Our highest patriotism on this Memorial Day should not simply be to mourn those Americans who have died fighting in the uniform of our country, but more importantly, we should all vow that unnecessary wars -- like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan -- will never, ever happen again.
The costs in American lives needlessly lost, and soldiers maimed, (with numbers reaching into the hundreds of thousands) have been devastating to their families and to the very fabric of who we are and what we stand for.
No wonder recent polls show that Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to be less active in world affairs.
Everyone knows that last two wars, Iraq and Vietnam, were based on lies and deceit from politicians with ulterior, and hidden, motives. These immoral wars, there is no other word for them, have unnecessarily squandered the lives of more than 400,000 brave American soldiers, fighting for reasons that had nothing to do with American's core security.
The Vietnam War was an atrocity built on a Cold War miscalculation of Communism (always doomed to fail of its own contradictions) and the false claim that the North Vietnamese had attacked a U.S. Navy warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. What was our military doing in the Gulf of Tonkin in the first place? Trying to provoke a war perhaps.
Likewise, the Iraq War was sold to Americans, shaken by the 9/11 attack, on manufactured evidence that Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The war was orchestrated by a cabal of Neo-Con hawks who thought they could bring peace to the Middle East by invading another country and in the process, expand the American Empire. And the Neo-Cons figured that, as a byproduct, we could plunder Iraq's oil and thus pay for it all. What they didn't figure, or seem to care about, was the over 30,000 young Americans who would be killed or crippled, or the 500,000 Iraqis civilians who would lose their lives -- so we could topple a corrupt dictator, (who nevertheless was providing stability for most of his people.)
The unanticipated consequences of our invasion turned out to be far worse than the evil we were trying to cure.
Craig Livingston, a Vietnam Vet, wrote recently in the Newark Star Ledger about the kind of political leaders we should choose:
In America's past we have chosen Presidents -- both Republicans and Democrats -- who have well understood both the need for the military defense of our country as well the need to avoid unnecessary military conflicts.
President Lincoln's hatred of slavery did not prevent him from trying to find a middle ground with the soon to be Confederate States. And Franklin D. Roosevelt, who hated the Nazis second to none, prevented our Navy from escorting the Lend Lease Destroyers to Great Britain largely because he wanted to be sure we were, as a Nation, united in our support for the greatest war that we would ever face.
And President Eisenhower, who knew firsthand the cost of War, as a candidate pledged to get us out of the War in Korea, a promise he kept within a year of his taking the oath of office.
President Obama opposed the War in Iraq as a Senator and candidate and withdrew the final American troops in 2011 and now promises to get us out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. It is our sacred duty to our fallen to assure that our next President and indeed, all of our elected leaders, walk in the paths of Presidents Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower and Obama. And those who have served our Nation in foreign wars can best honor our fallen comrades by our work to make sure that these leaders are the kind we always elect.
Glorious Parades are cheap on Memorial Day, but as George McGovern said 40 year ago, "I'm fed up with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."
Today, paunchy old men, who never served in the military, are once again beating the drums of war calling for American involvement in Syria or the Ukraine.
Of course we need a strong military for national security, but our military budget does not have to be bigger than that the next twenty nations combined. The United States spends more than five times as much as any other nation on its armed services -- 39 percent of the entire world's military budget. China spends 9.5 percent, Russia 5.2 percent, and the United Kingdom, France and Japan each spend 3.5 percent. It also spends twice as much, as a percentage of GDP, as any other industrialized nation. And the more we spend, the more we involve ourselves in other countries affairs, the more dangerous the world becomes for Americans. Are 1,000 plus U.S. foreign American military bases really necessary?
One of the worst aspects of this non-productive spending is that we are draining resources from research, economic growth, education and job creation. We have a National Public Debt of 17 trillion dollars and growing.
We have been fortunate in the past in that America's geographic isolation has mostly protected us from the many violent conflicts that have so decimated Europe and Asia. Our empire has thrived in the last century because of our democracy, economic vitality, education and culture -- in spite of our recent war mongering around the world. In fact our military expenditures, and the enmity we are attracting, are making us weaker not stronger. Our unnecessary wars are virtually killing the future of our great country
So, on this Memorial Day let us glorify our soldiers, but not our past futile wars. Instead let us honor the peace Presidents and politicians who are trying to keep us out of new wars after a decade of military misadventures. Let us keep our troops ready for when and where we absolutely need them, when our freedoms are really threatened.
Have we so quickly forgotten the bloody lessons of the last decade?