. You generally have to act like Ned Flanders or you’ll get yelled at for being unprofessional… and you can theoretically go to jail and have the rest of your life destroyed with a dishonorable discharge if you don’t.
There is some validity to these rules, but when you add all of them up (and the many others not mentioned) and continue to make more and more rules that force everyone to act like a neutered youth pastors, you create an environment that’s less like the adventure advertised on recruiting commercials and more like the embodiment of everything the movie “Office Space” was satirizing.
People who can’t conform to that standard end up leaving the military willingly or unwillingly. Those who act the most whitewashed and sanitized rise to the top. So that’s who you work for, and that’s who you work with. That’s the environment you eat, sleep and breathe in. If the puritanical lifestyle appeals to you, and you don’t mind being complicit in the deaths of hundreds of civilians every year then join the Air Force.
9. You’ll be indoctrinated with battered person syndrome.
“When Battered Person Syndrome (BPS) manifests as PTSD, it consists of the following symptoms: (a) re-experiencing the battering as if it were recurring even when it is not, (b) attempts to avoid the psychological impact of battering by avoiding activities, people, and emotions, (c) hyperarousal or hypervigilance, (d) disrupted interpersonal relationships, (e) body image distortion or other somatic concerns, and (f) sexuality and intimacy issues.
Additionally, repeated cycles of violence and reconciliation can result in the following beliefs and attitudes:
- The abused thinks that the violence was his or her fault.
- The abused has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
- The abused fears for his/her life and/or the lives of his/her children (if present).
- The abused has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.
The syndrome develops in response to a three-stage cycle found in domestic violence situations. First, tension builds in the relationship. Second, the abusive partner releases tension via violence while blaming the victim for having caused the violence. Third, the violent partner makes gestures of contrition. However, the partner does not find solutions to avoid another phase of tension building and release so the cycle repeats. The repetition of the violence despite the abuser’s attempts to “make nice” results in the abused partner feeling at fault for not preventing a repeat cycle of violence. However, since the victim is not at fault and the violence is internally driven by the abuser’s need to control, this self-blame results in feelings of helplessness rather than empowerment. The feeling of being both responsible for and helpless to stop the violence leads in turn to depression and passivity. This learned depression and passivity makes it difficult for the abused partner to marshal the resources and support system needed to leave.” (Source: Wikipedia)
This is how the military conditions you to see the world, except the military no longer physically beats the troops. They can accomplish the same result without leaving a physical mark by yelling, threatening, publicly shaming, imprisoning you, giving you horrible duties and paper work. If all else fails they can send you to remedial military training, which is an unambiguous form of brainwashing used by cults to re-orientate their victim’s identity on the in-group.
The end result is that you’ll feel guilty for breaking meaningless rules, and you’ll attack anyone else you see breaking meaningless rules. And any time anyone criticizes your masters or their agenda you’ll defend them to the death oblivious to the fact that you’re defending your abuser and attacking anyone who tries to free you from the abuser who has manipulated you into celebrating and defending your own oppression.
Note: The author of this blog received an honorable discharge after 7 years enlisted service in the U.S. Air Force.
Common criticisms of this blog post:
1. The military is not a cult! I served in the military and never knew anyone who was brainwashed!
There’s no point arguing whether or not the military is a cult without referencing a checklist of cult practices. Read any book on cults and brainwashing techniques. The more you know about cults, brainwashing techniques and military culture, customs and courtesies the more obvious it will be that the military is deliberately designed using every unethical mind control technique used by cults.
2. You were in the Air Force and never saw combat. So you don’t know what you’re talking about.
You can say I’m not a hero because I never saw combat, and I won’t argue with that. But my role in the military has no bearing on whether or not the military is a cult. It has no bearing on the fact that the United States government has consistently eliminated more and more rights of its citizens, spied on on its citizens, persecuted whistle blowers, knowingly killed civilians and committed deliberate war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are all facts that can be verified by anyone, even people who never served in the military or saw combat at all.
3. You were probably just a dirt bag Airman who wasn’t cut out for the military, and that’s why you’re bitter and wrong about everything.
I was a student leader (green rope) in tech school. I received many awards and squadron coins. I was told on many occasions that I was “a credit to myself and the United States Air Force.” I was frequently put in leadership positions above my pay grade. I wasn’t the most gung-ho super troop, but I was a model troop. So if you’re going to base the truth of my words on the quality of my character then you should believe what I have to say about the United States military. But you don’t have to take my word on anything. Do your own research, and you’ll find everything I’ve said here is true, and it still would be even if I was a dirt bag Airman, which I wasn’t.
4. All the questionable training methods and rules the military has are necessary, because they weed out the weak and prepare the strong for war. At worst, it’s a necessary evil, but it keeps you free. So enjoy your self-righteous freedom to whine on the internet while real men keep you safe.
No sane person would charge a beach under heavy gunfire, but somebody theoretically has to do it. So the military takes sane civilians and reprograms their minds to turn them into zealous, suicidal killers, and it does this using the exact same brainwashing techniques used by death cults. This is illegal to do to anyone else, and it’s still unethical when the U.S. government does it legally. I can accept that it requires extreme training techniques to prepare soldiers for the extreme stresses of war. What I can’t accept is the military lying to recruits, telling them basic training will turn them into self-actualized adults, when it’s specifically designed to break their sanity and take away their identity and free will. The problem here isn’t that I need to shut up and stop being a pussy. At the very least, the problem here is that the U.S. military should be more transparent.
The argument that misleading and brainwashing volunteers is a necessary evil that has to take place in order to keep the rest of the American population free, doesn’t apply when the American government keeps taking away its citizens’ freedom and privacy. Worse than that, it keeps passing more laws that make it harder for the poor to have a decent quality of life. If Americans were truly free, they would have the freedom to decide if they want their tax dollars spent on brainwashing soldiers or endless wars, but Americans don’t have that choice. They have to pay their taxes and fund the industrial war complex or go to jail. If they protest against it, they’ll be spied on, and if their protest is too successful, they’ll go to jail. People are free to criticize the government some times in some ways, but journalists who report criminal activity committed by the American government are routinely jailed. That’s not freedom of speech. That’s leeway of speech.
The problem isn’t that I don’t appreciate the sacrifices soldiers have made to protect my freedoms. The problem is that my freedoms are being whittled away despite the sacrifices of soldiers. If you support the troops, then you shouldn’t get mad at me for pointing out that the American government is systemically corrupt and manipulates its soldiers into believing they’re defending freedom when they’re really defending corruption. If you support the troops, then get mad at the government that’s making a mockery of its soldiers’ sacrifices.
5. I was in the military, and I enjoyed it. Plus I got paid well and learned valuable job skills. Hence, the military is good.
The fact that you enjoyed the military and got a lot out of it doesn’t change the fact that the military is a cult that treats its own troops in ways that are hands-down illegal to treat anyone else. The benefits any troops do get out of the military are still stained with the shame of the rights American citizens have lost and the blood of the civilians the American government has killed.
6. Anyone who criticizes the military is a pussy.
Calling someone you don’t agree with a pussy isn’t an argument. It’s a gut reaction. The topic of how the military industrial complex manipulates and uses the troops is too important to end with a gut reaction. If there’s any chance that anything I said here is true, it deserves serious, soul-searching thought. Refusing to consider opposing points of view isn’t brave or mature, and it doesn’t do the people whose freedoms you think you’re killing and dying for any favors.
7. I can’t believe what a crazy conspiracy theorist nut the author of this post is. His ideas are unbelievably wacko.
If you read through the comments on this post, you’ll see dozens of veterans and active duty service members saying that this post echos their experience, and I’ve received a lot of E-mails from veterans and active duty service members thanking me for articulating what they’ve been thinking but couldn’t say. It should worry you how so many people could come up with the exact same conspiracy theories. These ideas aren’t conspiracy theories. They’re the elephant in the room.
However you felt about this blog, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:
- The War Debt
- The military is a cult
- How and why military basic training brainwashes recruits
- 8 reasons not to join the united states military
- 4 reasons why American soldiers are as much victims as heroes
- You can support the UCMJ or the troops but not both
- Parallels between the Stanford prison experiment and student leaders in military tech school
- An overdue critique of the military caste system
- Objectively quantifying the heroism of the troops
- State of the Troops Address on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th
- An open letter to the U.S. military
- Lessons civilians can learn from the military
Whether you agree or disagree with me, I encourage you to leave a comment. I don’t censor people who disagree with me. However, if your comment includes personal attacks or insults, your comment will be deleted.