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For no future soldier deaths

Memorial Day this year was cool and gray. That did not prevent people from gathering with family and friends. Outside picnics might have been few, but lots of folks celebrated, boating, home barbecuing and going out in the many ways we do on holidays. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration reported record numbers of passengers at the nations’ airports.

In greater La Conner scores of people attended services at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery and the Swinomish Cemetery to honor departed military, pioneer and family members. That is how locals recognize “these honored dead,” as Abraham Lincoln did at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863.

“We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” he said.

For 176 years, from the U.S. Invasion of Mexico in 1848 to current engagements in Iraq, Syria, the Middle East, throughout Asia, Africa and Europe, our government has sent – historically – young men into harm’s way. In every case, some returned in body bags, now, in coffins in prior generations.

Our weapons of war, increasingly accurate, powerful and technologically advanced, are ever more lethal, so we kill many foreigners. Inevitably some of our soldiers die or are wounded, physically. The mental, emotional and social wounds are invisible to the eye but are often deeper and too often lasting lifelong.

War destroys all who encounter it, on both sides of the battlefield, on both sides of the gun or whatever weapon is pointed at the enemy.

War. The military fights wars. Our government conducts wars: plans them, decides to start them, executes them and has us, the nation’s citizens, fund them, both in the present moment and through payments on the national debt, which is largely accrued from our past military engagement in this and the 20th century.

War. When you are the most powerful nation on earth, you mostly start them, or provoke them or respond and go in to punish the offender and teach them a lesson. Israel calls its military the Israeli Defense Force, but we are seeing the lie every day, as one of the most advanced war machines on the planet attacks – offensively – with jets and tanks and sophisticated military intelligence, much of all of this supplied by the United States or acting in coordination with U.S. staff.

War. Until 1947, our government was more honest and transparent. The military was run by the Department of War. That was the name for it when it was established by the first Congress in the first year of George Washington’s presidency in 1789 for the actions our government pursued.

But the 20th century was also the age of marketing, so the spin – a later marketing term – was to change the name to the Department of Defense. Why? Our enemies are all around us and the peace-loving American government is focused exclusively on defending itself. That must be it.

“War.” The 1970 rock song made famous by Edwin Starr were true words sung: “War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

If our honored dead could speak, what words they say – and sing? Which side would they be on?

Which side of the grave would we rather have them be on?


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