Wednesday, March 10, 2010

History of War

Replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

While visiting Truth or Consequences New Mexico last month, I wandered over to the new Veterans Memorial that was erected there. The project has taken a few years and a lot of donations to complete. One display that stands out is the replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, complete with names. It is smaller than the one in Washington DC, but it is exact. The day I went there, it happened to be the anniversary of the date I returned home from Vietnam, and the day I got out of the Army. A forty year anniversary.
I went to the wall and went to the panel where the name of a dear friend is printed. I touched his name. I was surprised at the lack of strong emotion. I was actually sad that I didn’t break down and cry. Maybe I’m all cried out about Vietnam. Maybe I’ve healed enough to just accept my involvement in Vietnam as part of who I am at this point of my life. Whatever has happened to me, I accept that too. I still honor every name on that Sacred Wall.
I walked around the grounds and went inside the small museum. On the walkway, there is a star shaped path. Along this path every so often lies a granite stand with a slab on top that tells of a war the United States has fought in. As I look at the yard in total, I see a heck of a lot of these granite slabs. I walk around and discovered something.
As I read the name and dates of each war we have been in, I start to see a theme. It is no surprise that these wars could have been avoided. And just like the war we are now engaged in in Iraq, we started them.
I took a photo of every one of these plaques. As I read the reasons for the wars being mentioned on the granite slabs, I make mental note.
The War of 1812
US declared war on Britain as a result of long simmering disputes.
Mexican American War
An undefined and contested border.
The Civil War
Northern States against Southern states over States rights, taxation, imbalance of trade and slavery
Spanish American War
Control of Cuba to protect the sugar plantation interests from Spanish control.
Philippine American War
Filipino people didn’t want to be colonized by the US after winning freedom from Spain.
World War I
Germany didn’t like that we traded with England as a neutral power. They attacked the shipping convoys with submarines and the US joined forces with Britian.
World War II
Help the Allies stay free from the oppression of Germany, and revenge the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.
The Korean War
The US gave military help to South Korea.
The Vietnam War
The plaque gave no reason for this war, just that we were in it. Supposedly, our involvement was to keep South Vietnam from Communist control.
US Forces in Beirut
After a terrorist bomb explosion, we sent troops to avenge the event.
Invasion of Granada
Attack of this island to keep a government in control that was sympathetic to America’s agenda.
Invasion of Panama
The US backed a coup to depose elected President Noriega.
The Persian Gulf War
US attacked Iraq forces as they tried to seize Kuwait.
Attacked this country because they were thought to have weapons of mass destruction and believed they would attack the US
Attacked Afghanistan to seek out and destroy Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attack on US soil

All laid out, war measured in deaths and wounded, all neat and orderly, like that;s the only thing that matters, the body count.
I guess they call World War II “The Good War” for a reason. As history states, the Nazi’s were hell bent on taking over the world and eradicating the Jews. We helped defeat them, but by the same token, the warfare in the Pacific against the Japanese has been under scrutiny.

Makes me sad to see it and think about it this way. I want to be from a country that doesn’t make their might be their leadership and power, but instead leads by example. The Spanish American War is a good example. Attack them to protect corporate interests invested in sugar plantations.

Now, so many years, and so many lives lost and changed forever, we are still at it. We won’t let down for a moment. Imagine, (Thank you John Lennon), that we stood down and forgave the people that we call our enemies. Funny, the Native American people did that. That’s why they will never be defeated. Persecuted and treated unfairly for all time, but not defeated.

Also funny that the plaques don’t mention the wars fought right here in this country against the people who inhabited it when the US took over, conquered and occupied, the home lands of the Indian tribes.

I had a conversation with an old friend the other day. A Native Elder. I met him on The Longest Walk II in 2008. We became friends. He told me that he wasn’t an American. He is a Dakota. Plain and simple, to the point. His people didn’t want the civilization that was forced upon them, forced in a way that stripped them of their rights, their hunting grounds, their land, their water rights, their way of life, their religion, their language, their dignity, their heritage, their culture and their hair.

Imagine again if we just all got along. If materialistic conquest wasn’t the goal but to live in harmony was? To have enough of what we all need to survive and not compete for “stuff”. TV would be replaced by Elders telling stories of their past. School would be learning how to get along with others and following a code of honor that relates to the natural world, the land and water, Mother Earth, and the Universe.

There isn’t much talk about conquering the sun and the sky, the Moon. We haven’t gotten up there to wreak havoc on the Moon yet, have we?

I have tried to get rid of the shame of having gone to Vietnam and fought for my country. Sometimes I feel like I understand it and I can hold my head up and be proud, but I don’t today. I see the reasons for the wars we fight and can’t see the wisdom or righteousness in it at all. Then I think, I was a part of that. I could have laid down my rifle and gone to Leavenworth prison, but I didn’t have the courage to sit in a cell for 20 years. I stayed and did their bidding instead. Coward. My only redemption is to find right from wrong and admit it, forgive myself and ask for peace.

I ask for Peace for all


Christopher said...

Great post, very moving. All the same I think the Brit experience is no less shameful than some of the examples you quote, but then our national history goes back further. Why don't more US citizens think as you do?

Pax vobiscum

Mel said...

(((((((((((( Spadoman )))))))))))))

I have so much I want to say--and so little ability to put into words what that is.

You were not the age then that you are now. You did not possess the wisdom or the experience of today.

Victims tend to think in terms of the knowledge they possess today--and they judge choices they made then on their present day knowledge. Seems to me you're doing that to yourself. And I don't like watching that shroud of shame you place around you--simply because I KNOW....what you did then was not what you would do today. There's no shame in only knowing then what you knew.

I'm proud of you for knowing what you do today.
Who you are.
What you choose to endorse based on what you know today--the YOU that you've grown to be.

Told ya I wouldn't say it like I wanted to....but I couldn't not try, yaknow....

susan said...

You're right as rain about most of the wars this country has perpetrated being essentially class wars fought against poor people for rich people by naive people. That's the truth and there's no shame in admitting naivety when one was young. Now the corporate state doesn't even seem to care much about keeping up all the propaganda that kept the populace asleep for so many years and people are becoming aware for the first time how much they've been used. Once there was a carrot held out that everyone could chase called democracy where people willing to work could become middle class. Now we've reached a point where it's all stick. Empires and democracy don't work and empires exist simply for power and conquest. We'll just have to see where it all leads but having the blinders removed is a very good first step. When we all understand we're workers and exactly who the oppressors are there may be a possibility for change.

Peace to you too.

Spadoman said...

Christopher... Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I found some irony in the fact that the Mericuns fought against the Brits, then with them, but one came from the cloth of the other. As you say, the Brits have been at it longer. That means we had a good teacher with a lot of experience.
Maybe a minority of US folks think about our history, and more might like what they already know.


Mel... I know what you are saying, and I know you are right. I was a very young man when I went off to war. At times, however, I just wish I could turn back the clock and know and feel what I know and feel now. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. (and the hugs)

Peace to you and thanks for coming here.

susan... Funny thing is, the blinders have been removed for a while in some of us, but still not enough outrage to force the empire's hand. Not enough of the people are outraged I guess. We will have to see what happens, but change may not be in our lifetime. Thanks for dropping by.

Peace to you.

Sorrow said...

I sat and tried to find the right words.
Like Mel, it's hard to find them, to articulate the knowing and the being. To grieve with the man who was the boy, who did as he was asked.
To be the mother whose child wants to do the right thing, but isn't always sure what the right thing is. Guessing...
It is no easy thing to live a life with out regrets. We all wish for a time machine that could take us back to undo, redo the places on the path where we feel we went astray.
Who would we be then? would we still have the same wisdom? would we still try to make the difference we now know?
I search for those answers, and mostly I find only more questions.
there is no shame in the man you have become, only the scars of an old warrior who has learned his lessons the old fashion way..
the hard way.
and still I sit here searching for the words..
Peace on the path

I, Like The View said...


no words

. . .'part from the say that


I'll save it

actually, two words: thank you

Spadoman said...

Sorrow... Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the kind words. I know these things inside, but the sorrow, (no pun intended at all), of war stays with me and will rear its ugly head now and then. It is people like you that make it tolerable. Thank you.

View... You too, thank YOU. I appreciate your visit to get me through a tough day now and then.

Peace to all

katherine. said...

I appreciate you sharing this experience with was a heart felt post.