Memorial Day: War’s Legacy

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Comment: On Memorial Day

Last Monday, the nation observed another Memorial Day.

With the country bogged down in a war of attrition in Iraq, the American people need to think long and hard about its legacy regarding war. For what do memorials mean if the bloody mistakes of history aren’t learned?

Memorial Day--once called Decoration Day--was first observed after the end of the Civil War. Waterloo, New York—once a part of the great Iroquois Indian Confederacy —was where the first Memorial Day was observed in 1866. The holiday was first meant to commemorate the Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War, then, after World War 1 it memorialized those who died in any military engagement.    

These days Memorial Day is looked upon as a day to remember fallen “heroes.” Politicians give addresses filled with platitudes, while preaching “patriotism”, sometimes, amid the backdrop of miles of tombstones. All of this is done to make the people feel good, while indoctrinating them into blind national obedience. Some, like George Bush talk about the “sacrifices” that the “brave” soldiers have made for the nation. However, what has this “president” and his “base” sacrificed?

For, while they brazenly use the treasury of the people like their personal ATM, soldiers still don’t have sufficient body armor. Moreover, they continue to swindle the soldiers and their family out of health services. Does any serious person think that the neglect of U.S. Servicemen exposed at Walter Reed is but an aberration?

Also, according to the Veterans Administration on any given night there are at least 200,000 homeless veterans. In recent years, the figures have been counted as high as 500,000. Is this how they “support the troops?”    
Many Americans have been taught that the wars started by their politicians are done in defense of “Democracy” and as acts of American benevolence. But does that sentiment really hold up under the scrutiny of history? No.

Since 1945 America has been involved in several military conflicts. There was North Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Somalia, Grenada, and so forth, along with two military operations in Iraq. In most of these cases the bogeyman excuse of fighting communism—terrorism is the 21st Century Red Scare—was used to a fever pitch to scare and incite the American people into supporting war.

American politicians seem to feel that they have the right to decide what forms of governments are acceptable around the world. This reality has led to tragic consequences where masses of innocent people, often women and children have been killed by bombs marked “Made In The U.S.A.”

For example, we know now with the results of the John HopkinsLancet Study, that the number of Iraqis that have been killed in this war-for-profit by the Bush White House far exceeds the “thirty thousand give or take” figure that Bush flippantly gave. In fact, the John Hopkins figures put it over half a million people. Many of whom, were no doubt just regular citizens trying to live their lives. But the humanity of the Iraqis is denied here, because their stories are largely omitted by American journalism.

After 9-11, Americans were asking “why do ‘they’ hate us?” Of course in classic denial mode the chant of “they hate us because of our freedoms” reverberated through the nation. Once again fantasy is sold as history, because, the truth is often much less than the noble tales many tell.

Some like to talk about America being largely a force for good in the world; but this is nothing more than empty rhetoric devoid of any historical basis. For America has always used her military might to protect imperial interests. And the rogues list of despots she has propped up and or protected in doing so reads like a who’s who of dictators: Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista, Guatemala’s Rios Mont, Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, Congo’s Mobutu, South Africa’s P.W. Botha, Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos, Indonesia’s Suharto, and the Saudi Royal Family, are but a fraction of these enemies of democracy that American foreign policy has shamelessly promoted.

At the present time the nation is mired in the quicksand that is Iraq. Last November, the people gave the Democrats a mandate by bouncing Republican after Republican from office. The people are obviously fed-up with this war. However, the Democrats have just given this Administration more money for the war.

This nation was embroiled in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975.  Nearly 60, 000 American soldiers lost their lives, with nearly a million Vietnamese casualties. Now a similar situation is unfolding in Iraq, because of arrogance and imperialistic greed.

What will it take for this country to realize that war isn’t a video game and that not only American lives matter? How many more have to die because of America’s romanticized view of war? Philosopher George Santayana once said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” America must ask herself why she refuses to own up to hers.


Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News's Editorial Board.

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