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.
War memorials have become a fetish. And the most egregious examples are where the Christians have degraded the honor and memory of veterans by using them and taxpayer’s money to keep the logo in the public’s face. Eliminate Christianity and its ignorant blood-thirsty followers and war will become a distant memory.
Ernie McCray says
War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Nada! And it hurts my heart when we send teenagers off to fight our wars and then flatter them by calling them heroes when they shouldn’t have ever been put into situations where they can become heroes – like in the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan. They might be heroes for their part but our leaders are war criminals.
“And it hurts my heart when we send teenagers off to fight our wars and then flatter them by calling them heroes when they shouldn’t have ever been put into situations where they can become heroes ”
Which is why we need to help them transition into civilians life and make it very clear that we are not villifying them for being out there but rather those who sent them there.
bob dorn says
The Democrats should promote a return of the draft; it would put an end to the system of permanent war that is based in private profit. In the decades since the draft was ended we’ve sent to Congress an army of false patriots who’ve never worn a uniform but have never met a war that didn’t bring them cash to campaign on for their own reelections. The mere threat of reinstating the draft would help clarify exactly what we are doing to the people we mindlessly send to war, or drop drone bombs on as if the world is one big video game. War can’t be allowed to be so easy, and profitable. Vets know this.
Rick Jahnkow says
Can you name a single instance where conscription prevented the U.S. from initiating or waging a war?
We had a draft in place prior to using our military to intervene in Korean (1950), Lebanon (1958) and the Dominican Republic (1964). And the existence of a draft fueled 10 years of war that we waged in S.E. Asia, which took the lives of between 1 and 3 million people (with more still dying from the chemicals and unexploded ordnance that our draftee military left behind).
Conscription is used universally as a tool of indoctrination. It channels millions of people through a process that strips them of their civilian values and identity, teaches to be good soldiers, and then feeds them back into society with all that conditioning still in place. That’s why since the glory days of Prussia and Napoleon, all authoritarian societies and totalitarian governments have prefered having a draft. It’s also why the early founders of the U.S. rejected it.
And consider this: what do you think would have happened if a draft had been available to George W. Bush on Sept. 11th, 2001? Do you really believe it would have prevented the events that followed? Or do you think parents would have driven their kids to the nearest military entrance processing station on Sept. 12th and, by now, we’d be trying to extricate ourselves from not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but Iran, Syria and Lebanon as well? (It took half a decade before Vietnam draft resistance even began to have a serious impact on that war; and actually, a bigger factor was resistance within the military.)
If you really want to make people “feel the pain” of our country’s wars, you should advocate instead a war tax (conscription IS a tax anyway), and demand that it be placed as a line-item on every tax form, with each taxpayer charged a fee specifically to pay for the wars their government is waging. No more borrowing and shouldering future generations with the burden of our mistakes today. Insist on paying for wars now, which is the way they used to be funded back in the day.
And drop this nonsense of thinking the draft would do anything but further militarize our country.
One thing we should never do is hold animosity towards the very people who fought. That’s one thing I will not tolerate from anyone. As a retired Navy veteran (20 years) I never actually experienced boots on the ground combat as most Navy people don’t. That being said, my last duty station before retiring was at Balboa Naval Hospital at the Personnel Support Detachment which is a sort of a military equivalent of human resources. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Soldiers and Marines WHO DID experience actual combat. Some were so young they couldn’t even go to the bar yet. Just think, for me I did 20 years and we have kids who really experienced what war all is about in just less than 2 or even 1 years of being in the service. If you can look at a kid with a couple missing limbs and permanent facial disfigurement and is facing homelessness in his future due to no ability to ever find work and your first concern is who did he kill than I have a problem with you. I remember when I first started posting in the Rag about three years ago I told the story of one Marine (who had a missing leg and arm) who even talked about the fact that he got away with things that in a just world he should be spending the rest of his life in prison and actually felt guilty about the fact that he got accepted into college and was going to use the post 9/11 G.I. bill to pay for it, in other words a 2nd chance in life the he didn’t feel he deserved but was taking advantage of anyway. Point being soldiers DO have a conscience about what they were involved in. I’m a little on the fence about whether or not we should have more memorials or whether or not we already have too many.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe everyone who served is a hero. Hell, I am technically a vet of the Afghan war. I received hostile fire/imminent danger pay and therefore qualify for hiring points for Federal Government work (which I’m doing now). I even qualify to join the VFW if I want (but not really interested). The thing is, my job involved sitting in an air conditioned office onboard the USS Peleliu more than 900 miles away from the actual fighting. I’m in more danger just getting in my car and driving down Rosecrans to get to work every day than I ever was when I was “at war”. But with all that I feel a certain amount of respect is due for those WHO DID experience actual war and I’m not ok with those who snub their nose down on them. Americans need to put more effort in helping those who come back transition into civilian life no matter how they feel about the wars we’ve been in or war in general.
OK I’m off my soap box.
Joseph Crews says
“War is a racket!” spoke Major General Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps,
an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
Look at any of these memorials to war and ask yourself three questions: (1) Who profited? (2) Who paid? (3) Who died and for what?