Posts by: "Joe Steigerwald"

Memorial Day is now three days behind us. The patriotic fervor of the day has dulled to a low ebb. Citizens, more distant than ever from the military, can once again forget about the soldiers dying far away. For most Americans it’s time to go back to their daily grind until the shadow of Veterans Day reminds them to wave flags and post thank yous on social media.

As for libertarians, it’s downright antithetical to celebrate a day like Memorial Day, so it’s a relief when the day passes. The idea of memorializing soldiers, the guns in the itchy trigger fingers of the State’s hand, seems loathsome. These are the people who kill enemy and innocents alike, unquestioning, based on orders given by men who view battlefields as chessboards, soldiers as pawns, and blood as a lubricant in their geopolitical ends and means.

Over on, Lucy Steigerwald (my sister) writes in her critique of Memorial Day that “It is not morally neutral to join the military, and so it’s not morally neutral to mourn war dead.” Sheldon Richman at the Free Association blog also views Memorial Day in a negative light, (to say the least).

Richman writes:

Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country’s war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history … teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the “private” component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

But this ignores the millions of soldiers killed who were drafted in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They didn’t choose to join the military, they were coerced. It also ignores the fact that the world only exists in its current capacity because of the blood spilled in the American Revolution. Was that war just? What about World War II? How many civilians have to be killed before some kind of intervention becomes necessary or moral?

You don’t have to believe in the morality of war to honor those who died. But by all means parse out each individual soldier. Play St. Peter and judge them on their worthiness of being honored. Go ahead and memorialize the 53 percent that meets your criteria while making sure none of the 47 percent receive any of your well-wishes. If you want to find someone to blame, there’s a much more worthy target than soldiers — especially the dead ones.

The blame for wars lies squarely at the feet of the government. It’s easy to excoriate soldiers for being the weapons of war, but that ignores the fingers pulling the trigger. With drones replacing front line soldiers, the impetus to change the way our government operates grows exponentially. When war becomes as cold and sterile as playing a video game, it doesn’t bode well for a peaceful world.

You cannot hope to put an end to warfare by heaping blame on the soldiers. It’s counterproductive and only inflames the passions of the citizenry. To spur change, our words and efforts have to be focused on the highest halls of power. The State will try and deflect, to blame the rest of the world for forcing their hand, for coercing them into war. It will arouse patriotism through statues and songs and through co-opting days of memorial.

It is far too easy to get caught up in celebrating Memorial Day the way the government wants us to. They want us to forget the endless wars, the needless interventions. But that’s not the point. Memorial Day wasn’t started by the government as a way to stoke patriotism. It was a simple day of remembering those who died in battle, no matter who or why.

Memorial Day isn’t a once a year quote thanking the military for their service. It’s not an excuse to wave a flag and proclaim our country the greatest in the world. It’s not an excuse to hate anti-war activists and those who would dare speak out against our foreign policy. The State has equated the day with patriotism to dull the senses of the masses. To cow those who would speak out against the heroic American solider serving selflessly overseas to protect our freedoms, Democracy; whatever the buzz words of the day are. But that’s not what Memorial Day is for.

It is a day to honor American soldiers who have died in battle. That’s all.

It’s really that simple. There’s nothing pro-war or pro-government about it. If anything, the concept of remembering the hundreds of thousands of dead American soldiers is decidedly anti-war. If more people remember the cost of war in human terms then it becomes harder for the government to abuse its powers.

The government may have stolen Memorial Day for their own means, but that doesn’t mean remembering the fallen should make us uncomfortable. Remember that as long as government has the power of life and death, there will be more and more soldiers who die and become merely statistics in a book. So celebrate Memorial Day, and remember the soldiers — maybe more than once a year — but do more than that; fight for a world in which they no longer have to be memorialized.

This graph, which shows how stupid America is, was recently retweeted by journalist Glenn Greenwald. gitmo close

It’s a great, damning graph; two piecharts taken  from a televised news report show how partisan and principle-free are Democrats. The problem is it’s not actually real. Intrepid editor Lucy Steigerwald looked through the source of the poll and found discrepancies with the graph’s supposed numbers.

Glenn Greenwald, a noted Guantanamo opponent, likely knew that outrage over the prison among Democrats had diminished. So without looking up the actual numbers, he retweeted the graph. This is confirmation bias, and it’s easy to fall into its trap, especially on social networking sites like Twitter. Sadly, the real numbers are actually very close — close enough for it to seem strange why someone would go through the trouble to fake a graph like this in the first place.

The actual Washington Post/ABC poll shows that 70% of all respondents favor leaving Guantanamo Bay open. Furthermore The Post revealed that 53% of self described “liberal Democrats” and 67% “moderate or conservative Democrats approved.

Although the numbers from the graph aren’t accurate, they are close enough to make you wonder what the hell Americans are thinking. When Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay by 2010 he had a lot of support amongst his constituents. A 2009 Marist poll of Democrats showed 72% favored closing Guantanamo. During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama constantly referenced how he would close the prison if he won the election.

But he didn’t.

It’s 2013 and Guantanamo still holds 166 enemy combatants. Obama has talked a great deal about his desire to close it down, but shown little real interest and has taken no action on the matter. The lack of interest has sparked a sea change in the opinions of Democrats and they have abandoned their once hardline stance and now stand firmly behind their Commander in Chief.

And this is what’s wrong with America.

It’s funny how a change in the party running the White House can make such a big difference in the principles of the American people. When President Bush was in charge, Democrats couldn’t wait to close down Guantanamo Bay. It was a place which ruined America’s image and embiggoned our enemies abroad. But now Obama is in charge, he can spew empty promises about how he “wants” to shut it down, but why should he? He no longer needs to placate the people, their hearts and minds have changed. It’s a win-win for Obama and a lose-lose for America.

Joe Steigerwald is the Commander in Chief of Steigerwald Post and a hell of a model American. Follow him on Twitter @Steigerwaldino

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