Lets make Memorial Day be inclusive of non-Americans fallen in American wars. On our very American Memorial Day, as we remember fallen family and friends, let us be careful lest any tears in our eyes be selective.
Let our remembrance and compassion not be limited to our own. In our space age of instant communication, there is a growing awareness of one planetary humanity sharing our single world and its resources.
Let us remember that the non-American families and friends of non-Americans who have died in American wars have the exact same painful feelings of loss and bewilderment.
The millions of Indochinese killed by our fellow Veterans also bring tears to my eyes.
A million Koreans, thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghan women and children — every one of them is worth remembering on Memorial Day as well. Maybe even more so, because they died in their own country, most in their own towns, and many in their very own homes.
I surely want to remember those fellow veterans who gave their lives. But I believe the sincere American will want to remember everyone who died in these many foreign wars,including the ‘foreigners’.
Life has taught this seventy-year-old veteran to reserve my deepest compassion for those of us veterans who followed immoral orders, and didn’t have the presence of mind or education to refuse to follow those orders. Like the poor pilot who dropped an atomic bomb incinerating almost a million civilians in Hiroshima, and went half-crazy afterward. He did not serve his country well, nor the cause of freedom, and certainly not his own human conscience.
I have compassion for Veteran, now Senator, McCain who flew 29 bombing missions knowing that Eisenhower had written in his book that if there were an all Vietnam election (blocked by the US) that Ho Chi Minh would have won by a plurality of more than 80%. But McCain was
just following military orders like an unthinking automaton.
Compassion for a Veteran and presidential candidate, John Kerry, who said he killed South Vietnamese before realizing it was wrong.
Compassion for former Governor, Senator, now President of New School University, Bob Kerrey, who on “60 Minutes” was exposed by his own point man of having had his Seals gun down 19 young women and children, after seeing to the throat cutting of an elderly man and his family, compassion for his having accepted a medal for doing it, under the report of ‘enemy’ successfully killed.
Did these three now highly placed Americans serve us when they killed? They all had a college education, which must have included a history of colonialism, especially the brutality of French colonial subjugation of the Vietnamese. They must have known that Ho Chi Minh was decorated by our OSS as a dedicated ally of ours against the Japanese and Vichy French. They must have known that Truman, against Roosevelt’s promise, had brought the French army back in US ships to fight an 8-year war against our former allies, the Vietnamese. All this, because Ho Chi Minh was a communist? I don’t think so. A top cabinet minister of our ally, the French government was also a communist, but that was OK.
My heart goes out more to these famous American fellow Veterans more than for those Indochinese peasants they killed. The dead — especially those who died innocently– they must be free now. They are honored by their relatives, and any compassion from us for the
Vietnamese comes horribly late and is even suspect.
Six of my bunkmates in basic training are buried in North Korea. I can shed tears for them, they were young men — they wanted to live just as all the Korean relatives of my Korean students would have rather lived than die in a war over the economic confrontation of our country with the Soviet Union.
Veterans who loved their country enough to know what the fighting was about are one thing. Veterans who gave their lives fighting for injustice and against human respect, blindly following a leader are quite another.
The world has become increasingly complicated and yet our corporate conglomerate cartel of a mass entertainment media has become increasingly reductive, simplistic and antidemocratic, and I have compassion for those who work to make war acceptable, even attractive to their audiences.
Right now the news is filled with people who will someday become veterans like Lieutenant Calley of Mai Lai fame. They tortured in the name of freedom, of democracy maybe, of truth, or even God.
Or maybe they were just having fun. Now when they are discharged and officially become veterans, I will shed some tears for them, for the Karma they have put on their souls and the danger they have put us all in as retribution is sought in the name of their victims.
I once asked the guard in the rotunda of the Russian Veterans Monument in Berlin if there was anywhere a monument to the fallen German soldiers who fought the Russians and Americans. “No”, he answered, “they were fighting for the wrong reason.”
My tears go out to those of all countries who fought for the wrong reason and for the flags which they dishonored.
Shuttering anguish is what I feel for the leaders who knowingly sent them to kill (and die, though dying is less tragic than wrongly killing) for a wrong cause.
Actually, tears of joy come to my eyes quite easily when I see the newsreel of Mohammed Ali proudly saying that he would not participate in an unjust war against the Vietnamese. History will show that Ali is a veteran of that war as much as those who participated in the violence of genocidal terrorism. Ali had the courage to stand up for an honest America.
On a positive and humane Memorial suggestion:
Nothing could be better to honor our fellow veterans’ having given their lives, than to turn this nation around into morality and honesty, and forgoing pompous and ridiculous attempts to praise
ourselves indiscriminately, announce our intention to arrange compensation to Vietnam War survivors of our now admitted ‘MISTAKE’!
That would impress the whole world, and gain the next president some moral high ground for leadership of this nation.
The current compensation ‘sympathy payment’ for wrongful death of innocent Iraqis who file complaints with the US led Coalition Government is about US $6,000, according to a report published in the Christian Science Monitor in March, 2006.
Put ourselves in their shoes. The shoes of Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Iraqi and Afghan bereaved families. Could we even imagine such bombings upon US towns and countryside? We can improve the whole world and ourselves with such imagination.