It's time to stop the failed interventions
As we leave behind Memorial Day 2017 with its three-day weekend, picnics, car commercials, mattress sales and patriotic celebrations to honor soldiers killed in war, it seems to me that the observance is incomplete.
To look back, Memorial Day observance started as Decoration Day in 1868, three years after the bloody War Between the States, to decorate with flowers the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers, currently estimated at about 700,000. It was not until after World War I that the day was expanded to honor soldiers who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.
The incomplete part to me is that we do not mention the millions of innocent civilians killed during wars, especially in the slaughters of the 20th and 21st centuries. No monuments or statues, to my knowledge, exist in their remembrance.
Maybe our military leaders don’t want us thinking too much about “collateral damage” (their heartwarming term for civilian deaths)... just dead “heroes” of the state.
Beyond the estimated 50,000 southern civilians killed under Lincoln’s eyes, the real civilian carnage started in 1898 after 122 years of mostly minding our own business; the Mexican War and plains Indians notwithstanding.
That’s the year of our first colonizing adventure in the Philippine Islands from 1898-1902, part of the Spanish-American War. It was an expansion of our Manifest Destiny mantra. One estimate from that invasion of the Philippines reports that civilian deaths were between 200,000 and 250,000.
Author, historian Barbara W. Tuchman characterized the imperial adventure as that the U.S. “liberators and allies had turned into a new set of conquerors.” Mark Twain added, “And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” How quaint.
Further estimates of civilian deaths in other wars range from: World War I about 7 million; World War II - 19-46 million; Korea - 1.2 million and Vietnam - 2 million.
Then there are the 25 years (since 1991!) of Mideast invasions, no-fly zones, sanctions, bombing and occupation. The result, according to Professor Juan Cole from University of Michigan, shows that the U.S. has “... polished off about a million Iraqis from 1991 through 2011, large numbers of them children.”
Giving credence to this number, Madeline Albright, President Clinton’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was asked in 1996 by Leslie Stahl, on 60 Minutes, about the death of 500,000 Iraqi children from medical sanctions. Her reply was, “a very hard choice,” but all things considered, “we think the price is worth it.”
She offered no denial or apology. There was no outrage at home. Yet, we wonder why we experience blowback attacks for our murderous foreign policy?
Now, the killing advances as more bombs fly and troop numbers increase under President Trump, the fifth president leading more civilian destruction in the Mideast with no end in sight.
We’ve been sold that our military action is justified by the 9/11 attacks. It’s as if history started when the towers fell.
But, consider that this past April, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of our ill-advised entrance into World War I which led to a Western-drawn map of the Middle East.
It created new borders of Syria, Iraq and the Palestine mandate under control of France and Britain. Oil resources were a top consideration, but not so promised Arab self-determination. Mayhem resulted that remains today.
In 1948, the U.S. took sides with Truman’s recognition of Israel, which George Marshall’s State Department opposed. Over the years billions of aid dollars and weapons followed and we became an enemy in the region instead of a neutral player.
Interestingly, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, in 1956 commented that: “If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country.”
But, our actions bear no recognition of that fact. We only feign interest in a peace plan that never happens while arms and money keep flowing.
In spite of having about 700 bases in 74 countries with thousands of troops worldwide - our version of empire - we are less safe with less individual freedom than when Admiral Dewey steamed into Manila Bay in 1898.
It’s time to stop the failed interventions and avoid adding more soldiers and civilians to Memorial Day lists.
Geary Foertsch lives in Rehoboth and writes from a libertarian perspective to promote economic liberty, non-cronyism free markets, small government and a non-intervention foreign policy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.