Sunday, May 27, 2007

Thoughts for a Memorial Day in a Time of Unjust War

How do you honor soldiers -- genuinely honor their profound and honorable sacrifices -- while deploring the war they are fighting? As this is -- alas! -- a question for Memorial Day tomorrow, I point you to this article by anti-war writer Andrew Bacevich (via), whose son was just killed in Iraq, where he gives the obvious but often-derided answer: "As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen." Bacevich notes that it has become standard right-wing politics to attack this answer: to say that opposing an unwise, unjust war is failing to 'support the troops'. But he notes that opposing wars that are both immoral and powerfully counter to your country's interests is a citizen's duty: and that he, like his son, strove to do his duty.

He ends with some understandably bitter thoughts on the effectiveness of his work -- thoughts I don't entirely agree with (I certainly disagree that he has done "nothing", although obviously the anti-war movement has been terribly ineffective in this country). But, alas, he is not wrong in his basic conclusion:
I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond. This, I can now see, was an illusion. The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."
How can one argue with that? The people spoke: they continue to speak, through ever-stronger polls saying that they oppose this horrific, self-defeating war... and they continue to be ignored, by politicians, by the 'Wise Men' in the media who continue to bloviate about September and surges and political advantage and all those other words that, in the context of ongoing death and slaughter, are little short of obscene.

Spencer Ackerman is of course right to warn that troops will likely not support a withdrawal -- and right that we must push for it anyway, not to 'support the troops', but to support our country, whose interests this war is doing so much damage to, daily; and to support the just and the right and the good, and stop our own participation in this slaughter (which, having begun it, we have no power to end).

Also inspired Bacevich's article, Thoreau at High Clearing writes about the words exchanged between Bacevich and his Senators (Kennedy & Kerry) and his Congressman (Stephen Lynch) at his son's funeral:
There they are, at the funeral, right in front of the casket and a family that is paying the price for the errors of this Congress, and all these guys can say is “Don’t blame me.” They can’t be bothered to confront the enormity of the nightmare that they have unleashed, they can’t be bothered to pledge to fix it. Instead, they say “Don’t blame me” and then fly back to Washington and let this funding bill go through. Stopping this war should be the first and only priority of Congress. Instead, when they realize that it will be hard, that it will require them to use every parliamentary maneuver at their disposal to suspend all other government business and force a showdown, perhaps running out the clock on funding so that the President is backed into a corner, they opt for political expediency. Even if it means standing in front of more coffins at funerals in the coming months and years.
I understand, I really do, the writers who have defended the Democrats' criminal cowardice in capitulating to Bush on the issue of funding and timelines. I hope that they are right that this will ultimately have no political effect, or will even help the Democrats, since defeating the Republican party is a good in and of itself, apart from any issue of the war. And I sympathize when they ask what could be done, given that the votes were not there?

But the answer is: vote for the moral thing -- vote to end this bloody war -- anyway. Vote though it is useless. Raise a standard, however hopeless, for the voice of the people.

Maybe it wouldn't have done any good. But it was worth a try. And it was right.

The people have spoken: the politicians have ignored them. All we can do -- what we must do -- is continue to speak, to shout, to scream, louder and louder and louder until we drown out all the lies and equivocations and excuses and force the politicians and the pundits into a position where they thing that they "have" to do is not vote to continue failed, criminal and horrible stupid policies, but vote to end them.

This memorial day, let's all spend time thinking about what we can do -- within the bounds of the effective and the moral -- to end this damn war.

To ensure that by the next memorial day, no more soldiers will be dying to be honored by solemn liars in suits by the sides of grieving families at military funerals.


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