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On the Cynical Misuse of Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally meant to be a solemn day of mourning for families, relatives and friends of Americans fallen on both sides in the Civil War.

Over time, it’s become an opportunity for jingoistic media, deceiving politicians and recruiting officers to glorify war and warfare as a means of proving one’s manhood or patriotism.

Now on Memorial Day, we’re treated with festive military flags and speeches praising death in uniform. And every American war, no matter how murderously despicable, is described as having been an honorable one.

Honest Americans will notice the hype and hypocrisy of not simply leaving families be to grieve in peaceful fond remembrance of their children. No, instead of reverent compassion, we witness gaudy parades and ceremonies glorifying the death of American soldiers we’re told were defending this country (on this continent), yet who died while killing Koreans in Korea, napalming Vietnamese in Vietnam, bombing Laotians in Laos, Cambodians in Cambodia, killing Iraqis in Iraq, Libyans in Libya, Somali in Somalia, Panamanians in Panama, Dominicans in the Dominican Republic, Afghanis in Afghanistan and Syrians in Syria.

All are hailed as heroes by the very same media that conned them and politicians who drafted them or tricked them into enlisting with lies, half-truths and fear-mongering to justify immoral, criminal, often genocidal war, always undeclared and in blatant disregard of international law, the Geneva Conventions, and our own Constitution.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s, cry “God bless America? No, no, God damn America for her crimes against humanity!” is appropriate and so is American film maker Michael Moore’s statement,”sick and twisted violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. Americans kill people.”

Imagine What Many Informed GIs Who Lost Their Lives Might Be Saying if They Could Speak from Their Graves: 

On Memorial Day, while our family and friends mourn our absence, conglomerate owned media, after having used our patriotism to get us to fight criminally unjust wars based on lies, now hypes our inglorious death as beautiful military service, blacking out the fact that what we participated in was the senseless massacres of millions of men, women and children in their very own countries over the last 60 years.

We watch from our graves, furious, as the criminal media portrays us as just so God damned happy to have given up fifty or sixty years of mornings, sunsets, love, friendship, and the sheer exhilaration of being alive, to have been shot like pig in a poke or shredded by some stupid land mine, so some mentally-challenged-moral failures-as-human-beings speculating investors and CEOs can play with their dividends and derivatives earning charts. 

Many who mourn us as fallen comrades must do so in bitter heartbreak and anger. For more than a half century, all of us veterans, both living and dead, were tricked into disservice to our country and humanity, while only some of us paid for our ignorance and innocence with our lives.

And whether we gave our lives in that ‘good war’ , fighting against fascism, a fascism that American industrialists and bankers had heavily invested in to build up the Nazi war machine, or died during the invasion, occupation and destruction of Iraq, our politicians pat our families on the back with equal thanks.

Whether we lose a war after murdering millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, or reach a stalemate after bringing death to a more than three million Koreans, our deaths are considered to have contributed to saving all those millions from having to live under communist governments. (However, we note that our government today ironically enjoys lucrative trade with the communist governments of China and Vietnam)

Whether some thousands of us died while killing Afghanis in Afghanistan, or merely a dozen of us fell during the slaughter of a thousand Panamanians who stood in the way of our capture of their CIA-asset-drug-dealing president, we receive the same gratitude from the industrial-military-complex and its allies in commercial TV programing. 

Whether we were two dozen who died during our invasion of the Dominican Republic to prevent their restoration of democracy, or three hundred of us blown away in our sleep by a suicide truck bomber in Lebanon, we all died in government-issued clothes and were equally worthy of a thank you from the presidential CIA advisors whose plans our commanding generals were carrying out.

Whether we fell serving up our own atrocities or were victims of errant friendly fire, we receive the same level of appreciation from politicians and media holding us up as exemplary, all to entice recruits to aspire to similar glorification from their peers and society.

And just one more thing. Tell that dippy ‘why-me-worry’ American public with its finger up its anus: ‘You too are responsible for the murderous crimes of your government. You. Yes, you, mesmerized and glued to your entertainment/news advertising lying TV. You are responsible for all the death of the millions we US GIs were ordered to kill,  and of course responsible as well for the death of every American soldier who died following criminal orders to invade some smaller nation which had not attacked the United States of America. Your president is just one public servant. Don’t you dare shrug your responsibility off on him.

So on Memorial Days don’t focus obsequiously on us. We paid the price of our ignorance, as well as your indifference to your citizen responsibilities. Apart from the loving attention of our dear families and acquaintances, we voiceless dead veterans despise your media anchors and their interest in ‘honoring’ our cadavers. 

For God’s sake,  join the human race and mourn the people we were sent to kill, but fell in love with before dying. Those millions that were victims of our wars were our, and your, brothers and sisters and their dead children are now ours more than theirs. Americans took these children from sunshine and games and saw that these children never grew up to be men and women.

To properly mourn these children, now our children, get to know the culture of their beloved parents. Before we died, we realized that their love of family is head and shoulders above American family values, if for no other reason because their roots and cultural education go back much much further than our mere three hundred years of composite adolescent culture. We promise you, it will do you good to love them as we came to find them lovable, and realize our, your, government’s extreme and genocidal cruelty.

On Memorial Day, we would like you to stand above our buried bodies, and pledge to stop being imperialists and stop imperialist war, as Martin Luther King Jr. demanded in his New York sermon, ‘Beyond Vietnam a time to Break Silence.’

We have puzzled compassion for veteran and presidential candidate, former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry, who killed a Vietnamese in his own country before realizing it was wrong. 

Even more difficult to have compassion for is former Governor, Senator, now President of New School University, Bob Kerry, who on “60 Minutes” was exposed by his own point man of having had his Seals gun down nineteen young women and children, after having seen to the throat cutting of an elderly man; compassion for his having accepted a medal for doing it, after filing a report of ‘enemy successfully killed.’ 

Did these now highly placed Americans serve us when they killed or ordered Vietnamese to be killed? They all had a college education, which must have included a history of colonialism, especially the brutality of French colonial subjugation of the Vietnamese. They must have known that Ho Chi Minh was decorated by our OSS as a dedicated ally of ours against the Japanese and Fascist Vichy French. They must have known that Truman, against Roosevelt’s promise, had brought the French army back in US ships to fight an 8-year war against our former allies, the Vietnamese. All this, because Ho Chi Minh was a communist? I don’t think so. A top cabinet minister of our ally, the French government was also a communist, but that was OK.

When Americans withdrew from Vietnam, the government was communist,  just as it is today. So the millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians and the 58,000 American soldiers were killed for nothing but war profiteering, not to prevent a communist government.’

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

But enough imagining what omniscient dead GIs might say! Here is what the President of the Veterans For Peace nationwide organization has to say about the criminal use of U.S. Armed Forces, “Our response to the illegal deployment of U.S. soldiers is to support the troops who refuse and resist. …The antidote to racism and hate is love and solidarity. The antidote to illegal use of the military is resistance and support. Now is the time for all to step up to the challenge. Peace at Home, Peace Abroad!” Gerry Condon, President, VETERANS FOR PEACE , 11/2/2018

Six of this author’s basic training bunkmates are buried in a mass grave somewhere in North Korea. I can shed tears for them. They were young men – they wanted to live just as all the Korean War victims and relatives of my Korean students would have rather lived than die in a war that was ultimately over the economic confrontation between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union.

Veterans who loved their country enough to know what the fighting was about are one thing. Veterans who gave their lives fighting for injustice and against human respect, blindly following their officer’s illegal orders are quite another.

The world has become increasingly complicated, and yet our corporate conglomerate cartel and mass entertainment media has become increasingly reductive, simplistic and antidemocratic. I have no compassion for those who work to make war acceptable, even attractive to their audiences.

President and General Ulysses S. Grant once said, “There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. “ “Let us have peace.”

Veterans, clergy, academics, editors, writers and people from of all walks of life have expressed heartfelt support for the promotion of a Memorial Day for all the victims of war, a day that would especially include innocent civilians alongside the military on all sides of conflict. This would engender a desire for reconciliation and opposition to war as an instrument of foreign policy.

Because let us remember that the non-American families, and friends of non-Americans, who died in American wars have the exact same painful feelings of loss and bewilderment. The millions of Indochinese killed by our fellow veterans, the millions of Koreans, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and and tens of thousands of Afghan women and children—every one of them is worth remembering on Memorial Day as well. Even more so because they died in their own country, most in their own towns, and many in their very own homes.

I surely want to remember those fellow veterans who perished in criminal U.S. genocidal military action. But I believe sincere Americans will want to remember everyone who died in these many foreign wars, including the ‘foreigners’ our soldiers killed in their own country.


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Jay Janson

Contributing Writer at Author
Jay Janson is an archival research peoples historian activist, musician and writer; has lived and worked on all continents; articles on media published in China, Italy, UK, India and in the US by Dissident Voice, Global Research; Information Clearing House; Counter Currents, Minority Perspective, UK and others. Jay now resides in NYC;
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