Reflections on Memorial Day

Today we honor those who have given their lives for their country. Flags are flown and tears are shed as they should be. But I wonder about the glorification of only the war dead. I listen to the numbers. 100,000 in WWI, 400,000 in WWII, 40,000 in Korea, 58,000 in Viet Nam, 5,000 in the war on terror after 9/11. But why don’t they mention the lives lost on the other side? What about the 3 million civilian lives lost during our 20 year involvement in Vietnam, or the half a million civilian lives lost in Iraq  and Afghanistan?  Who will honor them?

Was it worth it? We were told in Vietnam that they started the war by attacking U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin but that was false. We were told that we had to fight them there so we didn’t have to fight them here, but they never had the will or capability of attack us. We were told that if we didn’t fight them the Communists would take over neighboring countries, but the dominoes never fell. We did not fight to spread Democracy. In fact we fought to prevent Democracy. After the French lost the Indochinese war of liberation, Vietnam was to be united with free elections, but when we found that 85% of the Vietnamese would have supported Ho Chi Minh we prevented the reunification and free elections. Twenty years later Vietnam was finally reunified and gained their freedom and the world did not end. Wouldn’t the world have been a lot better off, and all of that death and destruction avoided if, we had allowed them to choose their own destiny and freedom twenty years earlier?

The war in Iraq was perhaps the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history. It was an unnecessary and illegal war made on a country that did not attack us, had no terrorists and had no weapons of mass destruction to harm us or their neighbors. It was a war based on lies, made so we could profit from their oil, and so Haliburton could profit from rebuilding the country. But we didn’t even get the oil and the country still hasn’t been rebuilt. All this war did is destabilize the middle East and empower terrorists like Al Queda and ISIS.

Some of us knew that the war was a sham and were denounced as traitors when we protested. So who were the real heroes of that war? The “patriots” who wrapped themselves in the flag and rushed headlong into disaster, or the peaceful Americans who knew we were being lied to, and tried to keep us out of that war? The abuse heaped on the Dixie Chicks simply for saying that they were ashamed of the President who perpetrated the invasion and violated the Geneva convention by torturing thousands, is typical of the power of propaganda. Now that we know they were right could their career be restored?

Do only American lives matter? What about all of the lives lost to other causes? Each day there are a thousand children who die due to disease and drought tied to Climate Change. Shouldn’t we fight to save their lives? Each year there are about seven million deaths world wide due to pollution. Shouldn’t we try to save them? Even in the US, there are 200,000 deaths a year due to pollution. The EPA said President Obama’s proposed Clean Power plan would save 3,500 lives a year that would otherwise be lost due to respiratory disease caused by coal and other fossil fuel pollution. Yet this modest plan is denounced as a communist plot to cripple the economy. In fact converting the economy to clean renewable energy would create many new jobs and revitalize the economy.

If we spent a trillion dollars and ten years of war to avenge the 3,000 people lost in 9/11, how much lost profit would justify saving the lives of 3,500 people? In the future millions will die due to Climate Change. The changes we make now to make our environment cleaner will save lives in the future, and each year we delay making the necessary changes the more expensive it will become.

Shouldn’t those who fight for a better future, those who fight to save the lives of people who would be lost to climate change, shouldn’t they also be treated like the brave warriors that fight in war? The doctors who go abroad to help the starving and the sick also deserve our regard. Anyone that works to save the lives of others should be honored.

Those who died in war should certainly be honored for the heroes that they are, but those who labored to avoid war and worked to bring about peace also save lives. They are also heroes.




About altruist1

I am a raging progressive and a writer. I received Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Arts with a Secondary teaching certificate and a minor in Physics. I taught for about ten years, then did various jobs including welding,fabrication and traffic engineering, and am now retired. I am interested in science, energy, the environment, and architecture.
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