Preaching to the choir yesterday in Martinsburg, W Va, Bush recited the same sermon he and his handlers reserve for these carefully controlled and completely choreographed appearances before the faithful.
“We give thanks for all the brave citizen-soldiers of our Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence,” Bush said. He added: “You’re the successors of those brave men. . . . Like those early patriots, you’re fighting a new and unprecedented war.”
I wonder if anyone else noticed that our Revolution against the tyrannical rule of that earlier George, the occupation of our cities and provinces by British troops, his interference in what we regarded as our affairs, and the general mistreatment of our citizenry was, in fact, the polar opposite of our invasion and occupation of Iraq and the mistreatment, maiming and murder of their citizenry.
We have been at war in Iraq for over four years, in Afghanistan for nearly six, at the same time we have conducted and continue to conduct covert operations in other countries throughout the Middle East including Iran and Pakistan, as well as in several African countries.
The result of what we have wrought has been the death, destruction or displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocents, along with the sacrifice of our military forces and our economic future. There has been no net gain for the people of this country or any other.
Along the way great benefits have devolved upon many of our well connected corporations, both public and private, continuing the transfer of public wealth to private hands, (select private hands, that is) which is the core of neo conservative economics and was the central purpose of going to war in Iraq.
We might have more easily invaded Mexico, a country which was equally complicit in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the number of Mexican terrorists aboard the ill fated suicide planes having been exactly equal to the number of Iraqi terrorists.
A war against terror in Mexico, so much closer than Iraq, would have greatly eased the logistical problems we have in the Middle East, avoided stirring up the international radical Muslim community and may have gone a long way to solving our much ballyhooed “immigration problems.”
Here at home, a young man was killed about two weeks ago, Marine Cpl. Derek C. Dixon was killed while serving at a checkpoint in al Anbar province on Tuesday, June 26. Cpl Dixon was from Riverside, Ohio which is about a traffic light from where I sit typing as I watch the rabbits at early morning play outside my office window.
He will be buried today north of Dayton with full military honors, he was twenty years old and looked younger. Cpl Dixon attended high school at the same school I attended over four decades ago. He probably joked and laughed in the same classrooms, walked the same halls and ate in the same cafeteria as I did those long years ago.
Forty one years ago I walked those halls, laughing and joking with Ronnie Fields, one of my childhood friends and a lovable clown of a kid. Incorrigible and disruptive to good order and discipline was the the verdict of the adults who patrolled the halls in those days.
Ronnie was killed in Vietnam early in 1968 long before our young Corporal was born, his name is etched in a marble slab in the sidewalk of the Vietnam Memorial Park, located near the banks of the Great Miami River, within sight of our sadly aspiring little “downtown.” Ronnie’s name is there in a great circle of sidewalk joining the names of other local boys who paid the ultimate price of our folly in Vietnam.
I go there sometimes and walk by the river. I stand under the trees near Ronnie’s name etched there in the marble and listen to the breeze as it crosses the river and blows through the trees, pushing the blazing city air off to the east and I see his face at 15 and 16, the mischief in his eyes above a grin that made you forget every thing else in the vicinity except whatever he might be up to now.
I stand in that silence and think of him and all the others lost and gone, some I knew, most I did not, except in spirit.
I spent several years on a Veteran’s honor guard and have served at more than three hundred funerals and memorial services. In every one I heard the same phrases, the same words, honor and duty and sacrifice, died for his country, service to America, and then, then they play Taps, fire three volleys and go to their homes or to the VFW for sandwiches and beer.
Nothing left at graveside, just another name etched in marble, or concrete, etched in bronze, another memory of a fresh faced young kid laughing with his friends in some high school hallway, just a memory and the wind.
They buried Ronnie almost half a lifetime ago and since that day, so many more, so many more.
They will bury Cpl Dixon today, a squad of Marines in attendance, a Chaplain probably, an Officer in Charge and a rifle squad. The bugle will sound taps, and the riflemen will fire three volleys.
The dreadful finality of the crack of the rifles will startle the senses, bring tears to the eyes, and sobs to the throats of most of those in attendance.
The grief will seem unbearable but it will be borne, once again.
And when final notes of the bugle fade, they will leave
and leave behind another soon faded flag, another memory in the wind.