Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Illegal Quagmires

All wars are illegal. All wars are quagmires.

War has become a part of our culture and our legacy. It is embedded into our consciousness as a nation. It is embedded into the consciousness of the world. War has damaged our collective psyche. Is this what we want? Is this the way it must be?

How many of us consider the consequences of the United States wielding its considerable military might with great frequency all around the world? Do we ever wonder what kind of emotional damage we cause to our soldiers, to our enemies, and to those civilians referred to as collateral damage?

What kind of damage is done to civilization when nations train people to kill, send them to face the horror of war, and then bring them back to civilization expecting them to fit in as if nothing has happened? Can we possibly be more cruel?

What kind of damage is done to civilization when nations savage the earth and its civilian population with the never ending memories of blood, dismemberment, and death? Can we possibly be more cruel?

Are any wars absolutely necessary? Are any of them worth the terrible price that must be paid? The true cost of war is paid by those who are witness to war. Unless they have previously experienced it first hand, the Generals and Commanders in Chiefs know nothing of war. The citizenry sitting safely back home know nothing of war. Those in the midst of it are the only ones who truly know. They deserve a voice. A voice that should be listened to.

Joe Allen has written a history of the movement against the war in Vietnam. It is called Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost.

From Vietnam Blues by Ron Jacobs:

Although Allen does not mention the current US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan until the book’s last chapter, it is difficult to read Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost without thinking about those quagmires. Both countries have an occupation government propped up by the US that have at times talked with opposition groups and individuals in the hopes that their government will survive; both are badgered by a US government intent on staying in the country despite even the puppet government’s opposition to the idea. To top it off, both occupations have also featured US GIs refusing to go on missions because in their understanding they have no real reason to be doing what they are doing. Yet, Washington continues to prevail, bankrupting the US national treasury and leaving death in its wake. Furthermore, the once thriving US antiwar movement has become a collection of groups waging occasionally noisy protests while too much of its leadership kisses the Democratic Party’s ass, futilely hoping that its elected representatives will vote against Washington’s interests without being pushed against the wall.
And here is a comment to Vietnam Blues by Ron Jacobs:
Erroll said on June 30th, 2008 at 11:16 am

Evie’s comments are confusing if not bizarre. Is she saying that soldiers who had returned from Vietnam should have been showered with praise for what they witnessed and/or participated in while in Vietnam? She complains that there was no “gratitude” given to returning veterans from Vietnam. This is the same knee-jerk response that I get from people who thank me for serving in Vietnam. After keeping buried what I went through over there for many years, I finally realized and acknowledged that I had contributed to the deaths of many innocent Vietnamese people. The last thing that I wish to hear is that I should be thanked for doing what I did to those wretched people.

Her comments are similar to what many on the left, as well as the right do, and that is to apparently confuse or conflate being victims with being heroes. I submit that there is nothing heroic about invading and occupying another country, whether that country is Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Why in the world would one want to hold a parade for those who helped and aided in the subjugation of another country? Miss Evie may want to read the transcripts of those soldiers who participated in the Winter Soldier hearings of 1971 and the more recent one that took place a few months ago. If she were to do so, she would discover that there is nothing for Americans to be proud of regarding the military service of those who served in places like Vietnam and the Middle East.

Those who should be thanked and who should have parades given in their honor are those soldiers, such as the ones shown in the powerful documentary Sir! No Sir!, who had the courage to say no to taking part in the oppression of the Vietnamese people. Their equivalent today are the members of the IVAW, who have likewise said NO the illegal orders that they were given regarding the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

To reiterate, soldiers who have had the misfortune of being in a combat zone should not thanked or have people express gratitude [for what, killing people?] but rather lamented, because they had ended up being placed in an abattoir by their leaders. All the more reason for soldiers today to say NO to the illegal orders that they are given by their uncaring government.
IVAW stands for Iraq Veterans Against the War. You can find information on the Winter Soldier hearings of 1971 here.

Will the not-so-rich and not-so-powerful ever stand up to the rich and powerful and simply tell them to fight their own damn wars?

2 comments - Post a comment :

Anonymous said...

War has become a part of our culture and our legacy.

Yeah uhm... can you think of a race or nation that DOESN'T have war as part of their culture and legacy? It's like claiming alcohol is a unique product of a single country and none other. Well, apart from First Nation folk.

Paul Thoreau said...

In response to:

Anonymous said...

War has become a part of our culture and our legacy.

Yeah uhm... can you think of a race or nation that DOESN'T have war as part of their culture and legacy? It's like claiming alcohol is a unique product of a single country and none other. Well, apart from First Nation folk.

July 1, 2008 6:54 PM


Please notice that the fifth sentence is: "It is embedded into the consciousness of the world."

You are correct that the rest is very specific to the United States. I am not claiming that war is unique to the United States, just that we have sometimes been very aggressive in spreading it around the globe. And that we do not consider all the consequences of doing so. Thank you for your comment.

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