Happy Memorial Day

Best wishes to all on this Memorial Day. It is a sobering holiday on the heels of our passing the 3000 death in Afghanistan alone. This week we also learned that half of our returning veterans are filing for disability. While some of us opposed these wars, we still are united as a country in our gratitude and respect for the men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way in foreign lands. The cost to these heroes and their families is a debt that we can never fully repay.

The last identified loss is Royal Welsh officer Capt Stephen Healey, 29, who was killed in Afghanistan. Captain Healey was a former Swansea City soccer player who once raised money for blind veterans by walking blindfolded from Chester to Llandudno. He sounds like a wonderful person and a natural leader. He was blown up by a bomb in Afghanistan after previously surviving an IED attack. After his soccer career, he joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welch Fusiliers). He died leading a platoon on the tour in Helmand province. He leaves behind his father John, mother Kerry, brother Simon and girlfriend Thea. He is a credit to his country and his family.

For most of us, today is a time for family and friends. Unfortunately, our own plans for the holiday had to be set aside so that I could finish the briefs in the Sister Wives case — summary judgment motions are due on May 31st. However, we will be having a cook out in the backyard. To everyone on the blog, have a fun and safe holiday.

70 thoughts on “Happy Memorial Day”

  1. 1zb1 1, May 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    dredd you are so deep into everyone elses crap you have lost the ability to see your own. you seem to think you invented knowledge of Saudi Arabi; or that a dozen people from SA doing something horrible makes a few million guilty of the crime (what does that make every American including you?); you seem to think this is about we have corrupt and hypocritical politicians (and citizens while we are at it). you seem to think you are the only one who thinks war is a horrid thing and you are the only one who has done anything about it; you seem to think that bad wars by politicians make for bad soldiers; and a few bad soldiers makes for bad wars; you seem to have the notion that those who don’t go to war are automatically better then those who do; you seem to have concluded that no war was ever fought for just cause; no sacrafice of a soldier is every worth honoring; and nothing worth having ever had to be fought for to have.

    I think you are mistaken on every count, and like it or not you are here today getting to have your mistaken thoughts because someone thought that was worth dying for Live with it..
    ======================================
    You seem to be The Universal Smedley.

  2. Watch Chris Hayes on weekends when I am home. Currently on vacation so I missed the show. Agree with Hayes almost all the time. Heard that Coulter and others took out after him. It is too bad he felt the need to apologize. Hope he does not lose his show.

  3. Brooklin Bridge, thanks for the link. Much of what I read Hayes, and others, said, is similar to some of my own thoughts here. I guess it should not be a surprise that it could be an area of misunderstanding, reaction, accusation,and polarization.

    Thing is, as with other such matters, it’s all too easy to close off discussion, much less understanding, by waving the flag. Doesn’t make it right. And as has be noted above, no one here involved in this discussion has denigrated service members. Seems like that doesn’t matter since the real opposition point appears to be enforcement of conforming thinking — not that that has happened here either.

  4. Meant to say, “On his Memorial Day-themed show, Chris Hayes questioned…” above.

  5. On his Chris Hayes questioned the use of the word “hero” to describe our war veterans of recent and current wars. He did so respectfully and thoughtfully, asking very good questions.

    It goes without saying he was forced to deeply apologize later for any journalistic observations other than mindless parroting of right wing militarism..

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/28/chris-hayes-uncomfortable-soldiers-heroes_n_1550643.html

    In spite of the, “if you want to keep your job”, apology, I have renewed respect for Hayes. It’s the first intelligent comment regarding our perpetual wars and those who fight in them I’ve heard from the “pundits” in some time.

  6. Dredd,

    The next time someone conveniently forgets to mention Saudi Arabia in a discussion about Islamic Jihadism (the force that brought the House of Saud to power in the first place), you might want to steer them to NY Times pundit Thomas Friedman’s infamous interview with Charlie Rose on May 30, 2003:

    “We needed to go over there, basically, and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble.… What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this!” That, Charlie, is what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia! It was part of that bubble. We could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.”

    Mr Friedman-Unit himself neglected to say, of course that we didn’t hit Saudi Arabia because we couldn’t for any number of reasons, but chiefly because if that medieval, dictatorial monarchy ever started selling their oil in some other currency, the U. S. dollar would collapse. We no longer operate on the Gold Standard, but we do operate on the Oil Standard. Again, other considerations also apply, but the Saudi backing of the American dollar comes first.

    Saudi Arabia has its own national interests and uses global Islamic Jihadism as one arm of its foreign policy, just as medieval Catholic Popes used homicidal European knights to go on crusade to the Holy Land in the interests of the Church getting rid of trouble-makers at home while gaining even more temporal power for itself. Not a difficult foreign policy tactic to grasp, especially in that part of the world.

    The evidence of Saudi complicity with Al Qaeda has grown so obnoxiously obvious that one has to wonder how much longer the American government can go on pretending it doesn’t know who has it by the short-hairs, so to speak. Many American soldiers have died because of Saudi Arabia and its corrupt tentacles reaching into the American government at the highest levels. No harm at all in pointing this out on Memorial Day — a time to remember.

    And, Dredd, it also causes a bit of consternation when you ask defenders of the Afghanistan misadventure where in Afghanistan the 9/11 hijackers learned how to fly American commercial jet aircraft or where they got the planes to fly into the three American buildings. Guaranteed that the Taliban had nothing whatsoever to do with this, either. But we could hit them and so we did. That Muslim “bubble” thing, don’t you know?

  7. I’m not so sure that “the people” have a whole lot to say about whether or not we go to war. On 9/20/2001 General Wesley Clark was told we were going to war with Iraq. This is before we invaded Afghanistan. A few months later the word from “the top” was to finish off 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran. The timetable is off but how we doin’? Looks like Yemen jumped onto the list.

    According to Foreign Affairs Division, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC there were 168 Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-1945. Only 5 of them carried a declaration of war and most of them were to “protect ‘our’ interests”. “Our” being a corporation. And how many since?

    Those making these decisions really don’t care what the people think. They produce false flags and other kinds of propaganda to keep us fighting internally about something else that they really don’t care about, e.g. the death of Trayvon Martin.

  8. One useful way I have found for judging whether I want to associate with someone or not is to ask myself the simple question of whether I would want to be in a difficult or dangerous situation with them. It has nothing to do with whether i agree with them or not on religion, politics, or even principles (though admit to an intolerance of intolerance). As they say, honest and well meaning men and woman can disagree on all that.

    To put it more simply, would I want to be in a foxhole with them (and I don’t mean foxnews for sure); would I want to go in harms way with them at my side? Would I want to face a life or death situation with them beside me, whether theirs, mine, or someone else’s. Would I want to depend on them with my life or the lives of others. Admittedly that can be a subjective call, but its my call when it comes to who I associate with, and of course, they are free to ask themselves the same questions of me..

    Forget even life or death and just think in terms of your ordinary everyday difficult and challenging – would I want to depend on them for even that.

    Time and time again when it comes to so many of the people here my answer is no. There are the exceptions but it does seem this is not a place I care to be or people I care to be with.

    If I needed any reminder of that, todays conversation did much to remove any doubt. Maybe when we stop thinking in terms of “Happy Memorial Day” I might feel different.

  9. Anonymously Yours,

    “I’m often asked whether there aren’t big differences between the Iraq War and Vietnam. And I’m always quick to say, of course, there are differences. In Iraq, it’s a dry heat. And the language that none of our troops or diplomats speak is Arabic rather than Vietnamese.” — Daniel Ellsberg

    Actually, I did speak Vietnamese — or as much as a young American sailor can learn in an 8-month crash course at the Defense Language Institute. Unfortunately, I had to practically learn the language all over from scratch once in-country, since none of the peasant-conscript Vietnamese I encountered spoke “Monterey Dialect.” Mostly, though, from learning to speak with the Vietnamese I came to sympathize with the enlisted men whose officers regularly stole their pay and food rations, leaving them with even less of a reason to fight for their corrupt American-sponsored regime than we Americans provided them with our “Better Dead than Red” propaganda. They felt that just to go on living constituted “victory” enough. I felt the same.

    From what I’ve read of mono-lingual American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’d say that things look even worse for “the war effort” than they did in Vietnam at this stage of the disintegration. The North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front at least had effective organizations in place to unify and govern the country once we Americans left the scene of our great crime. The near chaos in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, on the other hand, testify to no truth more obvious than that America can destroy villages but rarely, if ever, can it save them.

    Good to see the veterans returning from Vietnam II (Iraq), but Vietnam III still rages in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and President Obama has just signed an agreement to extend the disaster until 2024, ten years after we supposedly leave in 2014. “Leaving by staying.” It reminds me of that standing joke we used to have at DLI back in 1969:

    Q: If President Nixon is withdrawing the troops from Vietnam, how come I’ve got orders to Vietnam next year?

    A: You fool! How can Nixon withdraw you from Vietnam unless he sends you there first?

    Vietnam never ends for America because America never ends for America.

  10. “[You can] look at Iraq [as] a survivor mission, so embraced, … of the Vietnam War and 9/11. But once a war begins it develops survivor meaning and survivor missions of its own. Putting it simply, There is a traditional survivor mission in war: we must not have let them die in vain. And therefore you prosecute the war ever more vigorously so that they will not have died in vain. It’s a formula for perpetual war. But there is an alternative survivor mission which goes back as far as Homer. If you read the Iliad, you find that, yes, there is a glorification of military heroism, and of the immortal goals of the warrior, but underneath that, there is an undercurrent of sadness, loss, and periodic statements that “it’s not worth it,” “the horrors are not justified,” “these grotesque things that we see and experience could have been prevented.” And you see that alternative survivor mission taking shape and asking whether the only way that these men and women will not have died in vain might be that we learn a lesson from them about that kind of war-making.” — Robert J. Lifton

    In the comments by others above, I read several different versions of the struggle between the traditional survivor mission that leads to perpetual war and the alternative survivor mission of learning from past wars so as not to repeat them in the future. After returning home from Vietnam in early 1972, I once thought that the alternative survivor mission might hold sway — and it did for at least a little while — but it quickly became apparent that the old “more of us must die because some of us already died” mantra would resume its strangle hold over the collective American mind for as far ahead as I could see in my own lifetime. Afghanistan and Iraq — and now Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia — confirm me in this essential pessimism. People think they remember many things, but they mostly prefer to remember what never happened while forgetting what really did occur. Governments know this about those they rule — and count on it.

    If Americans had really learned anything of value from Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan — and whatever wars-of-choice our presidents have in store for us — they would force President Obama to free Private Bradley Manning and other heroic whistle-blowers while also forcing Congress to disband the police-state Department of Homeland Security and rescind the “perpetual war” legislative farce known as the AUMF. What a fitting memorial to the honored dead that would make.

  11. While I agree with the professor in theory….. In practical terms this is not Vietnam….. Nor are the returning troops being treated the way they were then….. Therefore, I echo Mike S’s truths…..

  12. “Now, if you look at Vietnam, 9/11 and Iraq, … each has polarized survivor meanings and survivor missions, so that we understood Vietnam to lead to a survivor mission of restraint against the use of American military power in distant parts of the world with very unclear purposes. But there was a group of political leaders which took an opposite, a polar opposite survivor mission. And you can recognize it in George Bush senior when he declares at the end of the first Gulf War, not anything about the heroism of American soldiers, but rather: “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” The Vietnam Syndrome being a kind of euphemism for American weakness.” — Robert J. Lifton

    “I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale” — First Mate Starbuck, in Moby Dick

    No thanks for that kick in the teeth, President George Herbert Walker Bush, but I’ve got this for you and your belligerent, bumpkin boy:

    From The Triumph of Strife
    (lines 855-868)

    “Syndrome’s Revenge”

    See how the generals begin to quake
    As history, ironic and perverse,
    Reveals the rank careerism at stake:

    As yes-men officers salute and nurse
    The dreams of them not frightened by a whale:
    A Starbuck’s Syndrome written in reverse;

    Succeeding after decades to derail
    The bitter train of Southeast Asian guides
    Who warned that wanton willfulness will wail

    If sent to fight for him who fear derides
    A legion built for one who says, “I am,”
    When asked who is the leader that decides

    A force forecast to fail at Whack -and-Wham:
    An army unafraid of Vietnam.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006-2010

  13. dredd you are so deep into everyone elses crap you have lost the ability to see your own. you seem to think you invented knowledge of Saudi Arabi; or that a dozen people from SA doing something horrible makes a few million guilty of the crime (what does that make every American including you?); you seem to think this is about we have corrupt and hypocritical politicians (and citizens while we are at it). you seem to think you are the only one who thinks war is a horrid thing and you are the only one who has done anything about it; you seem to think that bad wars by politicians make for bad soldiers; and a few bad soldiers makes for bad wars; you seem to have the notion that those who don’t go to war are automatically better then those who do; you seem to have concluded that no war was ever fought for just cause; no sacrafice of a soldier is every worth honoring; and nothing worth having ever had to be fought for to have.

    I think you are mistaken on every count, and like it or not you are here today getting to have your mistaken thoughts because someone thought that was worth dying for Live with it..

  14. Another thought, isn’t the impulse to sacrifice one’s own life for another independent of and maybe even superior to the particular role — eg., soldier — that one is occupying? We honor soldiers but perhaps what we are really honoring is the notion of sacrifice that is the ideal of the soldiers code and, ideally, of developed humans. We honor the potential best in ourselves. The politics get’s in the way.

  15. DonS 1, May 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    SlingT get’s it’s. Nobody of normal sensibilities likes to go tromping around in these highly emotional areas with clodhoppers — and is not. It does become difficult, does it not, to compartmentalize one’s own feelings of 1) regard for service personnel and 2) utter disdain for those who squander our resources, human and monetary.

    Dredd, well put thought: “To think that war creates anything like that [first amendment] is surely not to grasp war.”
    ==================================
    I know some of these folks grew up in an environment of Type B Authoritarians, as Mike S has written about.

    They make a sacred religion out of following Type A Authoritarians anywhere and everywhere, without question.

    I can’t expect them to grasp true freedom under those circumstances, and will not disparage their service they did thinking they were serving “freedom.”

    We can’t do more than we know how to do.

  16. If someone orders you to kill innocent people and you do it, are you a hero anyway?

    I refused and took my licks.

  17. SlingT get’s it’s. Nobody of normal sensibilities likes to go tromping around in these highly emotional areas with clodhoppers — and is not. It does become difficult, does it not, to compartmentalize one’s own feelings of 1) regard for service personnel and 2) utter disdain for those who squander our resources, human and monetary.

    Dredd, well put thought: “To think that war creates anything like that [first amendment] is surely not to grasp war.”

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