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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/25/09

Healthy Skepticism Toward Memorial Day

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Putting aside the wild accusations against Roosevelt (that he knew about Pearl Harbor and didn't tell, or that he deliberately provoked the Pearl Harbor raid—these are without evidence), it does seem clear that he did as James Polk had done before him in the Mexican war and Lyndon Johnson after him in the Vietnam war-he lied to the public for what he thought was a right cause. In September and October 1941, he misstated the facts in two incidents involving German submarines and American destroyers. A historian sympathetic to Roosevelt, Thomas A. Bailey, has written:

Franklin Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor. ... He was like the physician who must tell the patient lies for the patient's own good ... because the musses are notoriously shortsighted and generally cannot see danger until it is at their throats.

One of the judges in the Tokyo War Crimes Trial after World War II, Radhabinod Pal, dissented from the general verdicts against Japanese officials and argued that the United States had clearly provoked the war with Japan and expected Japan to act. Richard Minear (Victors' Justice) sums up Pal's view of the embargoes on scrap iron and oil, that "these measures were a clear and potent threat to Japan's very existence." The records show that a White House conference two weeks before Pearl Harbor anticipated a war and discussed how it should be justified.

Like neoconservatives who craved war with Iraq so they could take control of the nation’s oil and use the country’s geographical location to achieve their own ends, the United States was interested in maintaining access to tin, rubber, and other raw materials.

As Zinn’s chapter on World War II illuminates, “wealth became more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer large corporations,” Negroes were “indifferent” and largely uninterested in the war, the proportion of conscientious objectors was three times that of the proportion of conscientious objectors in World War I (even though there was a perception that American communities were unanimously for war), and the supreme wartime objective seemed to be “to save capitalism at home and abroad.”

Fast-forward to today’s wars in Iraq (and Afghanistan and Pakistan). America now has one of the highest levels of income inequality among high income nations. People of color (Latino and Black) are enlisting at the highest rates to serve in war so they can overcome poverty and go to college and possibly achieve prosperity and happiness in their lifetime, tens of thousands of soldiers have gone AWOL and hundreds have become “war resisters,” and, of course, this was all part of a “project for a New American Century (which when translated means preserving America’s superpower status for the next one hundred years).

From FDR to Obama (in fact, from the beginning of U.S. Empire to Obama), those in power have not been concerned with “keeping America safe.” Presidents have not preserved the security of the American people or its geographical landscapes; they have charged themselves with keeping America’s superpower status safe and long-lasting.

President Barack Obama in his weekly address asked Americans “to reflect on what this holiday is all about.”

Obama said this holiday is meant “to pay tribute to our fallen heroes and to remember the service men and women who cannot be with us this year because they are standing post far from home.”

He also said, “It’s about remembering each and every one of those moments when our survival as a nation came down not simply to the wisdom of our leaders or the resilience of our people but to the courage and valor of our fighting men and women.”

Obama may think his address gives Americans the “truth at the heart of [American] history” but it really doesn't.

In regards to the history of the holiday itself, a posting on raises skepticism on the holiday saying, "Memorial Day, it turns out, is yet another hijacked holiday. It was first observed in 1865 as Decoration Day by liberated slaves, who independently set up, decorated and proclaimed an ad-hoc graveyard – a field of "passionless mounds" – to honor dead Union soldiers."

Memorial Day will come and go tomorrow. Parades will line up and take off in the morning. They will be filled with veterans and high school bands and rotary club and breakfast club members.

The Knights of Columbus and the Salvation Army and church groups and children will all be participating. Candy may be thrown to those on the side of the street and vintage cars and fire trucks and police cars and military vehicles will spark memories and excitement. 

Those who have participated in war will be remembered, but those who have been victims of U.S. Empire will not be remembered at all. 

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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