… Some time ago, when Uncle Sam
He had a war with Spain
And many of the boys in blue
Were in the battle slain
Not all were killed by bullets, though
No, not by any means
The biggest part of them were killed
By Armor’s pork and beans..
Stung Right- the song from 1910s
How do we honor our veterans? We? Our? Veterans? Honor? There are more questions than answers. I guess when we see Bush telling that their death was not in vain and Cheney, the Vampire visiting the Arlington Cemetery we do not feel the sense of honor. No, Sir, we don’t. We feel shame and disgust; the slickly dodgers got richer and the kids are dead. Words are cheap.
I drive on the Veterans of Foreign wars Highway every day. Foreign wars. This country never had the invasive force on its soil. Lucky bastards we are. After the Civil War we turned our cavalry on Indians and killed them all. It was their land. It is still their land. Our forefathers became veterans of the Indian carnage and since then the only real enemy of ours was Armor’s pork and beans. It is still here. It kills us the same way.
The US had been a relentless aggressor since then. We attacked anyone and anything. In fact we got quite a reputation in the world as an unpredictable war machine which does not really know what it is doing and has to be somehow manipulated. And we loved to be manipulated all – right. NONE of the Foreign Wars so far had been to the benefit of an average American. NONE. Some people name WWII as the one which dragged the US from Depression. But it was not the war itself but rather the luck of Russia taking on its own the main German war machine that made it possible. The US piggie- backed big time and took advantage. Our Veterans got the GI bill. That was the benefit all right. I doubt if anyone here realizes that the price for that was 27 million Russians. Not much honor there if you ask me.
Someone might say that the failure of the leadership cannot tarnish the heroism of the individual soldier. Of course that’s true. But then what would be the better way to honor that individual soldier than the obvious recognition of the Hell of War and the strife for Peace. Peace is the ultimate goal of war, right? No war is justified if we do not want Peace in the end. What Peace did we strife for when we started the Vietnam carnage? What Peace did we want in Panama? What Peace did we want in Iraq? What Peace do we want in the ‘war on terror’. What Peace is Pax Americana? Do we really want it?
I come from the country where war was a part of legacy of every generation. ‘I was only once in the hand-to –hand combat and thousands of times in the dream afterwards’-wrote Julia Drunina, the medical officer in the WWII ( she was 19 then) and a Russian poet. She committed suicide after the Soviet Union was dismantled. As a devoted Communist she could not bear the new regime. Whose honor was preserved here and whose was violated? What lessons can we learn from that? Do we learn from the foreign soldiers anyway? Maybe we should. They commit suicide when their world collapses. What is their world? Did we ask?
Veterans come home. We say they served their country with honor. In the 1920s those honorable men were sent to the Key West during the Hurricane Season. Ernest Hemingway wrote ‘Who Killed the Veterans in Florida’ after he saw floating corpses in the marches. Then we became smarter: we created a VA administration and all those cemeteries to honor. That did not help those veterans and their families in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Again there were floating corpses in the marches but this time the movie by Spike Lee was not very much appreciated. We are at war with terror after all and the sacrifice is honorable.
Damn that honor, folks. Show me the money! Show me the army which is not used for the private purposes. Show me the officers whose salaries are commensurate to the current level of living. Show me privates whose ammunition is up- to- date. Show me the way the Pentagon guys get promotions, look me in the eyes and say that war is not the source of their career. Show me how the Hollywood folks profit from violence. Don’t lie.