On Typhoon Haiyan and Veterans Day

View of Typhoon Haiyan from the International Space Station. PHOTO: AP

View of Typhoon Haiyan from the International Space Station. PHOTO: AP

While I mean no disrespect towards veterans, I feel Veterans Day has become so archaic and obsolete it should no longer be observed. Veterans Day is an artifact of simpler times, when America was seen by the world as an honorable and benevolent country and when many still believed in “good wars”. However, the more historical truths are revealed over time, the more apparent it becomes that all wars are based on deception. This fact in no way diminishes the sacrifice and courage of those who enlisted and fought, though it adds a dimension of tragedy to realize the ideals many believed in were not necessarily those of the government and corporate interests that put them in jeopardy.

Because of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), anyone including U.S. citizens can potentially be declared an “enemy combatant”, tortured, detained indefinitely or killed. Everyone is now spied on by intelligence agencies such as the FBI, CIA and NSA. Because we are all treated by government as potential “enemy combatants” does that not also make everyone of a certain age “veterans” of a perpetual war?

The main reason I don’t feel a need to celebrate Veterans Day nor Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, is because I don’t believe in American exceptionalism. Every government would like their people to believe their country is exceptional in some way. Some might be better in some respects than others, but the danger of believing one’s country to be exceptional and superior is that it often misleads people to believe the lives of citizens of one particular nation to be of more inherent value than others. In this day and age, we need to understand that those who facilitate military-industrial agendas by killing or dominating others are objectively no better than armies and civilians of other countries. It’s true that veterans do deserve more appreciation from systems that benefit most from their actions (ie. government and corporations), but it makes little sense for average Americans, who are in many ways oppressed by those systems and treated similarly to enemies of the state, to applaud and celebrate the military. The true heroes are those who value all life and do the most to put a stop to the insanity: war resisters (including some current and former soldiers), whistleblowers, activists, independent journalists, freethinkers, etc.

That being said, the people we should be paying our respects to today are the ~10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. When Haiyan first hit the Philippines last Friday it was a maximum category 5 storm. Fortunately it has been weakening as it went over Vietnam earlier today and continues towards China. The following images from the UK’s Daily Mail online convey the scope of the devastation and suffering:

City of the dead: Dazed survivors survey the damaged houses in Tacloban city, Leyte province. At least 10,000 people are believed to have died there

City of the dead: Dazed survivors survey the damaged houses in Tacloban city, Leyte province. At least 10,000 people are believed to have died there

Force of nature: One of the many ships which have been swept into the Tacloban by the power of the typhoon

Force of nature: One of the many ships which have been swept into the Tacloban by the power of the typhoon

A Filipino father and his children wait for food relief outside their makeshift tent.

Desperate measures: A Filipino father and his children wait for food relief outside their makeshift tent. Survivors have foraged for food as supplies dwindled, with some uncovering the bodies of the dead

Trail of destruction: Those who escaped the awesome power of Haiyan now face a grim battle to rebuild their lives among the sprawling wreckages

Trail of destruction: Those who escaped the awesome power of Haiyan now face a grim battle to rebuild their lives among the sprawling wreckages

Survivors in Tacloban told reporters they are so desperate for food that they have been forced to loot shops and steal from the dead

Survivors in Tacloban told reporters they are so desperate for food that they have been forced to loot shops and steal from the dead

Action: President Benigno Aquino has deployed troops to the area in a bid to restore calm after Philipine Red Cross aid trucks were attacked by hungry mobs

Action: President Benigno Aquino has deployed troops to the area in a bid to restore calm after Philipine Red Cross aid trucks were attacked by hungry mobs

Aftermath: Resident gather in the remains of a structure in Tacloban. Those left homeless have been forced to plunder the houses belonging to the dead. One local councillor admitted he has stepped on corpses in a desperate bid to find food

Aftermath: Resident gather in the remains of a structure in Tacloban. Those left homeless have been forced to plunder the houses belonging to the dead. One local councillor admitted he has stepped on corpses in a desperate bid to find food saying: ‘If you have not eaten in three days, you do shameful things to survive’

Remains: Survivors have begun to rummage through the wreckages of houses in a bid to find food to feed their families

Remains: Survivors have begun find corpses as they rummage through the wreckages of houses in a bid to find food to feed their starving families

Making do: Survivors have been forced to forage for food and supplies after many homes were submerged by flood water and landslides

Making do: Survivors have been forced to forage for food and supplies after many homes were submerged by flood water and landslides

The Philippines president is considering introducing martial law in Tacloban city (pictured), where up to 10,000 people are feared dead, to enforce security after serious looting

The Philippines president is considering introducing martial law in Tacloban city (pictured), where up to 10,000 people are feared dead

Holy house: Churches in the storm torn city have become temporary aid centres offering washing facilities and handing out emergency food supplies

Holy house: Churches in the storm torn city have become temporary aid centres offering washing facilities and handing out emergency food supplies

Shelter from the storm: While the Catholic church in Tacloban has welcomed victims, many buildings have been broken into by desperate looters

Shelter from the storm: While the Catholic church in Tacloban has welcomed victims, many buildings have been broken into by desperate looters

This image taken by astronaut Karen L. Nyberg and released by NASA shows Super Typhoon Haiyan from the International Space Station yesterday

This image taken by astronaut Karen L. Nyberg and released by NASA shows Super Typhoon Haiyan from the International Space Station yesterday

Washing still hangs on the lines but dozens of bamboo houses have been flattened by the storm in Baladian in the municipality of Concepcion, Iloilo Province

Washing still hangs on the lines but dozens of bamboo houses have been flattened by the storm in Baladian in the municipality of Concepcion, Iloilo Province

Loss: A mother weeps beside the dead body of her son at a chapel in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban

Loss: A mother weeps beside the dead body of her son at a chapel in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban

A ship was washed ashore in the huge storm. Surging sea water strewed debris for miles and survivors said the devastation was like a tsunami

A ship was washed ashore in the huge storm. Surging sea water strewed debris for miles and survivors said the devastation was like a tsunami

The storm is one of the most powerful ever recorded

The storm is one of the most powerful ever recorded and huge waves swept away entire coastal villages and destroyed up to 80 per cent of the area in its path

More than 330,900 people were displaced and 4.3million 'affected' by the typhoon in 36 provinces, the U.N. has said

More than 330,900 people were displaced and 4.3million ‘affected’ by the typhoon in 36 provinces, the U.N. has said

Residents try to salvage belongings in Tacloban city, Leyte province.

Residents try to salvage belongings in Tacloban city, Leyte province. Rescuers have not even been able to contact some towns on the coast where the storm first hit

Villagers walk past a body of victim laying on a pier in the super typhoon devastated city of Tacloban, Leyte province

Villagers walk past a body of victim laying on a pier in the super typhoon devastated city of Tacloban, Leyte province

This afternoon, the Typhoon Haiyan - believed to be the strongest storm to ever hit land - made landfall in Sanya in south China's Hainan province.

This afternoon, Typhoon Haiyan – believed to be the strongest storm to ever hit land – made landfall in Sanya in south China’s Hainan province

Workers remove a tree that has fallen onto a car in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan after it struck Sanya

Workers remove a tree that fell onto a car during the deadly storm, which is the 30th typhoon to strike China this year

Vehicles move slowly by a fallen billboard in Sanya in south China's Hainan province

The typhoon is now making its way towards Vietnam and mainland China – with locals bracing themselves for the onslaught of the deadly typhoon

Heavy winds had already caused damage to China's Hainan island before the super typhoon made landfall this afternoon. Above, a billboard is blown over by the strong winds

Heavy winds had already caused damage to China’s Hainan island before the super typhoon made landfall. Above, a billboard is blown over by the strong winds

A man carries boxes of milk as he passes by ships washed ashore by enormous waves in Tacloban city, Leyte province

A man carries boxes of milk as he passes by ships washed ashore by enormous waves in Tacloban city, Leyte province

One survivor said the scenes of utter devastation caused by the typhoon was 'like the end of the world'

One survivor said the scenes of utter devastation caused by the typhoon was ‘like the end of the world’

Aid agencies have made emergency appeals for funds and are trying to reach survivors who are in desperate need of clean water and shelter

Aid agencies have made emergency appeals for funds and are trying to reach survivors who are in desperate need of clean water and shelter

Bodies still lie in the roads and thousands of homes lie destroyed near the fish port after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city

Bodies still lie in the roads and thousands of homes lie destroyed near the fish port after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city

This NASA MODIS Aqua satellite image shows what is possibly the strongest storm ever - Super Typhoon Haiyan

This NASA MODIS Aqua satellite image shows what is possibly the strongest storm ever – Super Typhoon Haiyan

Local and foreign medical teams prepare to board a Philippines air force C-130 transport plane in Manila

Local and foreign medical teams prepare to board a Philippines air force C-130 transport plane in Manila

Survivors walk towards the evacuation center to get relief goods after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines

Survivors walk towards the evacuation center to get relief goods after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines

City administrators in Tacloban said about 400 bodies have been collected so far but said the death toll in the city alone could be 10,000

City administrators in Tacloban said about 400 bodies have been collected so far but said the death toll in the city alone could be 10,000

A girl looks out from a makeshift shelter in Tacloban.

A girl looks out from a makeshift shelter in Tacloban. The World Food Programme said it was airlifting 40 tonnes of high-energy biscuits to the region

A woman holds her umbrella stands on debris of houses in Tacloban

A woman holds her umbrella stands on debris of houses in Tacloban. Millions of people are believed to have been ‘affected’ by the storm, including hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes

Children pull sacks of goods they recovered from abandoned stores as they go past the rubble of houses in Tacloban

Children pull sacks of goods they recovered from abandoned stores as they go past the rubble of houses in Tacloban

A woman mourns in front of her husband's dead body, which lies no the street under tarpaulin alongside other bodies

A woman mourns in front of her husband’s dead body, which lies no the street under tarpaulin alongside other bodies

An injured Filipino boy stand in front of the rubble of houses in Tacloban - destroyed by the typhoon that has left thousands of people dead

An injured Filipino boy stand in front of the rubble of houses in Tacloban – destroyed by the typhoon that has left thousands of people dead

A man with an injured leg is carried through the devastation of former residential roads in Tacloban

A man with an injured leg is carried through the devastation of former residential roads in Tacloban

Operation: A Vietnamese soldier carries a young girl from a lorry as villagers are evacuated to a safe place by the military

Operation: A Vietnamese soldier carries a young girl from a lorry as villagers are evacuated to a safe place by the military


Desolation: This heartbreaking picture shows an flattened area of Tacloban city covered by debris and flood water

Desolation: This picture shows an flattened area of the destroyed Tacloban city covered by debris and flood water

Flattened: A Filipino boy stands among the debris in Tacloban, Leyte province - one of the worst hit areas of Typhoon Haiyan

Flattened: A Filipino boy stands among the debris in Tacloban, Leyte – one of the worst areas hit by category five storm Typhoon Haiyan

Death: It has been estimated by the Red Cross that 1,000 of the 1,200 people killed by the typhoon were residents of Tacloban

Death: It has been estimated by the Red Cross that 1,000 of the 1,200 people killed by the typhoon were residents of Tacloban

Widespread: This picture shows acres of flooded rice fields in the Iloilo Province

Widespread: This picture shows acres of flooded rice fields in the Iloilo Province, another area devastated by the typhoon

Assistance: An elderly woman is evacuated from her home by Red Cross staff in Vietnam
Plans: The Vietnamese Government has started to evacuate more than 100,000 people from the path of Typhoon Haiyan, according to state media

Plans: An elderly woman is taken from her home in Danang, Vietnam, as the government begins to evacuate 100,000 people lying in the path of typhoon Haiyan

From above: An aerial view shows badly damaged houses, including many without a roof, and blocked roads in the Philippine province of Iloilo

From above: An aerial view shows badly damaged houses, including many without a roof, and blocked roads in the Philippine province of Iloilo

Residents return to their houses after leaving an evacuation site in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan
Residents sit outside their damaged house

Recovery: A child is lifted to safety from a house in Tacloban, left, and two residents sit on the pavement in front of their home in the same city, right

Flattened: The typhoon has ravaged most of the city of Tacloban and destroyed the airport

Flattened: The typhoon has ravaged most of the city of Tacloban and destroyed the airport

Ruins: A resident sifts through rubbish inside his home that has been flattened by 235mph winds in the devastated city of Tacloban

Ruins: A resident sifts through rubbish inside his ruined home, flattened by 235mph winds in the devastated city of Tacloban

Scale: This image shows Typhoon Haiyan taken by Astronaut Karen L. Nyberg aboard the Internatioal Space Station

Scale: This image shows the enormous Typhoon Haiyan taken by Astronaut Karen L. Nyberg aboard the Internatioal Space Station

Satellite: A picture posted on Twitter by NASA at 8.00pm GMT shows the centre of the moving across the South China Sea towards the coast of Vietnam

Satellite: A picture posted on Twitter by NASA at 8.00pm GMT shows the centre of the moving across the South China Sea towards the coast of Vietnam

Path: Once the typhoon has reached the coast of Vietnam it is expected to moved towards the capital, Hanoi, with parts of Laos and Cambodia also likely to be affected

Path: Once the typhoon has reached the coast of Vietnam it is expected to moved towards the capital, Hanoi, with parts of Laos and Cambodia also likely to be affected

 Typhoon Haiyan
A boy walks past the devastation brought about by powerful typhoon Haiyan at Tacloban city

Loss: A pregnant woman, left, walks around the remains of her home while a young boy, right, walks past a crushed car in the destroyed town of Tacloban

Biggest storm in history Typhoon Haiyan flattens Philippines

Bodies wrapped in blankets are placed inside a damaged chapel
A Filipino elderly woman views the recovered victims in the typhoon

Temporary: Bodies of victims lay in a deserted chapel in Tacloban. A woman and child, right, view the distressing scene

Flooding: Locals in Coron, Palawan walk among damaged buildings after the typhoon - the most powerful in three decades

Flooding: Locals in Coron, Palawan, walk among damaged buildings and flooded streets after the typhoon – one of the most powerful to ever hit land

Terrifying: Filipino children are seen in the city of Tacloban, Leyte. Behind them is a scene of devastation with homes flattened and debris lying in the street

Terrifying: Filipino children are seen in the city of Tacloban, Leyte. Behind them is a scene of devastation with homes flattened and debris lying in the street

Picking up the pieces: Some residents try to go about their daily business despite the large-scale destruction

Picking up the pieces: Some residents try to go about their daily business despite the large-scale destruction

Victim
 resident recover a body of a victim

Tragedy: Bodies of residents can be seen in the streets of Tacloban, while one local is forced to transport a body in a wheelbarrow

Collapsed: A resident walks past her destroyed home - flattened by piles of wood and branches from nearby trees - in Tacloban city

Collapsed: A resident walks past her destroyed home – flattened by piles of wood and branches from nearby trees – in Tacloban city

Workers: Local Red Cross staff place sand bags on the roof of a house in Danang, Vietnam

Workers: Local Red Cross staff place sand bags on the roof of a house in Danang, Vietnam

Debris: Helicopters hover over the damaged area of Tacloban city, which was battered with strong winds yesterday

Debris: Helicopters hover over the damaged area of Tacloban city, which was battered with strong winds yesterday

Victim: A resident walks past dead bodies that lie on the street in Tacloban city, Leyte province

Victim: A resident walks past dead bodies that lie on the street in Tacloban city, Leyte province

Under water: Residents wade through a flooded street in Mindoro, Philippines this morning following the typoon

Under water: Residents wade through a flooded street in Mindoro, Philippines this morning following the typoon

Pile up: Vehicles and rubbish are pictured strewn across a flooded street in Tacloban, Leyte

Pile up: Vehicles and rubbish are pictured strewn across a flooded street in Tacloban, Leyte

Upside down: A devastated airport in Tacloban city, Leyte province - where roofs were ripped on hundreds of houses

Upside down: A devastated airport in Tacloban city, Leyte province – where roofs were ripped on hundreds of houses

 Coron, Palawan
 Coron, Palawan

Shock: These two pictures show the devastation in Coron, Palawan where buildings have been flattened, left and right, leaving residents helplessly walking the streets.

‘We thought is was a Tsunami’ – panic as storm lashes Philippines

Space: A digital composite of Typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines, made using images captured at 1pm

Space: A digital composite of Typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines, made using images captured geostationary satellites of the Japan Meteorological Agency

Rebuilding their lives: Two men in Iloilo move some of their belongings through flood waters covering the streets

Rebuilding their lives: Two men in Iloilo move some of their belongings through flood waters covering the streets

Devastation: Debris which was washed in by the storm litters the road by the coastal village in Legazpi city. Residents now face a long clean up operation to repair the damage to their homes

Devastation: Debris which was washed in by the storm litters the road by the coastal village in Legazpi city. Residents now face a long clean up operation

No chance: A house is engulfed by the storm surge brought about by powerful typhoon Haiyan, many homes like it could not stand up to the force of the gales
A fisherman secures his wooden fishing boat along the sea wall amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the city of Legaspi, Albay province, south of Manila

Hanging on: A fisherman in Manila is forced to cling on to his equipment, left, while there was little hope for other less stable buildings in the storm’s path, right

Higher ground: Residents of Legaspi, Albay province, south of Manila resident, were forced to flee the coast as Haiyan continued to pound the sea wall today

Higher ground: Residents of Legaspi, Albay province, south of Manila resident, were forced to flee the coast as Haiyan continued to pound the sea wall today

Downpour: As well as strong winds, the typhoon brought with it torrential rain which caused landslides in rural parts of the country

Downpour: As well as strong winds, the typhoon brought with it torrential rain which caused landslides in rural parts of the country

Terrifying: Residents run for their lives as the terrible gusts of the typhoon rush buffet the popular tourist city of Cebu

Terrifying: Residents run for their lives as the terrible gusts of the typhoon buffet the popular tourist city of Cebu. Trees and roofs were torn off by the storm

Blocked: Residents clear the road in the island province of Cebu after a tree was toppled by strong winds during typhoon Haiyan

Blocked: Residents clear the road in the island province of Cebu after a tree was toppled by strong winds during typhoon Haiyan

TYPHOON HAIYAN aftermath: Two dead, thousands displaced

Aid effort: Volunteers pack relief goods inside a Department of Social Welfare and Development warehouse before shipping out to devastated provinces

Aid effort: Volunteers pack relief goods inside a Department of Social Welfare and Development warehouse before shipping out to devastated provinces

Shelter: Filipino residents sleep on the floor of a gymnasium turned into an evacuation center in Sorsogon City in the Bicol region

Shelter: Filipino residents sleep on the floor of a gymnasium turned into an evacuation center in Sorsogon City in the Bicol region

If you would like to help: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

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2 Responses to On Typhoon Haiyan and Veterans Day

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    These images of the Philippines are unbelievable. Surely they must have done something to provoke God and deserve this. Cue Pat Robertson…

    As for veterans, I’ll be sharing this later but this a moving ceremony of veterans giving up their medals in 2012 outside of the NATO summit in Chicago. Here’s a link if you haven’t seen it:

    • Thanks for for posting that video link. Those are the kind of warriors that America and the world needs today.
      It’s hard to imagine that John Kerry once participated in similar actions against the Vietnam War. Hopefully this generation won’t give up or be co-opted so easily and will continue to fight for real change.

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