I don't believe that any of the wars fought by the
US but three were just wars: only the American Revolution,
the War of 1812, and the southern war for independence could
be justified on any grounds I would care to stand on. However,
in those halcyon days of our republican past, before the temptations
of empire had a chance to corrupt the American spirit, there
was at least some basis, however tenuous and ill-founded,
for believing in the official propaganda. While it is generally
recognized that World War I was an avoidable war, a great
tragedy that did not have to happen, the Germans and their
allies did not make it easier to oppose the war within the
US unrestricted submarine warfare was not exactly good
public relations, not to mention the infamous Zimmermann telegram
in which the Germans promised Mexico the American southwest
if they would join the alliance against the US. World War
II was a similar case, only more so, with the horrific Hitler
a persona that the War Party has successfully reincarnated
several times over since then. The cold war was a similar
exercise in ideological polarities, with the American Way
starkly counterposed to the Soviet Way in a worldwide struggle
for hearts and minds. In all three conflicts, our enemies
were depicted as Satan with a sword, a mighty adversary, magnificent
in the enormity of his evil. But who and what are our enemies
today? Who are the bad guys in our ongoing global crusade
to set the world right?
KIND OF ENEMIES?
tinpot Mideast dictator whose people we have reduced to a
starving mass of increasingly diseased yet stubbornly defiant
"enemies"; a Balkan bully whose popularity in his own country
is due entirely to the efforts of the US and its European
allies to topple him; the decrepit leadership of the last
Communist Party of any consequence left on earth, a gerontocracy
so brittle that even a crackpot religious cult nuttier than
Scientology could threaten its power; and, finally, beaten
Russia, shorn of its empire, shrunken to a size smaller than
in the days of Peter the Great, and relegated to the economic
status of a Fourth World country. These are our "enemies,"
ostensibly the reason we spend more than all the other countries
of the world combined for "defense" not Satan with
a sword, but the ill-equipped and half-starved slave-troops
of Saddam Hussein in full retreat as they are mowed
down by General Barry McCaffrey now honored as
our "drug czar." Not the panzer divisions of the German Army,
but the very people they fought the Serbs, who are
now the last resistance to German domination left Europe.
Only this time, the Yanks are not coming to liberate them,
but to assist (and even lead the way) in their subjugation.
we go about the world, cleaning up other peoples' messes and
generally acting as a kind of combination nanny-wetnurse-social
worker-cop, our enemies are less magnificent: they are merely
ordinary criminals, not too much unlike our own criminal political
class: corrupt, but not evil in the Hitlerian sense. Bill
Clinton is no less corrupt than, say, Manuel Noriega, and
so the transition from republic to empire is marked by a difference
in the tone and solemnity of our Memorial Day rituals. With
the generation that fought in World War II dying out, the
veterans of today are remembered in a different way: the crusades
of yesteryear have given way to the imperial adventures of
America's emperors. As long as America was a republic, it
was possible to write unambivalent paeans to the not only
to the heroism of America's fallen soldiers, but to the justness
of their cause. These deaths, one could reasonably argue,
were tragic but necessary. But in the imperial America of
today, in which wars of conquest are dressed up in the threadbare
regalia of "humanitarianism" -remember, "it's for the children"
one could say no such thing. In the era of empire,
as America goes ranging over the world looking to impose its
will on every continent, all casualties are senseless sacrifices
on the altar of the war god, senseless and criminal.
END OF HEROISM
have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire,"
warned Garet Garrett in his classic 1953 essay "Rise of Empire,"
and therein lies the reason why Memorial Day in the year 2000
seems, somehow, different than the Memorial Days of my youth.
The soldiers of yesteryear fell in defense of our old Republic;
now, they die for the Empire, for the greater of its rulers
and so that their purses might be further fattened. There
is no heroism in that, only unalloyed tragedy and waste.