As my son-in-law Jon heads off for a six-month deployment to Iraq this week – a war President Obama supposedly ended back in 2011 – I was struck by the war lobby-employed patois in the Democratic Party "debates." The best part of Wednesday night’s in-tandem press conference was also the only point in the dog-and-pony show where it approached an actual debate. It was where Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio was asked why America isn’t out of Afghanistan. He started his reply:
"I’ve been in Congress 17 years, and 12 of those years I’ve sat on the Armed Services Committee…"
At that point, I muttered under my breath "so you’re part of the problem." And he didn’t disappoint, if wider war and more death gives you a chubby, continuing:
"And the lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that you have to stay engaged in these situations. Nobody likes it, it’s long, it’s tedious … Right now I would say that we must be engaged in this; we must have our State Department engaged; we must have our military engaged…. Whether we’re talking about Central America, whether we’re talking about Iran, whether we’re talking about Afghanistan, we have got to be completely engaged."
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii pwned the buckeye lightweight with her put-down reply:
"Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers that were just killed in Afghanistan? ‘Well, we just have to be engaged.’ As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable."
Still, Gabbard let him off easy. She should instead have said:
"We need to stay engaged" has long been Washington-speak for "I want to bury more of your neighbors and slaughter more brown-skinned foreigners."
Whether or not Ryan and his kin consciously intend to bury more of my neighbors and slaughter more brown-skinned foreigners, that’s the bloody reality of his policy. Ryan de-personalizes the horrible costs of war by deploying euphemisms like "stay engaged."
In my home town of Taunton, Massachusetts, Sgt. Shane P. Duffy was killed while deployed in Iraq in 2008, leaving behind a beautiful young wife and baby daughter. Iraq is a nation that has never attacked the United States. The next town over, Raynham, lost Gerald Monti and Brian Oliveira. Oliveira, like Duffy, died in Iraq. Monti died on a tour in Afghanistan in 2006, years after Osama bin Ladin had fled the country, as part of an American occupation unrelated to the security of people living in the United States.
The policy-makers – and, I suppose, many of the family members as well – lie to themselves, saying that these American soldiers died defending their country. But the only ones defending their country were the boys who shot and killed my neighbors.
I’ve opposed my country’s elective wars for decades, but now there’s a real threat to my family with these wars. And I’m not made out for going along with the lies and the usual plastic flag patriotism, such as naming bridges and having dinners in honor of the fallen soldiers.
I don’t want to have to go to the dedication of a bridge in my son-in-law’s name, as Duffy’s widow has done.
That won’t bring her husband Shane back. I want Jon alive.
I don’t want to have to set up a scholarship, as Mrs. Duffy has done (my daughter Ali was one of the first recipients of the Shane Duffy Memorial Scholarship back in 2011).
The scholarship was nice, but I’d rather have Jon alive.
I don’t want a hit country song written about the memory of what is done with Jon’s automobile, as was done with Gerald Monti’s truck.
"I Drive Your Truck" was a great – though heartbreaking – song, but I’d much rather have my son-in-law home alive.
Gerald Monti won the congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, but that won’t bring him back to his father. The gift of medals also serves as a means Washington employs to justify and popularize its wars; it’s not insignificant that the federal government gave out 20 Medals of Honor to soldiers involved in the massacre of Minneconjou Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890.
The bravery of individual soldiers does not justify the wars themselves. Before he became an enthusiastic warmonger as Secretary of State, John Kerry told Congress in 1971 of the Vietnam "engagement": "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" For an American to die in Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan now is an even greater absurdity.
The reason why this slaughter will continue to occur is clear. Though it isn’t found in any of his papers, nor in the papers of his contemporaries, Confederate General Robert E. Lee reportedly said while looking at the devastation at Fredericksburg "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it."
The problem is that – for congressmen like Tim Ryan, and all too many Americans – war hasn’t been "so terrible." It hasn’t been terrible for them at all, and hasn’t directly impacted them. And as a result they seek to bury more of my neighbors and slaughter more brown-skinned people. And now, possibly my family as well.
For me, it’s now personal.
Thomas R. Eddlem is a freelance writer who’s latest book is A Rogue’s Sedition: Essays Against Omnipotent Government. He also wrote the foreword to William Norman Grigg’s posthumous book No Quarter: The Ravings of William Norman Grigg. Both are available on Amazon.com. Eddlem’s blog is located at teddlem.blogspot.com.