6.5 Thoughts on Veterans Day

My pal, Alon Shalev,  writes a daily blog, Left Coast Voices http://leftcoastvoices.wordpress.com/author/leftcoastvoices/) on subjects about which he is an activist.  Alon chose, for his Veterans Day posting, to feature marine sergeant, Andy Brandi, the PTSD counselor I met back in New Mexico. 

Although I have drafts of several posts in my blogging queue, after reading Alon’s post, I decided to share some of my own thoughts of Veterans day.   My firmest rule of this blog is to maintain political neutrality.  Nothing below is intended to support a political cause, platform, or party.

I am a pacifist, but I am not single-minded about it.  I believe there is a time to stand and fight—that time—paraphrasing British politician, Tony Benn, is after diplomacy has failed.

I have some resentments about the wars my country has been involved in this last decade.

I will admit that my first reaction to 9/11 was that somebody needed to be bombed.  That reaction diluted when it was clear that the attack was the work of an international hoodlum, a coward who hid in a cave an inspired a few wild-eyed men who needed to act out.

I still resent the biggest lie in a half-century that we needed to attack Iraq again– ostensibly because Saddam Hussein, like us, had weapons of mass destruction.  The weapons were never found.  It was a war about oil.  What we spent on that war would have bought every single drop of oil under the Iraqi desert. 

Most of all I resent the campaign that equated the nonsupport for the war to nonsupport for the troops.  The way to support and respect our brave warriors is not to order them to fight in a frivolous war, to beef up the machismo of elected officials, or to enrich the cash cows of industries, which profit from equipping and prosecuting military adventures.

If you are only lately coming to the notion that the waging of war by the United States has a momentum and inertia of its own, you’ll be interested in Major General Smedley Butler’s book, War as a Racket, first published in 1935.  Butler, at the time of his death in 1940, was the most decorated Marine in American history.

The cost of war is several times the cash tally when the fighting ends.  What is the cost of a generation of family disruption and violence?  What is the cost of alcohol and drug self-medication of thousands of damaged warriors?  What is the emotional cost to the families—parents, siblings, spouses, and children—of young people returning from a tour a duty who are “not the same” or “having a hard time”?

I support out troops.  I am furious at the profiteers and the sycophancy of their legion of parasitic politicians. 

Tomorrow, I will return as the Curious Traveler, Chronicler of the Odd and Amusing, with the upbeat stories I am much more comfortable with.

15 Responses to 6.5 Thoughts on Veterans Day

  1. Dave L says:

    You leave little to say except that I could not agree more completely – and a good day to say it on. If any memorial is fitting it is the truth of the thing, the hubris that starts the ball rolling and political/comercial mechanics that stays the momentum. Great piece Al.

  2. michael says:

    Well said. I once worked for wise old man who told me the way to end wars is draft the old men first.

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    Oh Al- you have said beautifully what I try to convey to everyone. It’s so hard to realize that in 2011, we still are not civilized..we are still killing each other. Thank you for the affirmation of my thoughts.

  4. David Bauer says:

    I agree with much of what you say about the politics of war, Al, and President Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the military/industrial complex as early as the late 1950s. Yet, the world is a dangerous place, and I feel that we need to have the military to protect and defend our country against aggression.
    There is a quotation that read “No one hates war more than the warrior,” and that “We should hate war but not the warrior.” Many have paid a heavy price for our excursion in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. To help those wounded in combat on our behalf, I have been supporting an organization called the Wounded Warriors Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/) devoted to helping all our wounded vets.

  5. Proud to be your Friend. I hope all of the CWC agree, but I doubt it. Question did you get my Email on travel log?

  6. Doug Clark says:

    Al
    This isone of your best.
    If people would only read and remember.
    You say it so well, I hope all agree.

  7. Bruce Bethany says:

    I was a poor student in high school, so with limited prospects I joined the USAF in 1952 and was soon despatched to Korea, where a “war” was raging. It seemed to me and my compatriots that
    it was an absurdly futile, wasteful adventure designed to serve a covert political agenda. 52,000
    U.S. troops died and many more were badly injured. The concept of the working-class GI “Hero” hadn’t yet been cooked up by the spin meisters, so we weren’t seen as saints sacrificing ourselves to keep the world free from tyranny. In the 21st century imperialistic America, with military presence in over 100 countries, has become the tyrannical juggernaut that criminally
    kills countless innocent people to keep us safe and free. Do you feel free and safe? Eh?

  8. Dick Newick says:

    Al,
    Sorry, you are not a pacifist. Who decides “when diplomacy fails”-you or the other guy? Pacifism is like pregnancy: either you are you are not.
    I’m enjoying reading about your travels. With luck, they will take you close to some Quakers, Amish and Mennonites.

    Cheers, Dick

  9. Madelen L says:

    First, Al, I hate war as much as the next person, but there are times we must fight. You say, the best way to support our troops is to not send them to war in the first place.

    People may think it is possible to support troops and not support war, but when our troops (and their families) hear that people back home don’t support the war, what they hear is “people back home don’t support US and what we are doing (our sacrifice).” That’s what they hear. That creates a horrible internal conflict for the person on a tour of duty in a war zone. Can you imagine the internal war going on inside your head? The military is telling you one thing and you are trained to carry out those orders, and you believe you are doing something of value, protecting someone, helping someone, but you are hearing that people back home don’t believe that what you are doing is right. Your every action from that point on can become a mental conflict of enormous proportion.

    I strongly believe that one reason too many veterans of Vietnam have carried so much illness for so long is because of internal conflict they cannot let go of. They fought an external war that they brought home with them but it’s the internal war that never goes away: the inability to resolve two opposing views 1) there was a reason to go and they were serving a useful purpose and 2) there was no reason to go and no one supported us. This keeps too many vets mentally and emotionally messed up. Whether one agrees or doesn’t with a particular war, our troops were doing what they thought they were supposed to do on the one hand, but are torn up inside by an unresolvable internal conflict. It’s bad enough to endure the agony of going to war, seeing people killed, possibly killing others, putting your life on the line every day and then hear that Americans hate what you are doing. (Even if you hate what our troops are doing, work behind the scenes to effect change.)

    During the Vietnam war, I lived overseas for three years while my husband was on a ship sweeping the Mekong Delta for mines. We heard the news that Americans were protesting the war. My thought was “damn, here we are 10,000 miles from home, separated from family and friends, doing without those things Americans are accustomed to, like heat in our homes, stores that sell things we buy, access to more than just a base dispensary, and more. And our own people don’t think we should be here.” It was an awful feeling of compounded loneliness and isolation. Believe me, dependents’ sacrifices were nothing compared to our troops.

    Currently, I have a grandson in Afghanistan and I pray for his safety day and night. The last thing I want him to hear right now is that I don’t support what he is doing. He needs to be mentally and emotionally stable while he is there. While he is living, working and inhaling that Afghanistan dust, I would not add any anti-war thoughts to his already overburdened teenage shoulders.

    And, if we really want to end wars, put grandmothers in charge of the world. We would never send our precious grandchildren to war.

    Madelen

  10. bruce richardson says:

    al: this was well done and very thoughful. enjoyed your visit in bella vista ar, the garden paradise. bruce w

  11. Ed Kimmel says:

    Al -

    I paid my usual Veterans Day visit to nearby Arlington Cemetary on Friday (I was leaving around 1050 am, just as the presidential motorcade was arriving – as you know, The Man was on TV from San Diego scant hours later).

    I have been walking each time over there (Memorial Days too) down to Area 60, where those lost in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) are buried. It’s the least I can do to pay my respects. It is heartrending to see grieving relatives standing, or sitting for long hours, next to the graves of their loved ones.

    Considering the billions spent on these two campaigns over the past decade, and all the lives lost, while increasing thousands are falling below the poverty line each day here in this country, with so many of their children on food stamps, I won’t bother to comment further, except to say that I can see where the protesters in the two major Occupy DC encampments downtown are coming from.

    Ed K

  12. Colleen Rae says:

    We all have a right to our opinions, and thank the originators of our country for that. I couldn’t agree with you more, Al. I do believe we can be against the war but support the men who are fighting.

  13. @Ms. Rae: What a paradox. If the war is an abomination we should not support the victimized youth who are exposed to peril in it. We should instead do all in our power to get them the hell out of there…BB

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