The following first appeared on The Daily Call, May 25, 2015.
Then As Now: We Need To Mourn Our Own And All The Victims Of Our Wars
By Mark L. Taylor
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
you worker of treachery.
— Book of Psalms, c. 100 BC
The Daily Call (5/25/15)
A holiday like Memorial Day in an empire like the United States leaves a thinking person — anyone with any sense of history — with deeply mixed feelings. Today we will hear our political leaders spin out many a maudlin, sentimental, romanticized speech commemorating those who made the “ultimate sacrifice”. A little of what will be said may even be genuine.
It is gut wrenching to see the rows of tombstones and the orderly lists of names on various polished granite memorial walls and to contemplate the many young lives cut short in our largely useless wars and the agony of families left bereft. It is also hard to manage the anger as one contemplates the deep, sustained and multiple betrayals that led to these acres of memorials.
What we won’t hear anything about from these sober-faced sleaze goats with their brightly polished flag lapel pins is the corporate crookedness and political deceit underlying pretty much all of American military adventures. We won’t hear about the fact that most veterans have died not for the peace and democracy they honestly and bravely thought they were sent off to fight for but for corporate profits, to secure oil and minerals and to pump up the taxpayer funded earnings of the voracious military industrial complex Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a man who knew a thing or two about war, warned us about in his farewell address.
And certainly, the mainstream media, which is so firmly embedded up the rear end of the War Department it hasn’t seen sunlight since 1975, can’t be counted upon to peel away the patriotic pomp and plumb the depths of official criminal treachery.
Truly, the average Army private is better than and undeserving of pretty much all of the sociopaths, hypocrites and pirates driving corporate American foreign and military policy. This blood deceit is a bipartisan affair, from LBJ’s Tonkin Gulf lie to the serial lying of the Cheney/Bush cabal that plunged Iraq into the bowels of neocon hell and since let loose the hyenas of war to feast upon children across the Middle East.
Then as now
World War I has been on my mind a lot lately as I am burrowing though the last few chapters of Richard Drake’s excellent book “The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert LaFollette and U.S. Expansion”. Always a perceptive man of courage and conviction, LaFollotte was one of only a few U.S. senators to speak out against the entry of America into the war. Those who remember the war hysteria that gripped 90 percent of the nation as Cheney and Bush spun their lies about Iraq have a small sense of the red hot hatred that came LaFollette’s way. Then, as now, the media played it’s part in whipping up war fever, pumping out the lies, twisting the narrative and tarring even the mildest of criticism or the most logical question about the need for war with the charge of being unpatriotic.
It was the selling of the “need” to go to war in Europe, that created the modern public relations and advertising industry; essential to modern war and Fox News. Under the tutelage of Edward Bernays, the Wilson administration, through the brutal influence of the Creel Committee, and the “engineering of consent” turned the nation from anti-war to pro-war in a matter of months. Bernays’ 1928 book “Propaganda” later became the “how-to” manual for the Nazi rise to power; a bitter irony for the Jewish Bernays, nephew of Nazi refugee Sigmund Freud.
As Drake fully documents, LaFollette’s warnings about the war profiteers and the lust for empire were fully justified. Then as now, the American people were lied to by the government and media and manipulated into the stink and blood of war. Then as now, constitutional requirements were ground beneath the track treads of the corporate war profiteers and the banksters who funded them. Then as now, profitable new weapons and technology mechanized, streamlined and expanded war. Then as now, America was led by a brilliant academic faux liberal fluent at speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time who campaigned on peace then ginned up war and weaponry. Then as now, treachery, deceit and hypocrisy ruled from the White House to most every congressional office and newsroom.
Our very own Gov. Chickenhawk
Then as now, bullying chickenhawk politicians built careers calling for the children of others to go off and die for corporate profits. Then as now opportunistic charlatans ruled the day, which brings us to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who has been stoking the right wing fires with recycled Bush era tough talk about “preemptive war”.
“We’re not going to wait till they bring the fight to us. We’re going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil,” Walker, who never wore a uniform other than that of an Eagle Scout, tells the braying war crowd.
No word yet, of course, which branch of the military service Mr. Walker’s two military service age sons, Alex and Matt, have already volunteered for. Some ghost regiment like the phantom fighter squadron George W. Bush flew in, I’m guessing.
Broaden the memory
To be genuine in our honoring of our dead we need to expand the focus of Memorial Day. Not only are our soldiers the victim of so much of our national policies, so, too, are the many millions of innocent civilians killed, maimed, raped, traumatized and driven into refugee camps. They, too, should be remembered by all of us; even many of the soldiers we have killed; those caught up in defense against our mostly offensive wars of empire. We need to remember those secretly tortured at our secret black sites as well.
It’s not just our war dead we need to mourn today, it is also the squandered honor of our nation. If it is to be regained it will be by the actions of brave citizens. Fighting for your country is not limited to the battlefield. To begin we need first to recognize all who have fallen.
We also need to recognize what our true responsibility is. As the war came to a bloody, sputtering end and the peace process was corrupted, laying the seeds for the Second World War just as now our policies today create terror groups like Isis, LaFollette wrote:
“We have enough to do at present right here in the United States and are likely to have for some time to come in making living conditions more tolerable and in restoring peace and prosperity and self-government to our own people.”
Then as now.
Then as now.