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Cross-posted from Reader Supported News

Graves of America's war dead at Arlington, 06/15/07.
(Image by (Bruce Dale/National Geographic))
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There is probably no greater insult to those who have served their country than to use public support for them as a validation of war itself.

Memorial Day is not about the glorification of war. It is about the sacrifice of human beings who believed and believe that their sacrifice will bring about good.

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Arlington National Cemetery is not the only place where American veterans are laid to rest, but it is certainly the symbol of burial with honor for those who have served. It is, however, important to remember how Arlington came to be.

Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery was the home of Confederate general Robert E. Lee prior to the Civil War. As an act of personal retaliation against Lee, the union buried war dead in front of his home. Lee never returned to the house. Years of legal wrangling over the house followed, but the message was clear: the Union blamed Lee for what they saw as an unnecessary war and the toll, in human terms, was his to bear.

Arlington House and the dead around it might well be the greatest anti-war statement ever made. Every war exacts a horrible price in human terms; unnecessary wars are a betrayal of the very nations they purport to serve. Arlington bears witness to it all.

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Why wait for the terrible price of war to be exacted to deliver the next war's plunder to Arlington? The war planning itself should be done at Arlington House. When the next decision to launch a war that will add to Arlington's toll is made, let the dead speak too.

Let the planners stand as Robert E. Lee did at Arlington House and make the next decision there. Maybe they will make a better decision than he did. They will certainly have more help.

The senators, the White House staff, the Joint Chiefs, should put the war planning room there, at Arlington. Let them meet there. Maybe Arlington will serve the purpose Union Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs intended when he convinced Lincoln to turn Arlington into a war cemetery: Make those who plan war account to the dead.


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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News:

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