Steve G.

War and memorial

In Libertarian on May 25, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I’ve been in sick in my bed the last couple days. I’m unsure whether or not it’s self-inflicted because I’d made a trip into Dallas with a girlfriend to eat and drink Saturday night and it came on afterward. When we arrived back in Longview on Sunday, she reminded me to have a happy Memorial Day. I’d forgotten that it was a holiday weekend but as I drifted between sleep and groaning pain, it occurred to me that Memorial Day shouldn’t be a happy occasion but a day of quiet reflection. That thought morphed into something a bit more developed as I heard the background noise of the television and news anchors talk about the biggest sacrifice that man can make for his country- death on the fields of battle. Even through my illness I thought that the biggest load of horseshit that I ever heard.

I am certainly not new to the idea that every imaginary lined state- ours included- has its own propaganda outlets but what a slap in the face it is to tell people that the best thing one can do for his fellow man is die in arms? That these ideas are followed by huge parades, 50% off sales, patriotic movies and fireworks displays should be an indicator of how ridiculous a notion that it is at all and I think it time to re-examine what it is that we’ve been taught to celebrate.

War by its very nature, is destruction; it’s the destruction of lives, resources and ideas and it’s usually done for the basest of reasons- money and fear. Major General Smedley Butler wrote not so long ago in War Is A Racket:

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

This, dear readers, is what we are celebrating when we are grilling and swimming today. I wouldn’t dare tell you how to spend this postal and banking holiday but I would like to remind you that the men and women who’ve died in America’s wars may have had very noble ideas about why they were there but, in truth, they died to line pockets and instill fear. Remember that as you pull another hotdog off the grill for your 7 year old because he is the newest generation of brainwashed who will be saddled with the debt before he was old enough to contract it. He is but one of the next generation of people who may indeed be celebrating his own slavery. I will also be spending time with family but they will understand why this day is free of work and why the government sells the celebration and I will be talking about these ideas tonight on channel 16 (8 eastern) during my show at Bold Voices TV.

  1. Enjoy your day off anyway, as those of us who are gleefully unaware of the machinations of the shadow government (unlike you, in your smugness) take a moment to remember our fallen comrades.

    Besides ‘lining pockets and instilling fear’, I know of more than a few Soldiers who have risked their lives keeping totalitarian thugs from burning girls’ schools down, and killed or captured terrorists plotting to kill or maim Americans at home and abroad. Some of them do not have the chance to debate the virtues of pure libertarianism today, unfortunately, but I drink to them nonetheless. . .

  2. Is it better to remember a man who died simply because he died, with no recognition whatsoever to the cause of the death; or is it better to recognise a man who died and the misfortune of his wife and kids who lost a family member, along with full recognition that the man did not have to die had not a gang of crooks (and this refers to the blue team just as much as it refers to the red team, if not more so, given the nationalistic mentality of so many Democrats over the past 100 years) pursued an insanely destructive foreign policy since 1898? Methinks, Mr. wilsonrofishing, that one does a disservice to the fallen by not choosing the second path, the road less travelled. May I never be so cavalier.

    I think the point Michelle makes is an extremely important one. For most people, Memorial day is just another day to not go to work, coupled with empty Americana. Most Americans do not even think about the dead soldiers, and the few that do just give a quick nod to their fallen comrades without giving the matter any further thought. How cruel! Granted, people can do as they please, and if they don’t want to respectfully reflect on this or that, it’s their prerogative; but there is no reason why one cannot chastise this sense, or any other manifestation, of apathy. I believe this was Michelle’s intention.

    I see nothing but profound respect for the dead in Michelle’s words. She mourns for them in a way no statist ever could. I would not have worded things the same way as she did, of course; I think there’s a lot of nuance here that should be explored. But overall I agree with the spirit of Michelle’s concerns, and mourn with her the unfortunate losses imposed upon America by what Thomas J. DiLorenzo has described as the biggest government programme of all.

    Respectfully yours,
    Alex Peak

  3. wilsonrofishing,

    There is nothing noble about dying for profit and war has been a revenue generation tool since days before there was an American soldier. I find nothing smug about asking why humanity (in this case, Americans) celebrates death in arms. What I find smug is reflexively tipping a glass to a fallen comrade without questioning the reasons the comrade is no longer alive to tip his own.

    For what it’s worth, all my grandmothers’ sons served (Marines) and I was born at Ft. Leavenworth; I am not anti-servicemen- American or otherwise- and had no political agenda in mind when I wrote this post. In fact, I love mankind enough to want all soldiers home alive with the people who love them. It’s the people giving the orders that I question and when those people do the bidding of the highest donors, it’s time to put down the flags and recognize that there are indeed groups working in the shadows to pull the strings. Lastly, when war is absolutely unavoidable (and I don’t really believe ever really is), I try to remember the cost to humanity regardless of uniform.

    I think it terribly sad that you reflexively came down on me as smug while trumpeting what was fed to your ears instead of your mind. (I really hate to make assumptions about you but your words indicate that you know of, not know.) What a shame! I think your passion could be used for good if you also asked the questions.

    I’m not really the praying sort but I will keep you in my thoughts and hope that you never actually know the personal loss of war. If you care at all to read a beautifully written piece about war loss, I recommend Twain’s War Prayer.


  4. I re-read what I wrote yesterday and it was uncharacteristically rude, at least the smugness crack. For that I apologize, although I got around to surfing the net two or three Guinesses into the afternoon, and it was Memorial Day, so I hope you all can cut me a bit of slack.

    But Michelle, your presumptions about me are incorrect, and I disagree with your post for two reasons.

    First, to reduce the rationale for all the United States’ military involvements over the past 2 centuries as being driven purely by a powerful elite enriching their coffers is simplistic, perhaps a visceral libertarian response similar to those on the left who spot Israel’s hand in every move made in Washington, DC.

    In the last two decades alone, the nation deployed the military in harm’s way for a myriad of reasons, some of them much more convoluted and nonsensical than the rationale used to put Smedley Butler on the road to two Medals of Honor. The policy rationale for using force to achieve political ends occurs for a variety of reasons; to reduce it to war profiteering alone? I disagree. Do Predator drones shoot hellfires into Al Qaeda camps in Pakistan solely to enrich General Atomics and Lockheed Martin? Was the debacle in Somalia a sinister plot to exploit. . . I cannot even work that one, it just seems like a mediocre plan that slipped by a newbie administration with a lot of other irons in the fire. . .

    The second reason why I disagreed with you is because you presumed that anyone who celebrates Memorial Day is “brainwashed by the State’s propaganda”. You presumed that because this day means absolutely nothing to you, that anyone who finds meaning in it has been deceived, or brainwashed, by highly effective State propaganda.

    The charge that the military are brainwashed by the State’s efficient propagada machine is one that I have grown quite used to hearing over the years, so much so that now I find it humorously uninformed, rather than just bigoted and ignorant.

    I have been a Soldier for over 18 years and have deployed to combat twice, and on other military operations as well over the years. I have lost several friends and acquaintances over the years, in combat as well as accidents. So for me, I spend the day remembering my fellow soldiers, especially the friends I have lost. My family does as well. When you are forty years old and have spent your entire adult life in an organization and built long term relationships with people, it is cathartic to take a day out of your life and reflect on what they meant to you. And to think about the units you served in.

    I would argue that a reasonable person can place flowers at the grave of a friend in Arlington, or raise a pint of Guinness to remember soldiers you served with in a Regiment even if you are not held in thrall by the powerful United States’ propaganda machine.

    That is what I personally celebrated on Memorial Day, although I skipped the grilling and swimming you mentioned because it rained here in DC, and opted for broiled salmon and the obligatory Guinness.

    I appreciate the concern you expressed for me above, it seemed genuine. I bookmarked the site, too, so I hope I did not wear out my welcome with the smugness crack. and I hope you find the time examine some issues that pose a more pressing threat to individual freedomin the United States besides Federal Holidays that you do not particularly enjoy. Cheers.

  5. wilsonrofishing,

    I’m uncharacteristically in bed with my laptop and was checking on an unrelated curiosity when I came across your latest comment. I want to give it proper consideration before I fully comment but wanted so address one of your points right now: I didn’t say that I don’t care about the holiday. On the contrary, I think the day demands reflection. I will be back on tomorrow to discuss your points; my concern is genuine and I do hope you visit again.


    edited to add: I am sorry for the presumption I made about you. It was unfair given just a couple lines of text. I will read your links tomorrow and look forward to the continued discussion.

  6. Michelle,

    Thanks for the follow up, no harm done, I have thick skin and I am an anonymous poster, after all! Have a nice day, and I look forward to your follow up.

    Bob (Wilsonrofishing)

  7. wilsonrofishing,

    Before I looked over your links, I looked over your site. I think it is beautifully written and have linked it to several others. I maintain that Memorial Day should be a day of reflection not just another day away from the machine. Perhaps I didn’t communicate my thoughts fully enough in the post and that would be my fault. I took umbrage at being wished a “happy” Memorial Day- on my show, I mentioned that perhaps people should say “HAPPY Dead Soldier Day!” I don’t find the premature death of humans to be joyous and thought that an new greeting might provoke the kind of questions necessary to determine the reasons that humanity hasn’t progressed beyond clubbing our fellow man.

    To be clear: Placing flowers on graves isn’t what makes me angry. The mindlessness of the day and the reasons we celebrate at all are what irk me. Wearing (as a matter of habit) a flag painted shirt and spending the day shopping does nothing to keep soldiers (under any flag) home and alive.

    As far as the issues you linked, we mayn’t be as far apart as you think. I’ve written extensively about those issues- here and other places- for 6 years.

  8. Michelle,

    Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to visit my site. I took time to check yours out as well and agree that we agree on more items than disagree. And as for your sentiments expressed in the comment above, I could not agree more.

    Keep up the belief and the fight for personal freedom and liberty, and I will do the same.

    Bob (Wilsonrofishing)

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