Endless War, Endless Con

Memorial Day again.

Yesterday I saw a piece on TV about staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, the first U.S. soldier since Vietnam to get the Medal of Honor while he was still alive. You usually get that one when you’re dead. Sergeant Giunta did some insane heroic stuff in Afghanistan, rescued a couple of guys who were certain to be killed, got shot himself and made it out alive.

This morning I saw the President make a speech about our brave fighting men and women. Obama stood in front of a flag and intoned the same old cliches that must be intoned every year, how they willingly went and got killed to preserve our freedom, and how more people had to be ready to do the same, or else the last bunch would have died in vain. I had to stop watching and go to work, but I would bet that the rest of the television day was all patriotism all the time, except for the soaps and reruns of George Lopez.Battle-Scene

If you’re reading here you might already know what I think about all this. I think it’s bullshit. Sergeant Giunta will almost certainly now be against war. He will tell anyone who’ll listen that he’s not a hero, that war is a brutal horror that does not lead to glory. And then in about 18 years, he will send his son off to fight, to kill, and maybe get killed.

I’m sad that it has taken me so long to recognize this pathetic truth, that we humans can’t get along, that our veneer of civility is so thin it barely hides the hatred and the violence in our hearts. That the bully always wins.

As I was growing up I watched my father relive the atrocities of World War 2, and I still shudder to think of what it did to him. As a young man I came to understand that the war in Vietnam was a sham, built on the ridiculous premise that somehow by destroying that beautiful little country and terrorizing its people we were stopping the international communist menace. It was laughable except for the real deaths and maimings that happened all day every day for years. When our protests finally forced the government to abandon that war, I thought we had won a lasting peace, that the nation had learned a lesson. Some joke.

Of course millions more have died and been injured since then. Every generation allows itself to be conned into believing that we must fight one more war, one more defense of our way of life. We know it is wrong and it will be horrible, we tell ourselves, but this time it is necessary, because our freedom is threatened, our honor is challenged, and we must not let the memory of our dead heroes be defiled. And so each generation repeats the stupidity.

The soldiers don’t realize it, but they are not fighting to protect our freedom. They are giving up their lives and their limbs and their brains to protect our oil companies and to enrich our arms dealers. I’m not saying they’re not brave or worthy of respect, or that they never accomplish anything good. I’m saying they’ve been conned, and they don’t know what they’re doing.

Moms and dads of America, how do you teach your little ones not to touch a hot stove? Do you let them touch it and burn themselves? Or do you advise them in the strongest possible way never, ever to put their precious little hands on the hot metal?

You know the danger, and they don’t. You should tell them.

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5 Replies to “Endless War, Endless Con”

  1. Really well said, Larry. And I agree with every word.

    I watched 60 Minutes, too, Sunday night. Did you see the story after the Giunta story? (He was an awesome guy, by the way) When the fire fight broke out on the Pakistan border and they had to get Laura Logan hustled back into the tank for cover? The Americans “won” that battle. They were high fiving and happy. They figured they had killed at least 15 bad guys.

    It seemed so pointless to me. What difference did that make? Does it make now? That there was a horrendous gun battle so far away and people died and now… what? Can’t stop thinking about the futility of that whole scene.

    Blue Kid explained they were fighting for each other. That’s the only thing that mattered. That and that none of them were injured.

    The whole lousy mess is so sad to me.

    I should add pointing this out and feeling bad about it doesn’t mean I think they’re (the Americans) are bad guys. I just think the war games are such a waste… of so much. And so pointless.

  2. This is exactly how I feel. I was lucky enough to get a high draft number back in the early 70s, or I would have ended up in VietNam…what makes me sick is there are some 58,000 dead servicemen because of that war, and now we promote VietNam as a vacation destination!
    I am torn, because I don’t want to seem unpatriotic, and I appreciate what the service people do…(my dad was in world war 2) but we need to stay out of other countries business …….

  3. Blue Girl – Blue Kid’s explanation seems to me as good as any. Whatever it may have taken to get them signed up and shipped out, their reality is this: They are thousands of miles from home, isolated together in a camp and surrounded by people who want to kill them. In a situation like that, there must not be much beyond making sure you survive, except demonstrating toughness and brotherhood to each other.

    rogere53 – I struggle with the “unpatriotic” thing myself. Sometimes I feel alone. I am against war. I believe an intelligent species should be able to rise above it. I don’t say it should be easy, but rise above it we must. I don’t think that’s unpatriotic, but I am still shy about saying it in public.

  4. Larry,

    Any number of thought arose in me after reading your post.

    Patriotism? What’s that? Only in the minds of the demented is soldiering the main link to patriotism.. As far as I’m concerned, it means being a good person, being honest, working, paying taxes, voting, directly participating in a representative government, etc.

    Today’s military is all volunteer … If you choose the job of soldier … whatever happens to you, that’s part of your career path. Sorry if you’re wounded or killed … but that happens to coal miners, fire fighters, doctors, railroad workers, taxi drivers, bodega clerks, etc. and do they get medals, parades and free medical services for doing their job or doing it really well?

    We’re a Nation being swamped with reactive, ignorant fools … hence our political mess and the success of cretins, such as the Tea Party bunch. But beyond that, the general population accepts simplistic versions of national and global politics – based solely on what the media says. We have more knee-jerk reactions to global affairs than we have skeptics relying on facts and reasoned thought.

    War. Excluding wars by a Hitler or crazies controlling vast armies, war is another name for political failure … and we’ve a history of incompetent politicians mucking up pre-war hot button issues. Plus, we haven’t rebelled against the linkage of profiteering and war. And we’ve had way too many pompous fools, such as General Douglas MacArthur or General George Custer in power and mismanaging their commands.

    In general, anti-war people make the mistake of believing protest is their main tool. It isn’t. Walking the halls of government, lobbying, working with elected reps is far better methodology … or getting yourself elected is even better. And, the Vietnam War wasn’t ended because of protesters … the war ground to a halt because of other things.

  5. Bill – Thanks for your comment. Of course I agree with you. But I don’t think any true antiwar candidate can get elected any more. Willingness (eagerness?) to kill the “enemy” has become a litmus test in our elections. And you can lobby your representative all you want, but if you don’t have a huge “campaign contribution” in your back pocket all you will get for your efforts is a form letter and an eight by ten glossy. Serious attention is reserved for the big-bucks arms dealers.

    Americans are a belligerent bunch and easy prey for the “soft on terrorism” meme, making it unlikely that we will ever select a candidate who will work seriously for peace. Look how Obama is mocked as “apologizing for America” after his mild efforts to reach out internationally to nations and groups we do not understand.

    Or, as I like to say, we are fucked.

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