History professor and former soldier Andrew Bacevich, a self-declared "conservative Catholic" who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, discusses the American Memorial Day holiday in light of the death of death of his son three years ago in Iraq and the United States' history of imperialistic military adventures. As pointed out by Thers, Bacevich says things one no longer expects to see in the mainstream media:
The fallen gave their lives so we might enjoy freedom: However comforting, this commonplace assertion qualifies at best as a half-truth. Who can doubt that the soldier killed in battle at Gettysburg or on Omaha Beach died while advancing the cause of liberty? Whether one can say the same about the Americans who lost their lives assaulting Mexico City in 1847, suppressing Filipino demands for independence after 1898 or chasing rebels in 1920s Nicaragua is less clear, however.
In recent decades especially, the connection between American military intervention and American freedom has become ever more tenuous. Meanwhile, competence has proved notably hard to come by. Rather than being a one-off event, Vietnam inaugurated an era in which the United States has routinely misunderstood and repeatedly misused military power. Even as political authorities sent U. S. forces into action with ever greater frequency, decisive results — what we used to call victory — became more elusive. From Beirut and Bosnia to Iraq and Somalia, the troops served and sacrificed while expending huge sums of taxpayer money. How their exertions were helping to keep Americans free became increasingly difficult to discern.
I don't mean this as criticism of those serving in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else the powers-that-be have sent those who volunteered to serve their country, I mean it as a criticism of the blind acceptance that our warriors are somehow morally superior to theirs, that we are better than them simply by virtue of being us or that picking up a rifle somehow makes you a better person than anyone else, that being a soldier is somehow morally superior to being a doctor or a teacher or a farmer.
Is a suicide bombing of a police station in Baghdad really more heinous than an air strike on a wedding party? If you consider the matter of intention, yes, it is - but that makes very little difference to the people on the receiving end. And in the end, how does either the air strike or the terrorist response make any of us more free? And does anyone doubt that in the unlikely event the tables were turned -- if the wingnut fantasy nightmare scenario of a gigantic Islamic Caliphate superpower somehow came to pass and the Western world was somehow invaded and occupied -- that our tactics would be any less desperate? The history of Israel, of Ireland and of the French and Czech resistance in World War Two suggest otherwise.
Why are we so sure we are the good guys?
Update: Cathie from Canada, in response to this post raises the question "so how do we decide whose side God is on?" Allow me to let Joan Baez answer that question with a lengthy quote from Bob Dylan.