By Dave Patterson
Recently I have been reading about the need to better the existing, or build more war memorials. I disagree that we need more or better memorials. In fact I believe that we already have too many Veterans memorials and I will argue that we need to remove some of the ones we already have. And yes, we can do so while still honoring our Veterans.
There are a lot of war monuments in Washington D.C. where Mr. Scruggs points our thoughts. There are war memorials specific to the military branches. There are statues of tired soldiers, flaming swords and waves and dolphins and fountains and granite obelisks and walls with tens of thousands of names of U.S. killed. There are salutes to those that served, and those that were injured and those that died, and those that loaded the bombs or dropped them, and those that slogged through the snow or jungle being killed and maimed while killing people that were defending their homeland against us.
We were right and they were wrong, the price of freedom. Never mind the millions of people whose lives we disrupted. What I see every time I visit a war memorial is testimony to failed leadership. Monumental failure of leadership resulting in millions dead or wounded, and it makes me think that if we razed all the memorials and started again with a clean slate we might have a chance of breaking our American propensity for waging war.
Our war memorials have morphed from places that showed respect for the dead, to places were we can be proud of the destruction we heap on others, the price of freedom. No mention of the people that have felt the blade of our terrible swift American sword.
At the American History museum in D.C. our war making past and present is codified as “The Price of Freedom”. A quarter of one whole floor dedicated to making the case that all American wars, past and present, have been a necessity to preserve this great nation of ours. That may have been true for WWII, and arguably for the Korean War, but Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were necessary to protect our freedom?
Where is our outpouring sentiment for the Millions killed, the babies still being born deformed from dioxin or blown up on buried ordnance 50 years later? Does anyone really still think that we were protecting America by waging war in any of those places? The memorials can honor the dead, but I think they can just as easily make us feel good about wars that should not have happened.
Yes we have incredibly brave people that put their lives on the line all the time, and we need to honor those Veterans. However, we must also seek justice for the victims of war. If the memorials or our National museums did both, I would support them. Sadly they do not.
Dave Patterson is a Vietnam War Veteran and a past President of the San Diego Veterans For Peace.