Thursday, June 01, 2006

Memorial Day

Bush - Iraq, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

When I think of Memorial Day, I remember what Jeff Daniels, as Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain said to his men on the eve of battle in the movie "Gettysburg":

"This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we're here for something new. This hasn't happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value, you and me. What we're fighting for, in the end, we're fighting for each other."

In the 230 years that this country has existed, this or something like it was at the very core of why we fought wars and gave the last full measure of our devotion. In the Revolution we fought because Britain denigrated our value, and treated America like it was it's poor cousin. In the Civil War, the issue was that all men are in fact, created equal, and man has no right to challenge that status.

We fought two World Wars, one because a half-mad Kaiser was willing to threaten humanity's peace of mind for the sake of real-estate, and the other because a complete psychopath was willing to wipe out a portion of humanity for his own twisted notions of a Master Race. In both wars, we fought to save humanity, and to keep it from destroying itself.

In Korea and even Vietnam, we fought because somebody had the notion that war was the only way to stop the spread of Communism there.

And now we are here on this Memorial Day. I went to a parade this weekend in Jamesville, NY in support of my candidate for Congress in the 25th District, Dan Maffei. We had joy, merriment. I carried my Maffei for Congress poster right near a Veteran For Peace, and not by coincidence.

When the merriment was over, we all gathered at the flag in front of the highschool, and there people were ready to remind us of the real reason why we were there. We fought for what we think has created America. The will to freedom, the need for equality. We also fought for the concept that free and equal individuals can work together to preserve and give life to their society. It's the American people's values that preserve this country, not the grandiose schemes of rich men. The men and women of our armed forces came from civilians, and to civilians they shall return. The Kilranes, Reynolds, Caparzos, Mellishes and Captain John Millers were not just in the movies. They came not just from the country clubs but mostly from average middle class and poor people. What they fought for was a better world, for other peoples as well as for their own. And all that they asked for in return was that we make something of ourselves, and improve the world around us, if only just by treating each other better. As Miller admonished Ryan in that memorable scene from "Private Ryan," "Earn this!"

When I was at the Wall, I saw people rubbing onto paper names of friends, lovers, fathers, sons, brothers and relatives whom they will never see or hear from again. Someone whom they have been missing for a long time. I also found myself looking for Ukrainian-sounding names. That I found them was a foregone conclusion.

Looking at that sea of names, I also found my thoughts turning with anger to the present ignominious situation. We have a so-called leader, who’s best instincts are to "dissemble feeling" in the face of heartfelt sorrow. As for "valuing'' humanity, and "fighting for each other," these are notions foreign to the disingenuous Dubya. He mouths the words, but he doesn't get the irony of how his actions contradicted them on this Memorial Day:

"In this place where valor sleeps, we are reminded why America has always gone to war reluctantly, because we know the costs of war. We have seen those costs in the war on terror we fight today. These grounds are the final resting place for more than 270 men and women who have given their lives in freedom's cause since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001."

So Dubya, did YOU go to war "reluctantly," when you didn't let UN weapons inspectors finish their job in Iraq? Not quite.

He can't even get the number of dead in Iraq right:

"270 men and women ...'' Try close to 3000! Not to mention the MILLIONS of innocent civilians killed while "freedom," was "on the march!" When news of the Haditha massacre broke, where 24 unarmed civilians, mostly from a poor family including the elderly, women and children, were killed by Marines, he, the Decider, only found out about it after a reporter from TIME magazine told him!

But that doesn't stop Dubya from mouthing the words. No, he goes on to use words and phrases like:

"brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad "

They were stop lossed and federalized into a war only you and your neocon friends wanted.

And I like this quaint sentiment:

" by defeating the terrorists, by advancing the cause of liberty, and by laying the foundation of peace for a generation of young Americans."

Massacre, detention without due process will not win over hearts and minds of a suffering people. As for a "foundation of peace?" How, when our forces are under a great strain? And didn't Dubya just tell that ''generation of young Americans," when he was at West Point, that it would be up to them to fight this war that he started?

And what about the Marines who are no longer given a long enough r & r before returning into battle, and re-rotated for multiple tours in Iraq? What will this generation of Marines remember? That a squad of them went ballistic and murdered nearly two dozen innocent civilians in Haditha, one of them an old man in a wheelchair, reading the Quran? Or will they remember the stress of dealing with a deadly and precarious crapshoot of an insurgency, while being undermanned?

How ill - used our boys must feel. How undervalued as well. Now, all they can do is fight for each other, not in the cosmic way Jeff Daniels meant in "Gettysburg," but in a tragically all too literal way, for this is not our war they are fighting, but Dubya's private war, fought for no real reason, just for the purposes of a few.

Haditha, Ishaqi and Hamandiya are not illustrative of the lack of conscience or values of our men. They were raised according to their parent's values in the best way those parents possibly could do so. Rather, these attrocities are a monument to a system, created by the stupidity, born of delusion and greed, of men to whom no one has "value," just usefulness, convenience and expendability.

Rumsfeld, Rice, and most of all, George W. Bush, have dishonored the bargain we had made with our honored dead. While 3000 men died for Dubya's little adventure, he has endangered the freedoms of those men's families, attempted to destroy their well-being and devalue them into virtual tools for the enrichment of his friends.

How has Dubya & Co. improved the world when all he has done is wage the same war on the middle class in Iraq as he is waging at home?

How has Dubya & Co. improved the world, when all he has done is alienate the rest of the world from us, neglected the rise of China and the increasing totalitarianism and bullying of Russia?

This Memorial Day the sadness that I feel for men who'll never see their children, or children who will never see their fathers is compounded by the fact that families are being sacrificed to ambition.

Memorable Quotes from the film, "Gettysburg" - 1993

Bush's Memorial Day Address at Arlington, VA

E.L. Doctorow - "The Unfeeling President