“To lead an uninstructed people to war is to throw them away.”
“Youth is the first victim of war; the first fruit of peace. It takes twenty years of peace or more to make a man; it takes only twenty seconds of war to destroy him.”
King Baudouin I of Belgium
Another Memorial Day, another orgy of mattress sales and of reveling in the glory of war and sacrifice for freedom.
For the government and the media to link war death with something glorious is to maintain a cultural propaganda system that has sent young men (and now women) to horrible fates…to hell and worse.
The newspapers carry stories of new kinds of head wounds in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and new facial disfigurements too, from the suicide bombs and other horrible explosive devices…of rising and unreported rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress syndrome in the military…of young men and women sent back again and again after their tour is supposedly up…and of glory and sacrifice for freedom.
Real sacrifice for freedom
Here’s an example of a real sacrifice for freedom: Congress drafts a resolution to indict Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Tenet, and the other architects of the made-up Iraq war. It will never happen. These SOBs squandered uncounted billions of daollars and over 100,000 lives, mostly to keep the oil flowing to our SUVs and NASCARS (3-4 miles/gallon). The country is too obedient.
Where are they now?
A recent Funny Times cartoon asks “Where are they now?”
Paul Wolfowitz (Iraq was “doable”) is now a “scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute. Douglas Feith, who told Dubya that Saddam was involved with al-Qaeda, is now at the Center for National Security Studies. Richard Perle (THAT’s the Perle who should have been beheaded), who doctored intel reports, is now at several think tanks. Liar and House Negro Colin Powell, with his vile little vial of tale salt, is still a hero, giving speeches (one at my corporation, platitudes and anecdotes; a whole event constructed around his availability!)…and, the cartoon concludes, 100,000 Iraqis were just living their lives…which are now over. Doesn’t regime change usually mean holding previous regimes responsible for criminal acts?
OK, I get it - so later leaders won’t do the same to you.
If Congressfolks actually stood up to the actions of war-making Presidents, they wouldn’t get reelected. But they would have done something for the freedom of the American people, the freedom to say NO to government and its criminal, manufactured wars that have nothing to do with our freedom.
“Fighting for your freedom”
Every time a military person tells me he/she is fighting for “your freedom,” I cringe. I almost weep inside for the misguided loyalty of this dedicated individual.
So much do I respect the sacrifice of this individual…that I cannot bear to tell him/her about the way politicians have for centuries coerced and manipulated young people into sacrificing their bodies and lives, always upping the incentive, but with the same bottom line: your body, your destiny, and your very life are now completely in someone else’s hands.
The chickenshit chicken-hawks who planned the Iraq War knew this and found convenient ways to avoid military service.
They knew that to serve in the military is, first and foremost, to put your body, mind, and fate in the hands of politicians. It is to put yourself on a path that may lead to a meat grinder, and you will end up as a blind, limbless, disfigured parody of your young and vigorous self…or as ground, charred meat, another pointless death, but with glory. They do such wonderful things with prostheses these days!
Immortal and invulnerable
It’s really sad that young people feel this sense of immortality and invulnerability. It makes them easy prey for recruiters and politicians with offers of cash/educational incentives, flashy uniforms (with ribbons and medals!) and explosive play toys.
If I had a young son or daughter who seemed intoxicated by visions of military glory, I’d make sure he/she saw all the pictures of facial disfigurements and new kinds of head wounds. I’d make sure he/she was fully informed on the rates of suicide, substance abuse, mental illness, and divorce among military personnel.
Perhaps it is not until they actually get into combat…do they realize that they could die that day…or their friends could die…or that they could be forever disabled or paralyzed…or eventually lose their minds because of what they have had to do and see. A friend admits he pissed himself the first time in combat.
Perhaps it does not dawn on them before that moment. If it did, there might be fewer volunteers.
Of all the wars that America has fought in my lifetime alone, only one – World War II – had anything to do with my freedom. (And Nicholson Baker, writing in Harper’s [”Why I’m a Pacifist,” May, 2011], argues that even the worst bloodshed of that war could have been avoided, had not rage and vengeance gripped and blinded the Allied nations.)
Mostly the wars had to do with politicians’ vanity; or their need to prove their toughness by sacrificing others (if it’s so necessary, why don’t THEY go?); or America’s wish to forcibly impose its will on other countries.
Even WWII could have been avoided (per Milton Friedman) via the appropriate economic measures, including not humiliating and bankrupting Germany after WWI. Instead, 50 MILLION people died (at one point, 15,000 A DAY) and an entire continent (and ANOTHER generation of young people) was destroyed.
Squandering human blood and treasure
War is not only the failure of governments to settle their differences peaceably, as sad as that is. War also represents (mostly) old people’s (mostly men’s) decisions that peace cannot be achieved and that young men and women should suffer and die. All of us must pay for the old people’s pretensions, politics, and failures.
And it’s not just men. Madeleine Albright once told Colin Powell, “You have such a magnificent military! Why don’t you use it?” What is history, asks economist and historian Thomas Sowell, but a tale of “how politicians have squandered human blood and treasure?”
The sad fact is that most of the horrible agony and death of the people we mourn and thank on Memorial Day was and is unnecessary.
Historians may debate the choice and necessity involved in various wars, but apart from the big ones (my personal favorite for “most lives lost to politicians’ ego and vanity” was World War I), America has a history of dozens of foreign interventions based on greed for land, global politicking, or worst of all, politicians’ self-image and manhood (LBJ’s testosterone alone caused tens of thousands of American lives in Viet Nam).
Phony war, real blood
The current wars are no exception. Pre-emptive war - what bullshit. Who’s going to attack America? They should change the Pentagon’s name back to “Department of War,” because that’s what it is, though I wish it really were the “Department of Defense.”
A failed, totalitarian state like Iraq (and there are other such throughout the world) was not in and of itself a danger to the US. Absent clear and present danger, there was no need to start this war. And since the politicians’ adolescent vanity was involved — and Obama will be VERY careful about withdrawal in any way that suggests “surrender” — Americans and uncounted thousands of others, will continue to die unnecessarily till we actually get out.
New face; it’s about RELIGION
All this as terrorism assumes a new face - no longer the massively planned 9/11, but a series of random attacks by radicalized young psychotics.
Which leads to the last piece of the “war on” something gimmick. What are we at war with? Not terror or extremism. Too vague. We face a vicious meme, an insane ideology that promises paradise in return for suicide and mass murder.
Let us call it by its correct name: it is a RELIGION that invests young people in ignorance and sacrifices them to fantasy. Let ANY political leader call out the real enemy: religion. Nah, then he’d have to admit his own is also a crock of shit. So religion gets to be the elephant in the parlor, the unmentioned cause of all the misery (Shi’ites and Sunnis — does anybody know the difference? — killing each other in large numbers in Irag and Syria, no surprise there).
James Madison said that “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Don’t tell me that times have changed since Madison…or that his statement no longer applies. We still have vain, stupid politicians who are willing, even eager, to send young people to suffer and die. We get Muslim terrorists in Boston and London in reprisal for our meddling and arrogant militarism. This is the other truth politicians won’t face.
On Memorial Day, let us remember those who have sacrificed themselves for our country – but let us not forget why they did so.