Dying for a Lie

“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.” ~ Oscar Wilde

All Americans know that Memorial Day is a federal holiday. Most Americans know that it commemorates U. S. soldiers who died in military service for their country. Many Americans believe that U. S. soldiers died defending our freedoms. Few Americans believe that they died for a lie. Memorial Day was first observed in honor of Union soldiers who died during the War to Prevent Southern Independence. It was initially called Decoration Day because the tombs of the dead soldiers were decorated. Originally celebrated in select localities (to this day several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, although the federal government recognizes Waterloo, NY, as the official birthplace), the holiday was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, because of an earlier proclamation by General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans: The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. New York, in 1873, was the first state to officially recognize the holiday. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to include U. S. soldiers who died in any war. Until this time, Southern states did not observe the holiday: they preferred to honor their Confederate dead on separate days. Although Congress in 1971 declared Memorial Day to be a national holiday celebrated on the last Monday in May, to this day some Southern states still maintain a day to honor their Confederate dead. The focus this Memorial Day will be on those men and women who have died in the current Iraq war, although it is likely that only a small minority of Americans realize that 2,464 U.S. soldiers have died thus far. The 117,000 U.S. soldiers who died in that war to end all wars, World War I, are ancient history. Few can name even one of the 405,000 U.S. soldiers who died in that “good war,” World War II, so that Eastern Europe could be turned over to the mass murderer Stalin. The 54,000 U.S. soldiers who died in what is called America’s forgotten war, the Korean War, are certainly long forgotten. The 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam so their names could be inscribed on a wall are remembered by very few. They died in vain; they died for a lie. This does not mean that they were not brave, heroic, well-meaning, or patriotic. They may have fought with the best of intentions; they may have sacrificed themselves for others; they may have been sincere in their belief that they were fighting for a good cause; but they died for a lie. The first lie is that war is necessary. After commanding forces that firebombed Tokyo, which killed as many civilians as the atomic bomb dropped a few months later, General Curtis LeMay remarked: “We knew we were going to kill a lot of women and kids when we burned that town. Had to be done.” But regardless of what happened beforehand, or what might have happened in the future, since when does slaughtering 100,000 people at one time ever have to be done? War should not be considered as an alternative; it is always the worst possible solution. As psychologist Alfred Adler has said: “War is not the continuation of politics with different means, it is the greatest mass-crime perpetrated on the community of man.” War is not inevitable; it is never an absolute necessity. As Adler’s successor Lydia Sicher once said: “Wars are inevitable… as long as we believe that wars are inevitable. The moment we don’t believe it anymore it is not inevitable.” The second lie is that it is the people in a country that want war. Surprisingly, it was Ronald Reagan who recognized that “governments make wars, not people.” It is up to the government to convince its citizens that the citizens of another country are “the enemy.” After all, as one columnist remarked: “When people have friends and customers in other lands, they tend to take a dim view of their government dropping bombs on them.” Governments abuse the concept of patriotism to convince the populace that “the enemy” should be bombed, maimed, and killed. Hermann Goering recognized that all a government has to do to get the people to support a war is to “denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” Real patriotism is not wanting to see the blood of your country’s soldiers shed in some desert or jungle halfway around the world fighting the enemy of the week, month, or year. Patriotism, as Charles de Gaulle explained, “is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” It is the old men who make wars, and then send the young men to fight them; it is the members of Congress with no children in the military who agitate for war. The third lie is that there are winners and losers in a war. No side ever really wins a war. As Jeannette Rankin, the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into both World Wars, said: “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” Every side loses something in a war. English mystery writer, Agatha Christie, certainly showed more wisdom than most members of Congress when she said: “One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.” The consequences of a war are never as expected. One reason, as recognized by Thomas Jefferson, is that “war is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.” The fourth lie is that war can be good for a nation’s economy. This myth of war prosperity was exploded by Ludwig von Mises: “War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings. The earthquake means good business for construction workers, and cholera improves the business of physicians, pharmacists, and undertakers; but no one has for that reason yet sought to celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators of the productive forces in the general interest.” More recently, Robert Higgs has called this “The Fallacy that Won’t Die.” But didn’t unemployment fall during World War II? Of course it did. How could it not fall when the government conscripted 16 million men into the armed forces? But what about GDP during World War II? Naturally, it increased, but only because of the increased output of military goods and services. Tell the grieving parents of their only son, who never gave them any grandchildren, about how much greater their standard of living will now be because of the war that took their son. The fifth lie is that the U.S. military defends our freedoms. The military is too busy policing the world to defend our freedoms. We have U.S. troops in 155 countries or territories of the world. How are the 69,395 U.S. troops in Germany defending our freedoms? How are the 35,307 U.S. troops in Japan defending our freedoms? How are the 32,744 U.S. troops in Korea defending our freedoms? How are the 12,258 U.S. troops in Italy defending our freedoms? How are the 11,093 U.S. troops in the United Kingdom defending our freedoms? How are the ______ U.S. troops in _______________ defending our freedoms? To appease his conservative base on the illegal immigration issue, President Bush recently called for the stationing of some National Guard troops along the border with Mexico. The National Guard units that have been deployed to Iraq should not be assigned to guard the Mexican border. They should be sent home to their jobs and their families, and only used for genuine emergencies on U.S. soil. Stationing U.S. soldiers along the Mexican border would be defending our freedoms a thousand times more than putting them along any German or Italian border. Contrary to these lies, the truth about war, in the words of Major General Smedley Butler, is that “war is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.” Ambrose Bierce once made a callous statement about war that nevertheless comes to pass whenever the United States intervenes in another country: “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” The aphorism that truth is the first casualty of war has often been spoken but rarely learned from. This is because, as Charles Lindbergh said: “In a time of war, truth is always replaced by propaganda.” This war in particular was started and maintained by more government lies than perhaps any other war in our history. What were our objectives in this war? Finding weapons of mass destruction? Finding chemical and biological weapons? Removing Saddam Hussein? Imposing democracy to Iraq? Bringing stability to the Middle East? Forcing Iraq to comply with UN resolutions? Protecting the nation of Israel? Dismantling Al Qaeda? Freeing Muslim women from oppression? Enforcing the no-fly zone imposed on Iraq after the first Persian Gulf War? If one stated objective was found to be a lie another could quickly be offered in its place. The number and scope of these objectives shows that there were no legitimate obtainable objectives. So why did we invade and occupy Iraq? I call your attention to two documents. Just two. Both of these documents are readily available online. The first document is called Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration, Congress, and the Media from September 12, 2001 to October 11, 2002. It was written by Devon M. Largio in 2004 as a thesis for a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Illinois. It is a total of 212 pages. Print it out and read it in its entirety. If you don’t have time to read it right now then at least read her executive summary. Largio documents twenty-seven rationales given for the war by the Bush administration, war hawks in Congress, and the media between the September 11th attacks and the October 2002 congressional resolution to use force in Iraq. It was “the Bush administration, and the President himself” that “established the majority of the rationales for the war and all of those rationales that make up the most prominent reasons for war.” The result of this investigation shows that Bush is a bigger liar than Clinton ever was, and, even worse, his lies are more deadly. The second document is called Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration’s Public Statements on Iraq. It was prepared for Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform — Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division. It is dated March 16, 2004. It is a total of 36 pages. Print it out and read it in its entirety. An executive summary appears on pages i—iv. The report is “a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.” Here is the report’s conclusion: Because of the gravity of the subject and the President’s unique access to classified information, members of Congress and the public expect the President and his senior officials to take special care to be balanced and accurate in describing national security threats. It does not appear, however, that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice met this standard in the case of Iraq. To the contrary, these five officials repeatedly made misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq. In 125 separate appearances, they made 11 misleading statements about the urgency of Iraq’s threat, 81 misleading statements about Iraq’s nuclear activities, 84 misleading statements about Iraq’s chemical and biological capabilities, and 61 misleading statements about Iraq’s relationship with al Qaeda. Every U.S. soldier who died in Iraq died for a lie. They may have died for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, the U.S. global empire, the U.S. government, the military-industrial complex, or Halliburton, but none of them died for the American people or our freedoms. If they died for a lie, then the liars should be held accountable. But don’t look for Congress to do anything. How can we expect a Congress that continues to fund this war to hold the Bush administration accountable for its lies? Every member of Congress that continues to vote to fund this war is complicit in these lies. How many more dead American soldiers and billions of dollars will it take before Congress finally says enough is enough? How many American soldiers not currently in Iraq who are enjoying this Memorial Day holiday will be sent to Iraq to die for a lie before the next observance of Memorial Day?