Wednesday, May 09, 2007

WAR’S WARRIORS

Over on Salon Camille Paglia (yippee – she’s back!) talks about a recent military funeral (“A cause they’ve long ago forgotten”, www.salon.com/opinion/paglia/2007/05/09/scarborough/print.html).

The funeral is for a Marine junior officer, age 26, killed near Fallujah, on his second tour of duty. His father is a Marine Reserve colonel, which start to thicken the plot. The ceremony is held at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station itself; the eulogy is given by a Marine general, head of the Marine Air Wing stationed there.

Questions arise, and not simply the obvious point that nowadays the Pentagon suddenly has reversed course and wants funerary ceremonies fully publicized (although – like Goot Chermanss and Soviet citizens, We are not supposed to have the bad civic manners to ask Why or to recall that just yesterday the official position was exactly and irrevocably and ontologically the opposite). Why at the Air Station? Why an Air Wing general speaking (the deceased was – as best can be discerned – a ‘grunt’ officer, engaged in infantry ops).

Answers suggest themselves: The colonel wanted the best for his boy and he had the rank and connections to get it. The general spoke because in the modern Fundamentalist-besotted chaplain corps no reliably competent chaplain could be found equal to the occasion.

But why was the occasion so heavily publicized? And anytime a general officer speaks publicly, it’s going to make news so why did this one even permit himself to step up to the klieg lights?

His comments start to shed light, revealing perhaps more than We are expected to absorb. “Welcome home, warrior” the general intoned, in the accents of an ancient age. Then, less anciently: “It’s absolutely an honor to be part of your homecoming”, he addressed the casket (presumably not extending his hand for a fraternal shake).

So. We are Sparta now. Or perhaps a certain European country in 1944. Let’s not mention the war – let’s just emphasize the fact that you’re dead from wounds and we’re glad to have you back. Ja. Yah.

More suggests itself. Is this episode a roll-out of the new Pentagon spin, officially sanctioned from above (most generals don’t get to be generals by doing public stuff that is not officially sanctioned by the Pentagon)? Or is it some indication that within the Services themselves – certainly the tightly-bound and tightly-wound Marine Corps – the fighters are resentful of how they are being mishandled?

The ‘Leadership’ was nowhere to be seen. Of course, from the bunker in the capital and – what the hey? – the forests of East Prussia the Leadership had suddenly materialized to welcome a visiting head of state. And that head of state showed herself to be as unamused about having to be photographed with them as, say, Marshal Antonescu, when he had to make an official visit to the forest to hear how things were going and – ach! – not-going on the Eastern Front.

But the Marine Corps’ effort to preserve something for itself, of itself, isn’t going to be enough. Not hardly. It cannot be enough that one wars and that one is a ‘warrior’. A soldier of a democracy must – as Douglas MacArthur stated in clarion prose – “defend the defenseless”. Such is not the consequence of preventive, invasive war – as MacArthur and that entire Nuremberg and Geneva generation realized even then.

Am I blaming the soldiers – now as reprehensible a gambit as ‘blaming the victims’ was not so long ago? No.

I am blaming Us. The blood of 1st Lt. Travis Manion and all his colleagues (and upon them be peace) – dead and wounded, damaged in body or in spirit – is on Our hands, for they were sent there obedient to Our word. Nor can We indulge in a Diana-zeit self-flattering gush of maudlin but artfully klieg-friendly sentimentality. No flowers, no ribbons, no plastic flags. Rather, We must exert Ourselves to perform Our own ancient task: the work of ‘strenuous liberty’. We must think, and deliberate, and decide, and then – the government having gotten into a very bad habit of not paying attention to what We think since We haven’t been doing much of it for so long – make Ourselves heard where it counts.

Do we grieve for our losses? Well, they are precisely that – Our losses, incurred by obedience to Our word. And words have consequences. And the buck stops with Us. Allons, enfants de la patrie! Our own enfants are depending on Us.

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1 Comments:

Blogger David said...

The owl of philosophy flies at dusk.

Just as the Roman Republic had reached critical mass and was tipping into its role as a rapacious world empire, the poet Vergil wrote the Aeneid in an attempt to recall and enshrine the values of the Republic. Among them, the code of the legionaire: Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos. (Spare the conquered and confront the arrogant).

By the time he wrote this, it had already become a cruel joke in the field. Roman expeditionary forces were already making deserts, calling that 'peace' and colluding with arrogant client regimes.

The motto of the US Special Forces (a piece of dog Latin as it stands) literally means: "Out of the violently destroyed comes/is made the free man." This is ironically reminiscent of the Vietnam era phrase: "we had to destroy the village to save it."

Cautions about duty, honor and country come too late in Iraq. Almost half the personnel over there are civilian mercenaries answerable to no one. See a few anecdotes reflecting that state of affairs in Robert Greenwald's nightmarish account today (5-10-07) at http://alternet.org/waroniraq/51719/

5:09 AM  

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