This year I decided to wait a bit to publish my thoughts on war and peace until the holiday was safely past. As our culture and our civilization teeters on the brink the insane rhetoric of empire becomes more strident, bellicose and more hostile to any signs of perceived disloyalty of dissent. This Memorial Day I chose to lend my voice to those patriotic vets opposed to the Afghan war who said, “Honor the dead; heal the wounded; end the war!” Many vets of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hurled their military medals in the direction of the hall where NATO was meeting in lieu of hurling them at the faces of their generals during the recent NATO summit in Chicago last May.
In services over graves across the land the speeches and prayers celebrated and attempted to memorialize “the sacrifices these brave men and women made to make us free.” The last time statements like these had any validity were following World War Two when our freedom, independence and lives really did hang in the balance.
Throughout my past I have always taken time to thank those WWII vets who fought the “Last Good War.” I don’t want to claim we were all that noble even in the Second World War. As in the cliché, all war is hell. The Allies however did set a new greatly degraded standard for measuring man’s indifference to man with the firebombing of Dresden and the mass murders at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Since then it has been a far different story. Our mindless, knee-jerk patriotism in support of whatever war-du-jour our leaders have lied and bumbled their way into is as shameful as it is disrespectful to the real heroes who literally saved the world from the imperial ambitions of Germany, Japan and Italy.
Let us focus on our most recent criminal enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is it possible for anyone to seriously argue that these two misadventures have done anything to make us secure as American citizens at home or in the world or to even help to create a more stable world? I realize it may be nearly impossible to argue these difficult issues with a consumer of Fox News or even a viewer of mainstream nightly newscasts. It probably requires no reminding of Ike’s warning of the danger of the military/industrial complex—but—who do you suppose is dominating the bombardment of daily news and information you receive about how our “War on Terrorism” is making us “safer” if not the corporations, the arms manufacturers and the Pentagon?
I mourn the death of every combatant on either side (our brave soldiers and the brave “terrorists”) as well as (especially) the “collateral damage” of all the countless innocent men, women and children we have nuked (depleted Uranium tipped ordinance), maimed, raped, tortured and killed.
The death of soldiers, men and women with so much future promise, in war is always tragic. It is doubly tragic when the wars they gave their lives to were so deeply wrong and so deceitfully conceived. I could never bring myself to tell the grieving family of one fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan the bitter truth: “Your soldier died for nothing—nothing except perhaps making us a little less free and to making the world less safe.” At those funerals I prefer to keep my own counsel. I wish more people were around to preach some hard moral and political reality to these brainwashed, hapless soldiers, their friends and families BEFORE they come home forever maimed in body and spirit—if they come home at all.
That is why I grow so weary of all the Memorial Day speeches about the “price of freedom” and how these newly fallen loved their country so that they gave “the last full measure…” Unless we cease salivating to the patriotic, Pavlovian War Bell they incessantly keep ringing in our ears and start examining the real reasons for our endless "War on Terror," we will never be democratic, free or safe. All these sentimental pro-war manipulations and the violent rhetoric have not been true for at least two generations now. Americans insult their intelligence and their patriotism and disgrace the memory of soldiers who really did sacrifice in WWII, by continuing to believe in such meaningless and dangerous platitudes. Under the rule of the One Per centers, our country and our duplicitous soldiers are now out to dominate and destroy the world in ways Hitler could only dream of.
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