Memorial Day 2018 (My Reflections)

Still my truth:

Memorial Day 2017, Unfiltered
27 May 2017

My only update: the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War is okay. Just remember to ignore the opening comment of ‘honorable men with good intentions who started it,’ because that comment is just a sop to the Koch brothers and other corporate donors to PBS (Burns needed the money to make the film). The testimony of the actual war participants seen and heard in the documentary gives a lie to that opening comment and gives the truth about the historic culpability of our successful war criminals. Memorial Day is a hypocritical pacifier and distraction by pathos offered to the American victims of American wars by the American perpetrators and beneficiaries of those wars: “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

My own shrine to the victims and the truly noble of that war is here:
Haunted By The Vietnam War

I want to be sure y’all see this (some may even read it):

We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War
Jon Schwarz, 29 May 2017

Posted by Vivek Jain (on Facebook page of Intercept article linked just above):

“We must recognize that we cannot depend on the governments of the world to abolish war, because they and the economic interests they represent benefit from war. Therefore, we, the people of the world must take up the challenge. And although we do not command armies, we do not have great treasuries of wealth, there is one crucial fact that gives us enormous power: the governments of the world cannot wage war without the participation of the people. Albert Einstein understood this simple fact. Horrified by the carnage of the First World War in which 10 million died in the battlefields of Europe , Einstein said: “Wars will stop when men refuse to fight.”

“That is our challenge, to bring the world to the point where men and women will refuse to fight, and governments will be helpless to wage war.

“Is that utopian? Impossible? Only a dream?

“Do people go to war because it is part of human nature? If so, then we might consider it impossible to do away with war. But there is no evidence, in biology, or psychology, or anthropology, of a natural instinct for war. If that were so, we would find a spontaneous rush to war by masses of people. What we find is something very different: we find that governments must make enormous efforts to mobilize populations for war. They must entice young people with promises of money, land, education, skills. Immigrants are lured with promises of green cards and citizenship. And if those enticements don’t work, government must coerce. It must conscript young people, force them into military service, threaten them with prison if they do not comply.

“Woodrow Wilson found a citizenry so reluctant to enter the First World War that he had to pummel the nation with propaganda and imprison dissenters in order to get the country to join the butchery going on in Europe .

“The most powerful weapon of governments in raising armies is the weapon of propaganda, of ideology. It must persuade young people, and their families, that though they may die, though they may lose arms or legs, or become blind, that it is done for the common good, for a noble cause, for democracy, for liberty, for God, for the country.

“The idea that we owe something to our country goes far back to Plato, who puts into the mouth of Socrates the idea that the citizen has an obligation to the state, that the state is to be revered more than your father and mother. He says: “In war, and in the court of justice, and everywhere, you must do whatever your state and your country tell you to do, or you must persuade them that their commands are unjust.” There is no equality here: the citizen may use persuasion, no more. The state may use force.

“This idea of obedience to the state is the essence of totalitarianism. And we find it not only in Mussolini’s Italy , in Hitler’s Germany , in Stalin’s Soviet Union , but in so-called democratic countries, like the United States.”

– from Howard Zinn’s essay, “The Enemy Is War,” found in “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress”

I want to be sure y’all see this (some may even read it), so I repeat:

Above Intercept article links to (poem by Wilfred Owen):

Another poem, about a WWII aviator:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

Mike Nichols (director of Catch-22) mentioned the above poem in commenting on his movie.

Catch-22 (trailer)

[Read the book, by Joseph Heller]

Anti-War and Socialist Psychology Books and Movies
23 January 2018


2 thoughts on “Memorial Day 2018 (My Reflections)

  1. Our interest in the war in Vietnam is understandable. It had huge social and political consequences within the U.S.A. People who lived through it are still around and vocal. But shouldn’t we think more about our war in Korea, which is part of the same story? The fact that we don’t seems significant to me. Is it only our habitual forgetfulness about history? It’s strange and ironic too, considering today’s hubbub about North Korea.

    • Peter Byrne and I both wrote on Gilles d’Aymery’s Internet magazine “Swans” ( during this century before 2015. I always appreciate Peter’s insights and writing artistry: both spark thinking, and that enables creativity. My reply to his comment on my blog-post “Memorial Day 2018 (My Reflections)” follows.

      WWII was my godfather’s war. He was a Cuban living in the upper West Side of Manhattan, NY. He landed in Normandy, got lost behind enemy lines hiding in a tree overnight while German soldiers patrolled underneath, was involved in combatting the last German offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, and right after V-E Day was shipped off to New Guinea to fight the Japanese. He got malaria in New Guinea and would get outbreaks of the fever-chills sweats from the disease during the 1950s-1960s when I knew him. He never told me war stories about death and destruction, but he did tell me humorous ones about enjoyable moments during his war. My favorite was of his group of American soldiers camped out in a ruined house in France (or Belgium) and the men being excited to find a large water fountain in the house which they then used for drinking, washing and preparing food to cook (instead of K-rations). My godfather kept to K-rations, that fountain was a bidet.

      The Korean War was my father’s war. As a fresh Cuban immigrant and (legal) permanent resident he was being drafted for the Korean war, however, I was born and he was given a deferment as the sole bread-winner of our family. So, the Korean War never personally touched our family, and I was too young to ever have any memories of it since I only became aware of the social and political world outside my family world of parents and grandparents after the Korean War armistice.

      The Vietnam War was my war, which I escaped physically by the luck of the draft lottery of December 1969. It’s had a much longer psychological effect on me, and part of that is my mildly obsessive compulsion to continue referring to it in my writing.

      My impressions of the Korean War come from a variety of Hollywood movies about it (Robert Mitchum, Rock Hudson, Gregory Peck), which I saw on black-and-white TV as a kid, and later from very brief encounters with two veterans of that war who lived (and died) out here in California. My knowledge of that war comes from what I still remember from my reading of Bruce Cumings’s scholarly history book about the Korean War. So for me the Korean War was a “pre-Vietnam” that I read about (and saw documentaries about) as history, a background story ‘leading into’ the big story for me: the Vietnam War.

      The Cuban Revolution (1959), Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), and Vietnam War were historical enormities that I was very consciously aware of as I lived through them, and in combination they formed my political consciousness, which I have to this day.

      The last element in my education about war occurred during my career as a nuclear bomb physicist-engineer, when I read many books (from the fine library at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab) about the Cold War and its uses. So, now I know the fundamental truths.

      When I write about wars (and being anti-war) I am thinking of my children, and more distantly about their contemporaries. While I am no high-end intellectual nor social-political scholar, I nevertheless feel the necessity to adhere to the principles spelled out by Noam Chomsky in his essay “On the Responsibility of Intellectuals.”

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