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Stateside with Rosalea: Memorial Day 2005

Stateside with Rosalea Barker

Memorial Day 2005

The last Monday in May is a federal holiday called Memorial Day. Its observance began not long after the Civil War to honour those who had died in battle. Today, it honours all the dead in all the wars that the US has ever been involved in.*

There are the obligatory flag-waving promos on TV squeezed in between all the flag-waving advertisements on TV since this is the official beginning of summer and there is Stuff to Buy and an Economy to Support. All the local news bulletins show the national and local memorial services.

This year, the news items seem to be concentrating rather a lot more than usual on the wounded who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. It's hard to tell whether this trend is commiseration or a subtle criticism of the US military's failure to read the runes correctly before creating two costly war zones.

Me, I can never quite get away from the Civil War being the start of all this. In my opinion, the thing that is being remembered on Memorial Day isn't the lives lost in battle, but the absolute usefulness and efficiency of civil war as a tool for asserting economic and cultural supremacy and making the world safe for American-style capitalism.

For example, once it became clear to the Southern industrialists and landowners that the newly elected President Lincoln--who hailed from Illinois--was in the pockets of the railroad boosters from Illinois and Iowa who were touting the 42nd-parallel route for a transcontinental railroad instead of one through the South, it was all on for a dust-up.

And that's all it's ever about, folks. Some dust-up over resources or access to them, dressed up in A Great Cause. It's not that I'm against capitalism--just the peculiarly ugly American style of it that was built into the Constitution by the inclusion of the clause that allows Congress to protect intellectual property rights.

That protection not only enabled innovation, it enabled the aggregation of power to corporations on a scale not seen in other countries because there is no check or balance on the influence corporations have on Congress. (Did I read somewhere that the federal government is giving money to researchers so that Big Pharma can put malaria vaccine in Coca Cola because that's the easiest way to get most of the African population vaccinated?)

The sad thing is that the further away we get from 9/11, the more important it is for something like 9/11 to happen again in order to reinvigorate the nation's commitment to throwing the bodies of Iowan farm boys and girls onto the bonfires of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Either that, or cause a civil war in Iraq so that the folks back in the US can grumble about how heavy a burden it is to be peacekeepers, but their young men and women in uniform will do it anyway and, by golly, we support them 1000 percent.

Do you know the scariest thing? Broadcasters and other media in this country are too afraid to air documentaries or publish stories that show any negative side of the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq because they don't want to offend the families of the people who have been sent there.

Tell me, does it really honour someone who gave their life to not look these wars squarely in the face?

* For a list of those, I urge you to read pages 43-79 of Ward Churchill's book "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." Yes, that's 36 pages of widely documented US military actions from 1776 to 2003, with most of those actions getting only one short paragraph. You do the math.


rosalea.barker @


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