Saturday, June 03, 2006  

Let's talk about...war, torture and other fun things to do in another country...

"It's time," the walrus said, "to talk of many things..."

First of all, the caveats that go with this post:
* I actually don't want to write these caveats but feel that I should because the intellectual atmosphere (such as it is) surrounding these issues is so caustic.
* I feel sorry for anyone serving in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
* I think this goervment is screwing over the vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.
* I have never been to Iraq but I have lived in North Africa, speak some Arabic and have been active in Middle Eastern cultural and political issues for awhile.
* I have worked in TV news for a conservative station.
* I do not believe that anyone fighting for the US in Iraq is preserving their freedom, my freedom or civil rights in this country. Period. And I will address that either in this post or a following one.

First of all, I have been reading a number of letters to the editor and comments from people who feel that reports filed on Memorial Day about Haditha were inappropriate for Memorial Day. Apparently these people feel that information about dead children, marines gone beserk and attrocites against civilians in addition to the references to Abu Ghraib and Mai Lai were disrepectful to the dead.

The last time I checked, the First Amendment is still in force (although many Americans are either not aware of what it actually says or don't really care), so, I salute them for using their right to free speech.

But I also (a little less repectfully, it's true) strongly disagree with them. Yes, Memorial Day is for appreciating the sacrifice of men and women in times of war for this country. We seem to have had a lot of those in the last 60 years,and yet, what seems to glow in the collective memory is not the national confusion (mixed with shame for some) of the Vietnam War, not the dash and grab of Panama nor the inglorious exercise that was Gulf War I, but the "good fight"of WWII and WWI.

Fine. WWI was fought as the war to end all wars. Obviously it didn't and I am not going to go into the reasons for WWII, although theVersaille Treaty and the starvation and humiliation of Germany had something to do with it. But it did whet the appetite of the US to engage in armed conflicts which boost the economy, hold the attention of the population to an extent, and enrich certain groups of people.

For those of us with vets in the family from WWI and WWII, I think we need to ask ourselves and them if they are living, what they believe honor and duty entail for the US Armed forces. Knowing my relative as I did (he now is dead), I know that list would not include the following: rape, armed robbery, group thuggery, torture, murder of civilians,lying about the previous actions, and endless occupation. A simple man, my relative believed strongly in the sanctity of family and hated communists. He also hated Mai Lai.

Another relative who served during the Korean War, looked at the pictures from Abu Ghraib and thought they were a sick joke because he could not imagine another human being doing this to others.

This country is full of honorable vets (both dead and living) whose service is sullied by the crimes in Bagram and Abu Ghraib, the killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and the crimes by servicemen in Japan and other countries where they are stationed. It is an insult to their honor for the military to report that "15 insurgents were killed in a fierce fight" when, really, marines massacred a number of civilians, including women and children.

And to object to having this reported on Memorial Day is to engage in empty patriotism that salutes the flag, makes loud proclamations about civil liberties and then turns away when the government spies on their neighbors without warrents or legal justification. Frankly, to use a rather extreme example, it's like telling the child who was molested by the "funny uncle" to sit next to him at the table and behave since, damnit, it's Christmas and this is about family.

To turn away and to allow this government to deal in hyperbole and supposition (they "may have"committed a crime, the women they shot "may have been pregnant...") is criminal and spits on the tradition of honorable service to this country. And the more we cling to the "a few bad apples" theory, the more the rest of the barrels rot.

This is not "the greatest generation" engaged in a "moral war" come again. "Moral" cannot be applied to Iraq and Afghanistan and this "generation" has been abysmally misused by its leaders, has been taught that the value of human life is relative, and encouraged to look at this conflict as one black and white videgame where your hand is permanently on the trigger.

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