Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans' Day 2007: Sentimentality in uniform

Well, here it is Veterans' Day 2007. It used to be called Armistice Day in remembrance of the end of The Great War, which, after the unpleasantness of World War II, got a name change. Not that anyone really cares about World War I these days. That's ancient history, so yesterday and it has nothing to do with what's happening now.

And I suppose it doesn't, for there were reasons the great European powers went to war with one-another 93 years ago. Stupid, petty reasons to be sure but reasons nonetheless. Or so the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Great Britain thought; for when we delve just a little beneath the surface what we find is a trio of royal cousins wanting an excuse to whack the crap out of each other. A lot of death, destruction and mayhem could have been avoided if the King of Great Britain, the Kaiser of Germany and the Czar of Russia had been locked in a room and beaten one another to a bloody pulp, last man standing the winner.

So how does this relate to the current "war" on terror? Because, at least in the early days of World War I the civilian population cheered declarations of war, the boys enlisted and, with much pomp and ceremony, marched off to die. And, at least according to the "polls" Americans overwhelmingly supported the opening notes of Operation Iraqi Liberation. But like the Vietnam burned babies that we are, we, the American people, have soured on President George W. Bush's little occupation of Iraq.

But we haven't soured on putting on a big sendoff for our boys and girls in uniform. Here's a sample of the latest teary-eyed, heart-tugging ceremony for the Iowa National Guards' 186th Military Police Company, in a story by reporter Melissa Walker in this morning's Sunday Des Moines Register

A soldier took a loved one down a quiet hallway to comfort her and privately say goodbye.

A freckle-faced boy wore his father's Army cap and looked up at him with pride.

A young man held his wife's hand and smiled as he patted her stomach, their baby growing inside.

There were hundreds of moments like these at the send-off on Saturday for the roughly 130 members of the Iowa Army National Guards 186th Military Police Company The company is headed to Fort Dix, N.J., for training before its deployment to Iraq.
Aw, isn't that touching. It makes this company of trained killers seem so human. Oopsie! I called them "trained killers!" I meant professional military police officers be sent to Iraq to "train" the Iraqis to police themselves. Odd, isn't it! I always thought Saddam Hussein's Iraq was something of a police state? Oh, well, silly me.

And to add a little noise and color to the sendoff ceremonies the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of Harley-Davidson ridding, flag waving, middle-aged cases of arrested development are donating their services to protect these brave boys and girls from the Reverend Fred Phelps and his merry band of Westboro Baptist homo haters. Fortunately for Register readers any reference to the Patriot Guard Riders or Fred Phelps was edited out, or both packs of assholes decided not to show.

But if we revel in the wonderful sendoffs for our "heroes" in uniform, equally we revel when they come home in a box or under their own power. We love the spectacle of flags and marching soldiers, their weeping families when they return. It only lasts a few minutes at most on the TV screen but it's so-o-o-o "emotional."

Anyway, like I wrote back on September 27 on this blog: As long as there is an All Volunteer Force. And as long as troop levels remain constantly around a 100,000 to 150,000 the American public will put up with the continued occupation of Iraq and subjugation of its people. This is the cynical and terrible arithmetic of Iraq.

To illustrate my point of September 27 last may I offer some quotations from the Veteran's Day story by George Basler in this morning's the Binghamton, NY Press & Sun-Bulletin
They're a different kind of veteran than previous generations, because they're fighting in an all-volunteer army, military officials said. Most of the country, exempt from a draft, can go about its business without being touched by war, or even thinking about it.

Opposition to the war disturbs Vincent Ruffo, 50, of Port Dickinson, who served in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005 as a sergeant with the 204th Engineer Battalion. He was in the National Guard for 20 years and also served at the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York City following the events of 9/11. He thinks too many people are forgetting that day, and why the United States is fighting. Maybe it will take another tragedy to wake people up, he said.

"What makes me mad is when people say we're a country at war. We're not a country at war. We're a military at war," [Joseph Merrill] the deputy Binghamton clerk said. He has more respect for people who are vocally against the war, even though he doesn't agree with them, than he has for people who say they support the war, but don't give anything back.
With that I close this Veterans' Day tirade.

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