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Jun-01-2010 04:26printcomments

Remembering The Dead

Lives are not given in war, they are taken.

Service for an American Lieutenant from Utah in Afghanistan named Scott Lundell.
Service for an American Lieutenant from Utah in Afghanistan named Scott Lundell. Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

(GOLD RIVER, B.C.) - Yesterday was Memorial Day in the United States where I happen to be. Its origins lie in the Civil War and it was first proclaimed in 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic to honor the Civil War dead.

Eventually it spread, became official and was changed to honor those Americans who died fighting in all US wars. Remembering those who have been killed in war is an important act of reflection.

What it should not be is a propaganda tool to glorify war or to cover over the national history of aggression and conquest.

Most Memorial Day speeches are instruments of propaganda filled with the usual bumf about the sacrificing of lives to preserve freedom and democracy. They dishonor the many whose lives were squandered fighting in places and for causes that had nothing to do with keeping the nation either free or democratic.

Of all the wars that the country has engaged in, few have been noble causes to protect freedom or democracy. The Revolution certainly brought freedom, and one may argue that the War of 1812 preserved it, despite the failed attempt to conquer Canada.

The Civil War against the Southern traitors did preserve the Union and freed the slaves to a degree.

The Second World War against the Nazis certainly had to be fought once it was unavoidable; it can be credibly argued that freedom and democracy were at stake there - as Hitler’s fascist ideology swept across Europe - and even had followers in the United States.

And the Korean War, though not in defense directly of either the freedom or democracy of the United States, was a test of the United Nations, whose success may well be a preservative of freedom and democracy.

Most of the other wars were unnecessary if defending freedom and democracy is the gauge for deciding whether to have a war or not. Slaughtering the native population and stealing their land in the various Indian Wars was a crime by modern standards. And, grabbing land from Mexico and Spain had nothing to do with protecting the nation. The same can be said for the First World War, Vietnam, Grenada, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.

All needless killing, if freedom and democracy were the purpose.

The one thing that does ring true in the propaganda is when it is said that the American way of life is being preserved. It is a way of life that is built on the exploitation of other peoples around the world through the extraction of their resources.

It is also a way of life that benefits the wealthy far more than the rest. Defending this way of life is really defending the power and control of big corporations and the people who run them. There is nothing noble in this.

So, on Memorial Day we should honor those who died, the Second World War vets who actually were defending freedom and democracy, and remember all the others who were either duped, forced, or went gladly to kill people for the convenience of the oil companies and other commercial interests, including those industries that provide all of the necessities of war and grow fat off of the deaths of Americans in the armed forces. We should remember them in sorrow for their vain sacrifices, and ask ourselves how much longer will we allow this needless waste of life and material to go on.


Jerry West grew up on a farm in Fresno County, California, and served with the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 including 19 months in Vietnam with the Third Marine Division, and three years at MCAS Iwakuni where he became an anti-war organizer in 1970. He earned an Honors Degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, and did two years of graduate study there. While in university he worked seasonally in fire and law enforcement with the US Forest Service.

After university he worked for a number of years in the international tour industry in operations and management before moving to a remote village on the west coast of Vancouver Island where he is currently the editor and publisher of The Record newspaper serving the Nootka Sound region. He is a Past President of the Northern California Land Trust, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

You can email Jerry West, Salem-News.com Writer, at: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Jerry West June 2, 2010 1:19 am (Pacific time)

Colli: The point is not about what people believe that they are fighting for, but in reality what they are actually fighting for whether they know it or not. The propaganda BS about fighting to preserve freedom and democracy may be swallowed hook line and sinker by many, but it rarely applies.
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Baird: I would guess that you either do not know a lot of Marines or things have changed quite a bit in the last 40 years. You should check out the story of one of the greatest Marines, Gen. Smedley D. Butler who said "war is a racket." I know lots of Marines who think these wars are at best a mistake if not a criminal enterprise. As for all warriors not wanting war, I guess you do not know enough warriors, either, or are blind to the fact that some live for war, although they may mouth the platitudes about warriors not wanting war. Reality is not the propaganda that you parrot. And, I can wax philosophic about this because unlike the Bushes, Cheneys, Obamas and many of their ilk, I have a fair amount of first hand experience being on the pointy end of the stick. PS: Oregon is a great place I don't see enough of, but I wrote this piece on the road in California.
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Editor: You know better, there is no such thing as a former Marine. :)

Editor: Well I prefer the term 'ex-Marine... but you are right, once a Marine always a Marine Semper fi Brother!


Baird June 1, 2010 5:21 pm (Pacific time)

You shouldn't call yourself a Marine. You have obviously drank deeply of the leftist kool-aide. No one, least of all warriors, want war. Sometimes its impossible to avoid - as we have learned repeatedly throughout history, the avoidance of conflict creates unavoidable conflict.  Our Soldiers go to war because its what is asked of them by their country. We all hope we never run out of young men and women willing to sacrifice a good portion of their youth, or their lives, in service to our country. You sit around a wax philosophic about how evil the States are, yet you have the right to do just that while safely tucked away in Oregon.

Editor: First, Jerry lives in Canada, that is obvious by the dateline at the top of the story.  Second, you are talking to a former U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam.  Anyone, or most people, who have actually been in war, know it is a horrible thing that no human should be subjected to.  If you call peace and a love for humanity leftist, then there is no ground to be made here.


Colli June 1, 2010 9:51 am (Pacific time)

Excellent article Jerry and for the most part, right on the mark. You do seem to imply that some war dead should be honored more than others though, depending on why the U.S. got involved in that specific was. This is the only point on which I disagree. No one wants to die thousands of miles from home. I believe that those who die in wars do fight for the causes stated by their respective countries. That certainly does not make the war right . . . little does, but, it also does not deminish the intent of the individual to support his or her country.

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