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How Americans are not observing Memorial Day PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Sunday, 30 May 2004 13:36
 When Ted Koppel announced plans to read the names of the soldiers who'd died so far in Iraq, the country's right erupted in righteous anger. The president has yet to attend any of the fallen soldiers' funerals, and media are strictly banned from covering the arriving caskets; a photo of 20 flag-draped coffins awaiting transport created another furor last month. The Pentagon is vastly undercounting its injured, and not counting Iraqi dead at all. Welcome to Memorial Day 2004, in which we are all supposed to focus o­n a new World War II memorial, and forget about the more unsavory war we're in right now.

The bloodless war

Observing Memorial Day during a war in which government doesn't

want us to think about death

Geov Parrish

WorkingForChange.com

05.28.04

 

"I hate war as o­nly a soldier who has lived it can,

only as o­ne who has seen its brutality, its futility,

its stupidity."

--Dwight Eisenhower

When Ted Koppel announced plans to read the

names of the soldiers who'd died so far in Iraq, the

country's right erupted in righteous anger. The

president has yet to attend any of the fallen

soldiers' funerals, and media are strictly banned

from covering the arriving caskets; a photo of 20

flag-draped coffins awaiting transport created

another furor last month. The Pentagon is vastly

undercounting its injured, and not counting Iraqi

dead at all.

Welcome to Memorial Day 2004, in which we are all

supposed to focus o­n a new World War II memorial,

and forget about the more unsavory war we're in

right now.

This was an insult waiting to happen. Both generals

and politicians learned from Vietnam that when

people are confronted with the real, as opposed to

imagined, costs of a war that makes no sense,

they tend to pull back in horror. War is a messy

thing, and in the modern American version, even

though we will invariably kill a lot more than we

lose, the losses aren't supposed to happen at all.

Our poop don't stink, and our soldiers don't die. The

Clinton years -- with their preference for war

waged from 40,000 feet -- epitomized the trend.

But you can't run an occupation from an airplane,

and when the people whose land you're occupying

want you out, no heavily guarded enclaves and

meticulously fortified (or not) convoys can afford

protection from their wrath. Before the end of the

day, you still have to show your face.

Some time this Memorial Day weekend, if not

before, the 800th such American face will be fatally

shot at or blown up in Iraq. But we're not supposed

to notice.

And most of us won't. In fact, we won't think much

about any of the dead from wars past or current.

Instead, we'll kick off summer: shopping, going to

the country, working around the house, or doing

whatever it is we do o­n three-day weekends. Not

even a brand new yellow or chartreuse or

whatever-it-is-today alert is supposed to keep us

from doing what it is we always do, which is

generally to ignore bad things happening a long

ways away.

More and more, however, Americans aren't ignoring

what's happening in Iraq. It's hard to do so when

the news has been so unrelenting, and so

consistently bad. Stay the course? Stay the

course? Would anyone in their right mind stay this

course?

But that's exactly the point. There's no such thing

as a "good" war. All war is hell. In all wars, people

die. Atrocities are committed. Lives are forever

changed. War is the single organized activity

humankind has devised that can uproot (or end) so

many lives with such callous disregard for the

victims' humanity. To know war, as more than o­ne

former warrior has averred, is to hate it.

And, so, Memorial Day -- when, according to our

wise rulers, it's anti-war to look war in the face.

The true test of the value of any conflict comes at

this point. Is the cost in lost lives worth it? At this

point, it's hard to tell, in Afghanistan as well as

Iraq, what "it" even is. In Afghanistan, 31 months

of war have left the country ruled by warlords

(excepting Hamid Karzai, the mayor of Kabul).

Women have no rights. The countryside is

producing 80% of the world's heroin. The Taliban is

growing stronger. And Osama bin Laden, of course,

is still at large.

In Iraq, the notion that Americans can usher in

democracy of any sort is about to get a very rude

reality check. In the security chaos that has been

the occupation thus far, every faction with more

than a few members has been organizing a militia,

and sooner or later they'll all be shooting at each

other. Except when they shoot at the Americans.

George Bush got us into this mess, but John Kerry

doesn't have a way out, either. The o­nly thing

likely to change either o­ne's thinking is a lot more

dead soldiers. Reality is busily preparing just such a

wake-up call.

That call is inevitable because there's no enemy to

defeat in this war, and no possible justification for

the dead. Terror has nothing to do with it. We're

fighting, ostensibly, o­n behalf of the people who

want us gone.

We could, of course, honor their wishes, honor

those soldiers already fallen, and pull out, in favor

of a truly international reconstructive effort that

would be far less likely to trigger civil war. We

could not o­nly honor the past dead, but prevent

future deaths.

That would mean paying attention. And paying

attention to this war is exactly what we're not

supposed to be doing.

Happy Memorial Day.

Last Updated on Sunday, 30 May 2004 13:36
 

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