On this forthcoming 2021 Veterans Day, here is a question for flag-waving politicians and others who claim veterans are defending our freedoms:

How did the U.S. freedoms and privileges that you claim veterans are protecting get into Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Panama, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and other far-off corners of the globe? These are a few of the places that U.S. troops have been deployed since World War II. If there is college free tuition in Afghanistan, I would like to get it back. If Vietnam, having as of early November 2021 only 22,000 COVID-19 fatalities, has the U.S. universal health-care system, please have them return it; COD is fine.

It is correct to point out that veterans risk their lives to support the country’s foreign-policy objectives as defined by its elected leaders. Added to those risks are the prevalence of homelessness, substance abuse, suicides and the inherent separation of families.

But acknowledging the risks that veterans face is mutually exclusive from accepting without question that U.S. foreign policy is a morally righteous, let alone successful (for veterans and not corporate elites), endeavor.

As the Pentagon Papers revealed in 1967, Afghanistan papers revealed in 2019, the Afghanistan war was unwinnable and policy-makers know/have known this. Yet in U.S. election cycles foreign policy and the critique of empire is rarely, if ever, brought up by any of the political candidates. Further, President Biden’s foreign policy team has been equally belligerent as that of President Trump. Putting veterans on pedestals on so many national holidays is exploitation to rationalize and continue a U.S. empire, and a foreign policy that benefits corporate and political elites at the expense of not just veterans but their families and communities.

If the country spent its resources on a universal health-care system, education and infrastructure, veterans, their loved ones and their communities would be taken care of more than by sending soldiers off to fight in wars for empire. The military has become a back-door draft for a population seeking health care, education and a living wage.

It is correct to point out the history of Nov. 11 as Armistice Day and to recognize that in 1954 when President Eisenhower changed the name from Armistice to Veterans Day, he called for a rededication to peace. Any dedication to peace is long overdue; while we’re at it, let’s change the holiday’s name back to Armistice Day.