Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day, 2007

The first Memorial Day since a 25 year old from Pleasantville was killed in action carried extra feeling for many in town. A fresh grave in our cemetery, which hasn't accepted war dead in at least a generation.

The war hit home for me this spring as well, as a young man I had worked with fairly closely was killed in action. He had joined the military in 2004, in the midst of the fighting, knowing full well what he was getting into. His father, a West Point graduate and decorated soldier in Vietnam, had turned against Bush's war, but Andrew had joined and proud to had done so.

This was after an evening of talking to the kids about the war, spurred by 60 Minutes' story of the Iowa National Guard troop they've been following since deployment. The Girl just doesn't understand it -- why do we need to waste American lives half a world away? Why can't these people just take care of themselves?

I don't have any answers for her. Some things I used to be very sure of I'm not so much anymore. I can't put a value on Andrew's life. Is all this worth it? Of course not. Not if you're asking me about this one kid I knew who went off to war knowing full well all the dangers and possibilities.

But what if it works? We won't know for years, of course. But are we planting anything that will blossom in the arid desert seas and lush river valleys of Iraq? Is there a child is Basra growing up amongst the chaos of hatred of a sectarian war (for this isn't Iraq against the US, this is Sunni and Shite and Kurd against each other, with bonus points for knocking off an infidel invader or two...), is there a young man or woman growing up thinking to himself or herself; this is crazy, this isn't what Allah wants?

Is there a teenager somewhere dedicating themselves to a future of bringing his or her country together around a shared vision and rejecting the destructive and nihilistic hatreds of the present?

How will this end? For too many American young, it will end in death. But will their sacrifice mean more than some writing on a marble slab in a cemetery; festooned with flags a flowers once a year? I hope so.

But I don't know.

Posted by Picasa


Gino said...

i am of the opinion the USA hasnt fault a legitimate war since the war of 1812.
even WW2 was an affair that should not have involved us if we hadnt already been involving ourselves.

i think the policies we followed since the arrival of israel have lead to, and are a direct cause, of our need to have gone to war in iraq.

that said: has any of these dead really died for america? or, like 1864, 1916,1941, are they really dead in order to pursue a politician's dream world, regardless of the lofty ideal that had been presented before the public?

Kal said...

Gino, depending on your standards, none of our wars were "legitimate".

Take the two "good wars" you think are okay.

The Revolution was a tax revolt gone haywire and fed by a bunch of merchants who thought they could make more money outside the Colonial system. Remember: England was raising our taxes to pay for protecting out wilderness. And their political treatment of us is about the same as the way we treat the US Virgin Islands.

1812 was a total manufactured war, with the US picking a fight over a side issue, being egged on by New England industrialists who thought they could make some money off a war.

The Isreal policy that you think gets us into trouble is our support for the existence of the State of Isreal. Sure, if we went along with the Arabs and supported the destruction of the Jews we'd have no problem with lunatic Muslims. But that's not where I think we should be.

And I don't think we have the luxury of sitting here on our island and waiting for the fight to come to us. That's why WW2 was legitimate. Had we waited for Hitler to consolidate Europe and take out England, we might not have survived.

(Not to mention we were actually attacked and dragged into the war. Even if Roosevelt knew it was going to happen and did purposefully did nothing to stop it [which I don't buy], the Japanese still did attack us at Pearl Harbor. Nobody made that up.)

It sounds callous, but I'm a believer in the "flypaper" theory. There are a significant amount of radical Muslims who would like to see all Americans dead. I'd rather have a nice little defined area where they can try to do just that. But have them go up against Americans who are well armed and ready to take on all comers. Not a couple of office towers worth of innocent civilians.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A good Memorial Day post.

Gino said...

the revolution made us what we were. yeah, in every revolution there is an economic componant.
folks want better, and fight for it.

1812 was a fight over national soveriegnty.
somebody profits from every war. this was no exception.

as for isreal: you assume if we dont side with jews, we must side with arabs. ever consider that some conflicts just should not concern us?
the jews chose to go there and slug it out with the indigenous. not our problem. and should not have been made our concern.

ww2: hindsight can always be debated, but by the time we entered the war, germany had been stopped cold by the soviets. and germany could have never pulled off an england invasion to succeed.

japan was provoked into attacking us through diplomatic and trade sanctions. we were involved heavily in the pacific conflict before we were attacked. neutrality, and non intervention, would have saved hundreds of thousands of american lives and treasure.

i list iraq, given what we had already involved ourselves in, as necessary given the info and threats we were recieving. preemptive war is just. but it was the sever lack of nonintervention that led to this mess.

Harmonica Man said...

Nice post Kal, and nicely written.

Kal said...

Jean Luc: Hey, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the comment!

Harmonica Man: Thank you sir, means a lot coming from you.

Gino: the folks wanting better in the Revolution were folks like John Hancock who were already loaded. This was no populist uprising, this was the upper middle class throwing out the upper-upper class.

but look, I'm not disparaging the revolution, I'm just saying there are a multitude of reasons for every war.

But 1812 was particularly bogus.

About your Israel comments: my contention is that there is no neutral when it comes to Israel. Extremist Muslims feel that any position short of supporting and taking part in the annihilation of Israel is an act of war.

They killed Sadat for brokering a peace deal. You think these guys would be impressed with us suddenly taking a "hands-off" approach?

(Not to mention the political infeasability of an American politician not supporting Israel.)

As to your points about WW2 - well, there are those who will argue Japan was provoked into war with us, blah blah blah, even so: who cares?

WW2 was going to have to be fought eventually, as German success in Europe and Japanese success in China (remember: they invaded China waaayyy before we started sanctions) would have led to a strangulation of our trade, putting us in the same position Japan found itself in in 1941.

And nowadays isolationism is a losing position. Bush ran in 2000 pretty much as an isolationist (a "humble" foreign policy, which was a reaction to the Clinton interventions in Bosnia, et al), and look where that got us.

So if we're not going to

1) back away from allies like Israel, and
2) back away from robust international trade, and
3) back away from being a secular /slash/ western democratic republic,

then we're going to find ourselves targets of folks like the mullahs and jihadists and other extremists.

KaraMia said...

I'm an army brat, and a proud one as well. I love my country, am proud of our soldiers...but every time my son says he wants to be a soldier, my chest tightens and I have to bite back words to discourage him. what kind of world are we in that mothers such as i, mothers born, bred,and raised to be patriotic and proud, fear to encourage our children to be the same. Our presidents decisions, and I say decisions deliberatly because he has made no personal actions, nothing that has cost him personally, his decisions will reverberate through our country like the long pealing of bells and I wonder if those echos will shake down the very walls of our country...and I am afraid. Afraid for my son and the future he may face. My 21 yr old nephew deploys next week for Iraq, he has been told he will be driving convoy. I hope to God I will not be visiting his flag covered grave all for a war no one believes in but the ones who have to, because they are called to duty. I don't know either Kal, but I hope to God that my fears are unfounded and that the president is a better man then he appears to be.