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Monday, November 12, 2007


armistice day 2007

in the past i've offered thoughts on armistice day, and today i'd like to point out -- via arthur silber -- these words from one of the american thinkers i most respect, paul fussell.

It is customary to maintain that American wars are all fought on behalf of freedom, but few notice that for the sake of freedom millions of young men are enslaved for years, Shanghaied by conscription into a life whose every dimension is at odds with the idea of freedom. Flag, uniforms, bugle calls, band music, and all the trappings of military glory hardly suffice to persuade the hapless conscript that he is involved in the defense of freedom, especially when his weekend pass has just been canceled at the last minute in retribution for a heartfelt satiric remark which his sergeant has just overheard. To invoke a rude term which I hope will offend no one here, the culture of war is hardly separable from the culture of chicken shit.

and further:

Earlier in our history, invasion or physical pressure against American territory were provocations leading to war. During the Nixon era, the U.S. became "Kissingerized." No longer requiring threats to American territory, threats to American "national interest" became a sufficient reason for sending the troops into bloody action. National interest is an interesting term because it is legally meaningless and constitutionally undefinable, hence popular. The term "national interest" is the best gift ever awarded to those Americans who are neurotically bellicose, but who, like Henry Kissinger, always seem to avoid being on the frontline, preferring to serve their country by getting others to drop bombs on people. Of course, the people they drop bombs on, and this is notable, are always more primitive and unfortunate than themselves. They are always smaller in stature. They usually have darker skins. That is what the current culture of war seems to amount to. Clearly, we should abhor it.

contrast these thoughts -- which were earned by fussell in front-line duty in the second world war -- with these.

Bush, who is spending the weekend at his Crawford, Texas ranch, visited an American Legion post in nearby Waco to attend the ceremony where two Army soldiers and two Marines were honored with anthems and tributes to their heroism.

At the emotional service where some family members were crying, Bush praised the valor of the soldiers and expressed empathy for the "aching hearts" of those they left behind.

"In their sorrow, these families need to know, and families all across our nation of the fallen, need to know that your loved ones served a cause that is good and just and noble," Bush said. "And as their commander-in-chief, I'm making this promise: their sacrifice will not be vain."

the words of one of "those Americans who are neurotically bellicose, but who ... always seem to avoid being on the frontline, preferring to serve their country by getting others to drop bombs on people."

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