Friday, November 14, 2008

An American Vet in Ireland

I had a query from a Vietnam Vet living in Ireland about a piece I wrote for Counterpunch on November 11th. In it I spoke about the need to create some kind of substitute for war that would make people pause before plunging into armed conflict. What follows is an expansion of that Counterpunch article and of my reply to her.

The intent of my suggestion has less to do with a particular substantive issue and more with finding an issue that would energize a large number of people across the U.S. -- a mass movement that could tap existing organizations with a military connection.

Why the military? Because with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still ongoing and at best a further 16-months in Iraq, the consequences of war on individual veterans will require continuing and growing budgets for the Veterans Administration. As these expenditures grow, they will in turn generate a higher media profile for specific problems facing veterans such as homelessness, PTSD, higher suicide rates, etc.

I have not investigated the existence or absence of an accurate centralized record of the dead from the wars that were fought on U.S. territory: the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Indian Campaigns.( The Battlefield Monuments Commission may have such a record.) But I do know that there are many small cemeteries and monuments across the U.S. where veterans who lived through war and returned to "live and die"at home might not be noted for having served -- as would those who marched off to war but did not march home again.

If all the graves of veterans could be identified, the repeated act of laying flowers on these graves or at war memorials erected to honor their service, done with the solemnity that befits a day of Remembrance, might suffice to warn future leaders of the terrible waste of war.

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