I’m getting tired of hearing politicians and generals talk about Americans dying for peace and freedom. No American has been killed in defense of our freedom since 1945. The main breaker of the peace in recent years has been the United States.
Since 1945, no nation on Earth has either declared war against us or attacked us. We intervened in a Korean civil war, a Vietnamese civil war and a Lebanese civil war, and we have gotten men killed to remove political leaders our political leaders didn’t like (Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq). I can’t think of a logical reason why we bombed Serbia, the only Balkan country that fought on our side in two world wars, unless it was because the Bosnians hired a better public-relations firm.
A Muslim fanatic, Osama bin Laden, has declared war on us, but he does not have a nation, a government or an army. He sent 19 young men against us. They penetrated our multibillion-dollar intelligence and defense apparatus and hijacked and crashed four airplanes, killing themselves in the process. That was five years, two American invasions and a quarter of a trillion dollars ago, and we still have not found bin Laden, who is a very tall man hiding among short people.
For five years, we’ve offered a $25 million reward for bin Laden, and in areas where poverty is unbelievable by our standards, there has not been one single taker. What does that tell you? It tells you that to the Afghans and the tribal people in the border area, bin Laden is a hero. They like him. They don’t like us.
The blood of this nation’s sons and daughters is the most precious treasure it has. It is dishonorable to spend that treasure for any reason but the defense of the United States and its people. It is unconstitutional to send them to war without a formal declaration of war by Congress. The last time that happened was in 1941. It is despicable to send them to war based on lies.
President Bush let the cat out of the bag in his recent speech at West Point. He didn’t talk about world terrorism. He talked about reshaping the Middle East, a fool’s errand if ever there was one. Our precious people are not dying for peace and freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are dying for corporate profits and to make the Middle East a safer place for Israel. The only people who are dying for freedom are the Iraqis and the Afghans who want to free their countries of our presence.
It is perhaps that cynical attitude on the part of the politicians that is responsible for turning the Memorial Day concert in Washington into a patriotic rally and booster night for the military services. That is inappropriate.
To honor survivors of the wars, we have Veterans Day. For patriotic rallies, we have the Fourth of July. To celebrate the military services, we have Armed Forces Day. Memorial Day is for the dead, for those men and women whose military service put them in the ground or under the sea. It is a day to remember the dead and to honor their sacrifice, because regardless of the war in which they died, they all died believing they were serving their country. Ceremonies for Memorial Day should be solemn and reverential.
It seems to me that we the living have an obligation to those dead. One is to make sure the country they died for remains worth dying for. Two, make sure the civilian leaders are worthy of the young men and women they might put in harm’s way. To allow a bunch of corrupt liars and incompetents to feed our youth into the meat grinder of war for hidden and frivolous reasons dishonors both the dead and the living.
It’s been said that a patriot loves the land and the people, and a nationalist loves the government. That is something to think about. The government is not our country; it is only one aspect of it. Plenty of American heroes don’t wear uniforms or carry guns. The work of America is not done in Washington, and every politician in the Senate, the House and the White House is a temporary worker whom the people can fire if they so choose.
A lot of those "temps" deserve to be fired, and the people can start this November by dumping incumbents wholesale. Now that would be a fitting Memorial Day tribute.
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.