Opinion » Ted Rall

Remember the Others

Self-delusion and the cult of militarism


Memorial Day: our national celebration of charred meat (but the four contractors hung from that bridge in Iraq don't count).

However, as we countdown to next year's Warapalooza, I'd like what's left of the left to stop missing an opportunity to protest, mock and undermine the cult of militarism.

Let's make Memorial Day 2013 a day to remember all the victims of American warmongering. By all means, shed a tear for the 58,282 American men and women who died for transnational natural gas corporations during the 1960s and 1970s, and a patently absurd "domino theory" in Vietnam. But make sure you cry 35 times more for the 2 million-plus Vietnamese men and women our soldiers were sent to kill--people who posed no threat to us, who did us no harm.

Let's build a wall for America's war victims in Washington, D.C. That sucker would be big enough to stimulate the construction economy.

Our war dead deserve recognition for helping to expand the American empire, and for lining the pockets of the profiteers and their pet politicians. But worry not: The right-wingers will never let us forget these heroes.

Those of us who stand on the left have a different duty. We stand for the oppressed, the downtrodden, the abused. We defend the innocent. We care about the underdog.

We on the left reject the idea of The Other. To us, no life has more or less meaning or value than any other life. Our dead are not worth more than "their" dead.

And so we, the left, ought to declare that Memorial Day 2013 should belong not just to the jingoists and war criminals, but also to their victims. We should hang banners and march on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans murdered by U.S. forces.

I'm not a pacifist. Some wars must be fought. Invading armies must be resisted.

But war is almost always a struggle of the rich and powerful fought by the poor and powerless. War kills, maims and makes people crazy. It destroys infrastructure. It sucks away resources--money, technology, people--that would be better deployed somewhere else.

"You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated," President Barack Obama told a group of Vietnam vets on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the start of the war. "It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened."

"You persevered though some of the most-brutal conditions ever faced by Americans in war," Obama said. "The suffocating heat. The drenching monsoon rains. An enemy that could come out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly."

And finally, an outrageous claim, one so widely accepted that the media didn't bother to quote it in news accounts, much less question it: "We hate war. When we fight, we do so to protect ourselves because it's necessary."

Americans have fought a handful of battles, much less entire wars, to "protect ourselves." From the Barbary States to Latin America, Cuba, Grenada, Panama, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military has attacked without cause, without justification, with impunity, 99 percent of the time.

It's bad enough to live in a nation in thrall to the cult of militarism. It's worse to lie about it. And it's insane to believe the lies.