On May 28, 2001, George W. Bush gave his first Memorial Day address. At that point in time, there were zero casualties in Bush’s Global War on Terror. On that day he said:
It is not in our nature to seek out wars and conflicts.
Unfortunately, it was in his nature and four months after speaking those words, the terrorist attacks of September 11th “changed everything.”
And as the post 9/11 events unfolded and Bush planned for his war but not for the peace, it’s too bad he didn’t remember something else he said that Memorial Day:
We know that they all loved their lives as we love ours. We know they had a place in the world, families waiting for them, and friends they expected to see again. We know that they thought of a future, just as we do, with plans and hopes for a long and full life.
What was he saying a year later?
Words can only go so far in capturing the grief and sense of loss for the families of those who died in all our wars. For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan. They can know, however, that the cause is just and, like other generations, these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow.
This was when we were in Afghanistan, going after al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and those responsible for attacking America. But as we now know, the plans for Iraq had been made months before and on this Memorial Day, Bush floated one of the talking points for the upcoming war:
…In the nearly 14 decades since, our nation’s battles have all been far from home. Here on the continent of Europe were some of the fiercest of those battles, the heaviest losses, and the greatest victories.
And in all those victories American soldiers came to liberate, not to conquer.
…we have laid to rest Americans who fell in the battle of Iraq. One of the funerals was for Marine Second Lieutenant Frederick Pokorney Junior, of Jacksonville, North Carolina. His wife, Carolyn, received a folded flag. His two year old daughter, Taylor, knelt beside her mother at the casket to say a final goodbye.
His president, George, didn’t attend the funeral. But why would he? After all, those that find the courage to serve aren’t his kind of people:
In every generation of Americans we have found courage equal to the tasks of our country. The farms and small towns and city streets of this land have always produced free citizens who assume the discipline and duty of military life.
But don’t look to the elite…or the Texas Air National Guard?
Through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly, because we have known the costs of war. And the war on terror we’re fighting today has brought great costs of its own. Since the hour this nation was attacked…
Roughly translated: We didn’t really want to go to war but, September 11th, September 11th, September 11th…
And with the casualties mounting and his approval plunging, what better time to use the words of the dead to excuse his war? From their letters to home, Bush read excerpts like:
“I will give the men everything I have to give.”
“Mom, I’m going because I believe in what I am doing. And if I don’t come back, we will meet in a better place.” (Applause.)
“I am not afraid, and neither should either of you be — For I trust in my God and my training,”
Don’t let their deaths be in vain, support the troops, stay the course…
At a distance, their headstones look alike.
I suppose that is so when they are just numbers…when you don’t attend the funerals of those you send into battle, their headstones probably do look alike. And what is there left to say except to repeat tired clichés and talking points?
Another generation is fighting a new war against an enemy that threatens the peace and stability of the world. Across the globe, our military is standing directly between our people and the worst dangers in the world…Because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, two terror regimes are gone forever, freedom is on the march, and America is more secure.
Tomorrow will mark the sixth time George W. Bush gives a Memorial Day address. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 2733 U.S. servicemen and women have died. We can only hope tomorrow’s remarks go something like this:
To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad…
Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
George W. Bush once said:
Behind every grave of a fallen soldier is a story of the grief that came to a wife, a mother, a child, a family, or a town.
Instead of making another meaningless speech, perhaps Mr. Bush should spend his Memorial Day learning each and everyone of those stories.
Crossposted at Daily Kos