Celebrating the Wrong Anniversary

by Joel Poindexter

Recently by Joel Poindexter: State by State, a Nullification DominoEffect

Greatly overshadowed by the manufactured "fiscal cliff" crises, another controversy is brewing in Washington, D.C. This lesser-known argument is between the various interest groups squabbling over where the official monument to the First World War will be located. This is because the centennial of the "Great War" is approaching, and lovers of war need an officially-sanctioned location to throw their party.

For years various groups have been lobbying for one to be built on the mall in Washington, to be located amongst the other memorials that commemorate the state's greatest acts of plunder and mass murder – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Opponents argue that another monument on the mall will clutter the place up, and other locations around D.C. would be better suited. One such site is Pershing Park, named after General John Pershing, commander of U.S. forces in Europe during WWI.

The disagreement over location isn't limited to Washington however, as the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri has been home to a World War I museum and monument for many years. Just a few weeks before the "fiscal cliff" deadline dominated the news cycle, the House passed a bill to designate the Kansas City location as the official memorial site, but the Senate failed to concur. Living near Kansas City, I've noticed this discussion has been closely followed by the local news media, as most everyone here is hoping that congress will shower the city with prestige – and loads of money – to be divvied up amongst the politically well-connected.

I hadn't given it much thought until just the other day, when I wondered what all the fuss was over the WWI centennial. To be sure, it takes an awfully long time to get congressional legislation passed through both the House and Senate. Everyone tries to stuff their own special interest amendments into the bills, then they're bickered over in one committee or another for weeks on end. Eventually they get signed into law, then myriad contractors swoop in to gobble up as much of the appropriated money as possible.

But still, I thought, we're five years away. And then I realized they aren't getting ready to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the war. They're about to throw a bash in celebration of the outbreak of one of the most destructive wars in human history. It's bad enough that Armistice Day, a holiday meant to celebrate the cease-fire, has been turned into a day to glorify soldiers and the wars they fight in. But it's absolutely repugnant for anyone to glorify the start of a war that killed nearly 17 million people, and ushered in the rise of fascism and Bolshevism throughout Europe. Indeed, without World War I, World War II and the subsequent Cold War, with all of its battles, would never have come about.

Only a sociopath would laud the beginning of a war that introduced mustard gas, battle tanks, greatly-improved machine guns, and aerial bombardment. World War I consisted primarily of protracted trench warfare, interrupted only by the occasional rush on foot across no-man's-land, resulting in the death and injury of tens of thousands of conscripted soldiers at a time. Memorializing such an event is shameful, and is nothing more than a blight on humanity.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war I'm ashamed to admit I participated in. No doubt, Americans will also be inundated with coverage of that catastrophe, and plenty of air time will be dedicated to the opening of that ongoing crime against humanity. Another sad aspect of the undeclared "war on terror" is that it will never officially end. Not only will the killing and destruction of property continue for the foreseeable future, but there won't be a particular day in which we may one day celebrate its conclusion; at least World War I eventually came to a close.

So enough with glorifying war! The monuments of the state's greatest contribution to the world – death, dismemberment, torture, suffering, and pestilence – must be smashed. No more celebrating the war machine, no more tributes to the fallen "heroes" who needlessly fight and die to consolidate the power of politicians and monarchs. If anything related to the First World War is to be held in high esteem, it should be the Christmas truce of 1914, when the common soldiers displayed enough humanity to lay down their arms and meet one another face to face, that is a centennial worth remembering.