The Pride and the Sadness of Memorial Day

As I browse the web, reading the poignant, and often inspired, tributes to America’s war dead, I am filled with pride — and regret.

It seems somehow symbolic that next to many of the tributes, there are ads for things like T-shirts and trinkets. One site I stumbled on even promotes casino gambling. Yes, in the midst of our sorrow and our pride, hucksterism is very much alive.

And as I wipe away the tears for the 260,000 Americans killed in wars in this young nation’s history, I clench my fists at the realization of the underlying causes of war.

Don’t be misled, I am as proud of our troops as anyone. My father, who served in World War I, impressed on me that it was not the willingness to kill for your country that makes you a hero, it is the willingness to die for your country. And I believe that there have been “just wars.” As we are so often reminded, “freedom is not free.” But students of history will agree that all wars serve somebody’s economic agenda.

The young men and women whose lives have been sacrificed in defense of their countries died on the altar of greed – perhaps not their own country’s greed but greed nonetheless.

This is not always obvious. In World War II, for example, Americans were called on to give their lives in resistance to a blood-thirsty dictator. By the time America entered the war, there was no other moral choice.

But, drowned out by the patriotic trumpet sounds and obscured by the smoke from the battlefields, historians have identified economic conditions that facilitated Hitler’s rise to power.

In the war that rages in Iraq, there have been so many economic benefits to so many people that I find it hard to restrain my cynicism. We know that the threat of “weapons of mass destruction” was trumped up, so what were the real motives behind the invasion and occupation?

I don’t think any reasonable person would argue today that the United States invaded Iraq to depose a wicked dictator and free the country’s people. If we wanted to go on a crusade against wicked dictators, think of how many countries qualified for invasion ahead of Iraq. And I doubt that responsible historians will conclude that Iraq’s people were “freed” by switching from Suni to Shiite rule.

So, in my own tribute to the dead and wounded troops, I beg forgiveness from their families for whatever economic gain I may have unintentionally and unknowingly reaped from their tragic sacrifice. I eat supper tonight with a heavy heart.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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