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May 26, 2009

The Tomb Of The Unfortunate Civilian

By: John Caruso

Here's an excerpt from Obama's Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery:

...I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle.  I'm the father of two young girls -- but I can't imagine what it's like to lose a child.  These are things I cannot know.

But I do know this: I am humbled to be the Commander-in-Chief of the finest fighting force in the history of the world. [...]

With each death, we are heartbroken.  With each death, we grow more determined.

Now here it is with all the callous irony replaced by straightforward honesty:

...I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle.  I'm the father of two young girls -- but I can't imagine what it's like to lose a child.  These are things I cannot know.

But I do know what it's like to kill a child.  I killed a few the first week I took office, and I've killed and maimed dozens more since then.  But despite the glaring contradiction between talking lovingly about my two young girls and simultaneously being responsible for killing young girls just like them in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the only thing I care to say to you at this moment is that I am humbled to be the Commander-in-Chief of the biggest war machine in the history of the world. [...]

With each American death, we are heartbroken.  With each death that matters, we grow more determined to destroy lives that don't.

Honestly, I'd be much happier if politicians would just come right out and say things like this.

Here's a modest proposal: Obama made a point of honoring a previously-ignored group by becoming the first president to send a wreath to the African-American Civil War Memorial.  How about establishing a memorial to another ignored group—namely, the innocent people who've lost their lives as part of America's efforts to militarily spread freedom, democracy, and prosperity around the world?  I can't see how any patriotic and principled American could possibly object to this; after all, since one of the main purposes of American war-making is to help (say) Iraqis and Afghans, surely we should honor all the innocents who pay the ultimate price while we're liberating them and therefore never get to enjoy the fruits of the selfless sacrifices we make on their behalf?  It's the least a nation with such high ideals and morals (expressed through the use of such high explosives) can do.

Someday, I'm sure.  But until then we'll have to make do with our own personal remembrances of the millions of innocent people whose deaths have somehow—in the words of our maximum leader—allowed us to "know freedom."

— John Caruso

Posted at May 26, 2009 03:38 PM

John, I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Actually, I was watching the first Star Wars film (1977) the other night, the part where Darth Vader is torturing Princess Leia to get information about the location of the rebel base. The Death Star was threatened with destruction by the rebels, so the Empire blew up Aldoran to get her to talk.

It's funny, but I found myself remembering when Darth Vader was considered the bad guy in that film, when torturing the Princess was considered heinous, when the destruction of innocents to obtain information was, well, evil.

How times have changed.

Posted by: Oarwell at May 26, 2009 04:43 PM

OBAMA is just doing what WE PAY him for. U&I bought into the "Security before The Constitution" story line. U can't expect him to walk away from OSAMA BIN LADEN like George and Dick did. Should he do so then he looks as cowardly as Bush and Cheney.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 26, 2009 05:53 PM

Ah, 1977 -- those were the days, weren't they, Oarwell? We'd just left a bunch of civilians hanging from our helicopters in Saigon a couple of years before, after twenty years of killing, torturing, maiming, napalming, defoliating, and herding into concentration camps ("strategic hamlets") millions of Vietnamese who'd never done anything to us, which never bothered most Americans all that much as far as I could tell. (Though Jimmy Carter claimed the destruction was mutual.) The School of the Americas, based in Panama then, was training torturers and all-round butchers of human beings for our possessions in Latin America -- but they were just a few bad apples, nothing to do with us. It wasn't that any of this (and much more) was really a secret. Our atrocities in Vietnam, especially, were done in plain view of the media. Most Americans just thought of it as having something to do with dusky foreigners far away, who don't feel pain as we do, and tried not to think about it very much. Just like today. What they really hated, and still hate, are the pesky pacifists and occasional media who make these little peccadilloes difficult to ignore.

Remember, torturing the Princess is still considered heinous. If the ragheads were to torture Our Boys as we torture Their Boys, America would rise up as one to denounce their Mohammed-worshipping, seventy-two-virgins-craving evil.

Posted by: Duncan at May 26, 2009 07:16 PM

Nonsense. It's the Germans' fault! Here's why:

1. We have a Holocaust Museum, don't we?

2. Germany does NOT have a Native American Genocide Museum, does it?

I just don't how Germans can live with themselves...

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at May 26, 2009 07:48 PM

It's the least a nation with such high ideals and morals (expressed through the use of such high explosives) can do.

The phrase "High ideals expressed through high explosives" will stay with me always.

Now that's some good writin'.

Posted by: SteveB at May 26, 2009 10:19 PM

I suggest this expression to quantify our magnificence:

log(American ideals) = (explosive yield) + (height from which explosives are dropped).

It's probably a natural log - you know, Locke and all that.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at May 26, 2009 11:40 PM

In his heart of hearts, Obama weeps.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at May 27, 2009 03:08 AM

Dennis Perrin provides a story and this YouTube link, appropriate to the occasion.

Posted by: NomadUK at May 27, 2009 06:26 AM

yeah. just when you thought "maybe" it goes back to "nuh uh."

Posted by: bub at May 27, 2009 08:19 AM

Working up hate for Obama when he has no power to change the permanent government's agenda is a waste of your energy. Yeah, he shouldn't be ignoring that our military is killing civilians, like every President since who? Garfield?

After WWI Herbert Hoover, in charge of relief efforts in Europe, was willing to starve Russians because his oil holdings around Baku were being seized by the Soviets. The West's, particularly the United States', opposition to the old Soviet Union, has not been about democracy, or even the lives and deaths of Russians and other peoples. It's been about that black stuff bubbling out of the ground. The "rollback" theology of the Right during the Cold War was in large part to roll back the borders of the Soviet Union so that the energy of Central Asia would once again be under the control of American corporations.

You can go back to the early 1990s and read in leftist journals on the margin like Covert Action Information Bulletin all about Unocal's plans for a pipeline through Afghanistan, how the Brzezinski el al were dealing with the regime before the Taliban to get that pipeline.

Just like the war in Iraq was drawn up years before in order to exploit their oilfields, the pipeline was on the boardroom agenda long before 9/11. Bin Laden's residence in Afghanistan, along with 9/11, were fortunate "coincidences" that fell in place for this grand strategy.

But, really, whether Obama is a willing accomplice, a hostage or just entertainment until we all get our uniforms and are marching in the streets is of little matter.

If criticism of Obama is merely a complaint, it's not aimed at anyone who can or will make a difference at this late date.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at May 27, 2009 10:06 AM

John, your suggestion is commendable. But rest assured those people will honor the victims and suitably reward our efforts in their own way.

Posted by: Pvt. Keepout at May 27, 2009 10:21 AM

Bob in Pacifica: The pipeline was FIRST concieved in the 1880's as a competition move by the English against Deutche Bank's Berlin to Baghdad railway. The Queen had the leases in Uzbekistan and probably still did in 2001. My guess is that Poppy Bush NOW has those leases as well as the ones in Kuwait.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 27, 2009 11:40 AM

It's been about that black stuff bubbling out of the ground.

How is it that so many other countries are able to consume large quantities of oil without being in a constant state of war? How is Japan, for example, able to rely almost entirely on oil imported from the Middle East, without having any troops there?

Posted by: SteveB at May 27, 2009 02:51 PM

Can you imagine if the price of the "liberation" of Iraq was actually measured in Iraqi blood? It's the only measure that counts, after all, but nobody's counting...

Posted by: The Reality Kid at May 27, 2009 03:39 PM

BiP is right! US President Obama is a poor powerless orphan-of-the-storm, helpless and weak, unable to so much as lift a pinky finger to stop the US bloodbath in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's no point at all to picking on someone as hapless and feeble as President Obama! And besides, every US president since Harrison, (who were all helpless and weak, too!) have committed war atrocities - so why can't Obama? What have you got against poor helpless Obama who is only doing what every other President has done? LEAVE OBAMA ALOOOOOOOONE!!1!!!one!!

Posted by: AlanSmithee at May 27, 2009 03:52 PM

from a recent 'in-depth' Katy Couric interview of SecDef Gates on 60 Minutes:

Bob Gates takes his work home with him. He goes to bed at 11 and gets up at 5 a.m. And he avoids the Washington dinner circuit.

"But even if you don't like Washington, you like your job. Don't you?" Couric asked.

"The truth of the matter is being Secretary of War in a time of war is a very painful thing. And it's not a job anybody should like," Gates said. "How can you like a job when you go to Walter Reed and you know you sent those young men and women in harm's way? Every single person in combat today I sent there. And I never forget that for a second. So no, I don't enjoy my job."//

So the self-styled Secretary of War doesn't sense that he is sending warriors to kill people, which is what soldiers do in war. He has simply rationalized that he is sending "young men and women in harm's way." He doesn't enjoy it. It's very painful. But if he doesn't enjoy it then why does he do it? And why no mention of the dead, or of the unfortunate injured targets of the young men and women he sends in "harm's way?" And who dreamed up "harm's way" anyhow?

Posted by: Don Bacon at May 28, 2009 12:56 AM

Remember, Don, back in the good old days "Secretary of War" was the actual title. Then the War Department became the Defense Department, the Ministry of Lies became the Ministry of Truth, and so on.

Posted by: Duncan at May 28, 2009 06:34 AM

I appreciate Sec. Gates' frankness about his title.

The night in September 2001 when Bush announced the proposed creation of a Dept of "Homeland Security", my first thought (after shuddering at the vibes of 'homeland') was, "Oh, good, now we can go back to calling the other one the War Department."

The change to 'Dept. of Defense' was a dead giveaway for the moment we committed irreversibly to empire, and also a clue to the public propaganda walls that would limit respectable discussion from then on.

Posted by: Nell at May 28, 2009 11:37 AM

Speaking of calling things by their proper names, when the Department of War and the Department of the Navy were first merged, the official name was the National Military Establishment. However, it was soon noticed that it had an unfortunate acronym - NME - say it five times fast.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at May 30, 2009 10:29 PM

Every single person in combat today I sent there. And I never forget that for a second. So no, I don't enjoy my job!

Posted by: Steel Jewelry Wholesale at June 1, 2009 02:37 AM

Pleased to make everyone's acquaintance. I come here via my friend BuelahMan.

Somebody here mentioned Panama which is where I live now. I grew up in New York City bi-lingual in English and Spanish. That's only of interest because Panamanians loathe George W. Bush for his actions in the Middle East and South Asia, but Colin Powell is the equivalent of Hitler here for El Chorillo, 5000 civilians dead, 100,000 displaced -- for fun. He's a perfect fit with Barack Obama, that's for sure.

We're right now in a standoff with your president because he refuses to recognize the CLINTON/PEREZ-BALLARES TREATY OF 1999 granting Panama full independence from the US, guaranteeing no US military bases in the Republic of Panama EVER, and no extradition treaty with the US EVER.

He asserts a US right to monitor every aspect of every Panamanian citizen or resident alien's life -- financial, telecommunications, association, medical records, etc. He has promised to establish military bases here by force if necessary.

OK. The Treaty is iron-clad at the World Court but the US doesn't recognize the World Court as an arbiter. So, unlike American sheeple people here know what freedom and rights are all about and how you have to fight for them. President Torrijos made it quite clear to Obama that Panama was protected by the full force of the Russian military under the RUSO-LATINO PACT OF 2008. Recognize or don't recognize, Obama, but the consequences are a full-out Russian assault on the US, nuclear if necessary.

Incoming president-elect Martinelli whose somewhat to Torrijos's right made some noises during the campaign about closer ties with the US. That went over like a lead balloon. It fell to the wealthy and upper-middle class this time to explain to Martinelli that he can party with Obama all he likes but that Venezuela and Chile offer asylum to anyone seeking it from US aggression. That's not so meaningful maybe when it's suffering refugees bitching, but it means a whole hell of a lot when the entire Jewish, Muslim, French, Italian, and local banking commmunities say it.

I'm certain of nothing except that whatever happens between Obama and Panama will end in tears one way or the other. I cannot describe to you the loathing I have for that person.

Posted by: Kelso's Nuts at June 1, 2009 06:50 AM

Bob In Pacifica: I agree that Obama's a preening little eunuch. The problem is that his overwhelming popularity allows free license for the masters of war to operate, not only in Iraq and South Asia but in the Occupied Territories and in Colombia, too.

The other problem is how effectively he's marginalized some of the progressives who have made a difference in the cause of anti-imperialism and peace down here: Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters, Jim McGovern, and I don't give a shit if American so-called liberals like her or hate her, yes...NANCY PELOSI has been 100% stand up on South American peace and collective-bargaining issues.

I also give Jesse Jackson a lot of credit and Jimmy Carter as well.

Posted by: Kelso's Nuts at June 1, 2009 07:00 AM