The Sailor’s Creed: Smashing the Illusion

A 'Sailor's Creed' poster

The following was written by an anonymous March Forward! member who is a 2nd Class Petty Officer onboard a U.S. Navy submarine.

The Sailor’s Creed
“I am a United States Sailor.

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.

I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

I proudly serve my country's Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment. I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”

As an active duty, enlisted member of the U.S. Navy, I have had to recite the Sailor’s Creed, upon receiving the order from my superiors on numerous occasions. It is custom to stand up and snap to attention with a sense of pride and patriotism while reciting the Sailor’s Creed. However  I have always found the Creed to be not a source of pride, as it is for many of my fellow shipmates, but a constant reminder of how our imperialist polices have not helped build democracy around the world, but have in fact undermined true democracy wherever and whenever it was about to take root.

When we say we “defend freedom and democracy around the world,” as the Creed tries to cement in a young sailor’s mind, are we referring to U.S. support for democracy in places like Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Vietnam, and Iraq, just to name a few places? Were we defending democracy when the U.S. government attacked and undermined the popularly-elected Sandinista government? Were we defending democracy when the CIA overthrew democratically elected Allende,  attempted to assassinate Castro and successfully overthrew Mosaddegh in Iran? Were we defending democracy when U.S. imperialism waged war on the majority supported government in Vietnam? The list of popular, democratically elected governments overthrown by the U.S. military is quite long.

History shows that U.S. foreign policy is much less about “supporting democracy” than it is about placing in power puppet governments that are friendly towards U.S. business interests. The fact is that the U.S. government only accepts “democracy” if it obeys the dictates of Washington and Wall Street.

What happens when the population of another country finally decides that they are tired of being exploited and enacts democratic reforms to use their resources and the products of their labor to benefit themselves instead of some foreign investor’s portfolio? You can count on the U.S. war machine to rear its ugly head in response. Just look at Iraq, put on the “terrorism list” the day it nationalized its oil. Whenever a local population has the “insane” notion that their country’s wealth should benefit them instead of some Wall Street banker, the U.S. media will attempt to cast this “terrorist” or “socialist” country as an eternal threat to U.S. national security.

It is important to note that all of the so-called enemies that the U.S. identifies pose no real threat to our collective security. Instead they pose a threat to the profits of a very small portion of our population, and it happens that this small minority are the ones responsible for crafting U.S. foreign policy.

The U.S. Navy, and in fact all branches of the Armed Forces, do not “promote democracy” in any way whatsoever. The Armed Forces can better be seen as the apparatus that enforces Wall Street’s war against oppressed people asserting their independence.

As much as this short essay identifies the failings of the Sailor’s Creed to correspond to real U.S. foreign policy, it would be an error not to mention the factors that do determine U.S. foreign policy. It is well known, by those who read and understand history, that U.S. foreign policy is largely determined by the interests of the super-rich here in the United States. They benefit from these imperialist adventures. It is the rich who gain from war, while working class people are sent to die on their behalf.

Protecting United Fruit Company’s interests in Latin America is not in the interests of the Marine who is sent to kill or be killed. Occupying numerous countries in the Middle East is in the interest of companies like Halliburton and Exxon, not the service member’s interest. This is what U.S. foreign policy is reduced to when profit runs the show. The super-rich will continue to seek new markets, and will vigorously defend old markets in the most savage and brutal manner. They will send the young and poor, against their own class interest, to die for increased profits. The problem here is systemic, and the only remedy is true democracy.

I would like to propose a new “Sailor’s Creed.” A new creed that strips away the layers of propaganda and myth that has been planted in the minds of many young sailors. A new creed for a new ethics based on democracy and brotherhood:

"I am a United States Sailor.

I will support and defend the United States of America from the Wall Street bankers, their cronies in Congress, and the brutal system of exploitation.

I will obey the orders of those appointed over me only if the U.S. government  follows international and national law. When the U.S. government chooses to disobey international and national law, so will I choose to disobey the unlawful orders given to me by my superiors.

I no longer represent the imperialist spirit of the Navy and Department of Defense nor those who have gone before me to undermine democracy, drop bombs on innocent civilians, and fight for corporate interests around the world.

I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all, including those detained and tortured illegally by the U.S military and security establishment.”


get updates