Monday, May 25, 2015

Let's tell the truth this Memorial Day

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930

An FB friend of mine posted a piece on his Facebook page commenting on those people who can’t understand that you can oppose a war but support the troops. But the idea that you can’t support the troops and oppose the conflicts the ruling class sends them to is a trick. It is the war they want us to support.  The troops are just incidental cannon fodder.

The military of any country based on class rule is like society as a whole. The generals and top brass, the ones we see with all the paraphernalia and fancy medals on their chests in pictures—the ones that don’t do the fighting----- are all from ruling class families or linked to them through marriage, business interests and other such connections; the chances of them breaking these links are very small.  Those who put their lives on the line are from working class and poor families, some are children of the middle class, from small community businesses and the like. The rich don’t fight wars and workers and the poor are not trusted enough to lead.

Why would the children of moneyed parents or the 1% go fight some war against people who pose no threat to us whatsoever? They have too many alternatives----the family business, Harvard, Wall Street etc.  Poverty and unemployment, situations that most of these above never find themselves in is a good condition for recruiting young men and women to go fight US capitalism’s wars.  I lived near a large US base in England and my parents had many American friends. It was here that I met white workers, often rural people from the Midwest and south and African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic minorities. I never met the children of millionaires ever.

I am not a pacifist, but If my child was to die in the present conflicts that make companies like Haliburton billion dollar concerns and people like Dick Cheney and the 1% richer, I would be very angry but not at those that took his life opposing invaders, but at those that profit from it. 

I cannot with all honesty claim on this day that those Americans that have died in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else died defending us. We have not been threatened by any nation, especially not Iraqis who have seen their country destroyed and millions of their population made homeless, killed or maimed. Not to mention the sicknesses and birth defects that have occurred due to the use of depleted uranium and other agents like white phosphorous.  After losing some three million people during the predatory invasion of their country by US imperialism Vietnamese children are still being born deformed due to the spraying of dioxin on their food supply by US planes.  The US government even sprayed it on their own troops.

Some 67,000 Americans died in Vietnam.  By some accounts, the political wrangling that Kissinger and Nixon entered in to in order to make political gains over their Democratic colleagues cost an extra 20,000 US lives that could have been saved. (See Christopher Hitchens, the Trial of Henry Kissinger). When we add the widows, fatherless children and parents of the killed in action we are talking about hundreds of thousands affected, a war that decimated a whole generation of American families. A waste of lives and the orchestrator's of this carnage are free, rich and important, respected members of society.  It is the unnecessary loss of so many live we must memorialize.

We do not dishonor the dead by telling the truth, instead we free ourselves from the lies that they died for democratic principles or to protect us from a foreign invader.  I would go so far to say that to not admit that those lives lost in these corporate wars were lost in vain does them a disservice. I am angry that these young Americans lost their lives in this way. The millions upon millions of victims of these wars are victims of mass murder on a global scale.  We should not forget that US imperialism is the only force in history that has dropped massive nuclear weapons on a defenseless civilian population.

All their patriotic talk on days like this is phony. Meanwhile they deny veterans benefits, they argue like a used car salesman about which procedure is genuine and which is not in case “shady” veterans try to wrangle some extra services from the government coffers. Huge numbers of the homeless are veterans; it’s a disgrace. There’s none of that negative talk when they’re sending them out, only when they come back damaged psychologically and physically. After all, that’s money out. And people like Schwarzenegger and Stillone who make millions by exploiting war make me sick. Stillone spent part of the Vietnam war working at a girls school in Switzerland.  War is not nice, it’s not like Hollywood propaganda portrays it. John Wayne is not a hero. It’s an insult to veterans if there ever was one.

Whole generations are lost in these ventures.  US foreign policy is a disaster, Iraq is a disaster, Afghanistan is a disaster. But so is Detroit, the Bronx, West Virginia and the social infrastructure of the United States.  No matter, Warren Buffet will always have a nice home as they evict you from yours, veterans and all.

On this Memorial Day we should not fall in to the trap demanded by the propaganda of the movers and shakes at the Pentagon in their media. We must make it clear we are angry at them, that our young people sent to kill and be killed for the likes of Halliburton or Chevron, deserve a better deal.  They deserve most of all a long, secure and productive life contributing to the well being of all of us. People like Chelsea Manning and other veterans, many in Iraq Veterans Against the War are brave people, not the unpatriotic cowards that the 1%’s media try to portray them as.  And let’s not forget Pat Tillman.  He was a hero until he refused to tell the lies. Take the time to watch The Tillman Story. He is another heroic figure.

My father spent three years and nine months working for Mitsubishi as a prisoner of war. He was taken in Hong Kong in 1939 and spent the entire war in Yokohama.  We did not agree on the causes of what I refer to as “Imperialist” wars, the struggle for global market dominance between the capitalist classes of competing nations, but he never glorified, it. He never taught me to hate the Japanese. He always understood that grunts like him were dragged in to the conflict by powers greater than himself. He ran away from home at 16 and joined up to be with horses. He too had to fight the power to get what he deserved on his return.

So on this day we can pay tribute to those Americans that have died and respect that under circumstances not of their own creation they did what they could to survive.  But we must be honest that these wars are not about defending our democratic rights and ideals we hold dear, they are about profits and the global struggle for markets. For many, were there better options they would have taken a different road.  The children of the wealthy don’t have to join the military to get an education. The children of the wealthy go to Harvard instead.

Memmorial Day Massacre 1937 Source
Lastly, we should remember another Memorial Day. For this is the 78th anniversary of the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937. During the Little Steel Strike, ten workers were murdered by police at the Republic Steel factory in Chicago.  Here is a description of that event:
A dozen marchers falling simultaneously into a heap. The massive sustained roar of the police pistols lasts on the sound track perhaps two or three seconds.
. . . the police charge on the marchers with riot sticks flailing. At the same time tear gas grenades are seen sailing into the mass of the demonstrators and clouds of gas rise over them. Most of the crowd is now seen to be in flight.
. . . a number of individuals either through foolish hardihood or because they have not realized what is in progress around them remained behind . . . groups of policemen close in on these individuals and go to work on them with their clubs, hi several instances from two to four men are seen beating one man.
On the front line during the parley with the police is a female [Mrs. Lupe Marshall] not more than five feet tall . . . . Under one arm she is carrying a purse and some newspapers. After . . . the shots she turns to find that her path is blocked by a heap of fallen men. She stumbles over them . . . then she is seen going down under a . . . blow from a policeman's club . . . . She gets up, and staggers around. A few minutes later she is shown being shoved into a patrol wagon, blood cascading down her face and spreading over her clothing . . . .
The camera shifts to the patrol wagons in the rear; men with bloody heads are being loaded in. One, who has apparently been shot in the leg, drags himself . . . into the picture with the aid of two policemen. An elderly man . . . holding one hand to the back of his head clambers painfully up the steps of a patrol wagon and slumps . . . .
Far off toward the outer corner of the field, where they [the marchers] came from originally, the marchers are still in flight, with an irregular line of police seen in close pursuit, clubbing.

We must take Mother Jones’ words above to heart. The most important war we face is the one at home.

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