Memorial Day 2013: Not for MY Freedom

"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. 

What a steaming crock of shit!  As George Carlin would say, fuck military glory.

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 a trillion dollars over 100,000 lives, most of them Iraqi, mainly 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. 

Oh, and one other thing: does anybody in Congress have the guts to draft a repeal of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, thereby legalizing cannabis?  That too would be a “sacrifice for freedom.”   As would phasing out the income tax and the IRS, now under scrutiny for politicical meedling once again. As libertarian writer Sheldon Richman said, “The income tax and the IRS are vile institutions that have no place in a free society.”.

“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 drives the "terrorists," aside from America's inability to quit invading their countries and getting involved in their civil and sectarian wars?  America's foreign policy is like prodding a vicious cobra with a stick.  The cobra is Islam.

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.

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Comment by Alan Perlman on May 29, 2013 at 11:16am

Dennis...The disagreement over the date of Jesus' birth is just one issue. There could be a whole range of beliefs on which martial partners agree to disagree.

In my last marriage, we were both ethnically Jewish and agreed on Humanistic Judaism, but there was a whole ocean of her New Age crap that I had to ignore for the sake of harmony.

Other factors were context and groupthink.  Almost all of our friends (her friends, actually) were New Age believers and practitioners of one sort or another.  Plus, there was enough anecdotal and pseudo-scientific evidence that some of it might be true (and enough affluence in the Chi. suburbs to indulge it -- google "Infinity Foundation," and you'll see what I mean), so I let it alone.  After I divorced her, my skepticism finally had room to grow and flourish.

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 28, 2013 at 5:20pm

Dennis, there are those of us who celebrate your lack of patriotism. I can't think of a more unhealthy life, being patriotic in a nation that has a history such as ours. So many people think, "my country, right or wrong"; that is a way a decent society degrades into hooligans.

The flag wavers really get on my nerves. What about those who live under the flag of Denmark, or Sweden, or Norway? They perceive government as an institution that takes care of people and protects the weak from the strong. They make sure children have proper nutrition and care, as well as their elderly. I wish you could see a pre-school or a retirement home in those countries.

They have industries that require well-trained, experiences, skilled trades people and none of that monkey business of finding cheaper workers. Both mother and father are given time off when a new baby arrives, and they expect to be able to care for their elderly and/or have help through government homes and old-folks residences. They have cradle to grave health care.

Sure, their taxes are high, but a tri-partite system of government, labor unions, and businesses pay for public education, all the way through to terminal degrees if they have a need for doctors or engineers, or other highly skills workers.  Education is not the responsibility of the family, the student has to qualify for advanced training, and there has to be a need for the skill. Otherwise, basic education is available for rich and poor, even life-long learning.  

On the down size, Sweden has a thriving munitions manufacturing industry, and they sell weapons to anyone who wants one/some. It is highly taxed, which relieves the need for public paid costs. But it adds to the weapons supply to an already weapons swamped Earth.  

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 28, 2013 at 5:02pm

I can remember as a very small child walking across town, over a ricketty wood bridge that floated down the river during spring run-off, and up a long, dusty road to the cemetery where my ancestors are buried. We carried buckets of water and wet newspaper wrapped flowers from Grandma's garden.  We were quite a rag-tag little parade, elderly, children, working people dressed up in our best Sunday school clothes, men dressed in suits, shirts and ties, and women dressed in their only good dress worn every Sunday, year after year. 

There were a few military flags floating over a few stones, but mostly, we put flowers on graves of relatives. My grandmothers' dead children required standing very quietly as we remembered their short lives. Tears were obligatory. 

The cemetery covered a wind swept hill deposited with Loess, the old Ice Age dust of brown clay blown in by westerly winds. The soil is rich with minerals from the ground up minerals in those ancient glaciers, and it makes incredibly rich soil for grains, lentils, and peas. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 28, 2013 at 4:48pm

Dennis, oh dear! Shutting up is one option. It pushes the topic under the rug, you have to walk on eggshells with that kind of debris beneath your feet, and the delusions continue on and on and on and on and on.

I know why you shut up. It is a rational thing to do. If you ever wonder if you have a dysfunctioal relationship, episodes such as that will give you an affirmative clue. 

I do wish you happiness and peace. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 28, 2013 at 4:44pm

Alan, you covered every point I needed, and used such compelling words and phrasing. I want my family and friends to read you piece on Facebook. May I put it on my Facebook page with attribution to you?

Comment by Michael Penn on May 28, 2013 at 1:45pm

I agree with you fully, Alan. My comments were just explaining what I see as a public explanation of certain holidays - this one being Memorial Day. More and more in this country it seems that meaning for any holiday is an individual belief. Nobody believes alike on holidays just as in religion.

Believe it or not, my wife was telling me just days ago how December 25th is Jesus' birthday. I said he had no recorded birthday and she insisted she was right! That was when I shut up. They believe what they want to, and you cannot win by arguing.

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 28, 2013 at 1:02pm

Dennis...I could never discover the connection between war and BBQ, but you may have hit it. 

Thanks for your comments on patriotism.

I am as strong a patriot as there is this country.  Because I love America, I do not want to see its youth and treasure gobbled up by the perpetual-war machine.  It is my patriotic duty to resist unnecessary wars made up by politicians.  

Comment by Michael Penn on May 28, 2013 at 8:03am

I'm ex- military. My step father doesn't think I'm very patriotic anymore. I tell him that's because I done my thing and now I'm done. Everyone barbeques  on Memorial Day. I imagine that several of our fighting soldiers got barbequed during their battles. Is that the significance? Maybe we are free to do a cookout coz others have fought and died. Could you have done the barbeque anyway without all of that? You have your own family members who may have fought and died, but you don't know any of the others. Now my step father tells me they have opened up this day for non-military people as well, and it's a day to remember your deceased loved ones nation wide. He tells me I should go to the cemetery and put flowers on my deceased mother's grave on Memorial Day. I'm sorry. My mother never wore combat boots. At the store buying the charcoal for the wife and I's barbeque, I saw one woman buying flowers. Was she going to a cemetery with flowers for a fallen military loved one, or just a relative who had died? We may never know. I find it strange how this holiday has changed in meaning for the public over the years.

Let's throw in one again for the "funeral protestors." They claim that God has withdrawn his support of America because of support and acceptance of gays. Therefore, God is killing our soldiers. What dipshits! When soldiers fight, some soldiers die. It's that simple.



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