Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.
In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history -- Ussama Makdisi's Faith Misplaced: U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, and watching Emily.
My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order:
- Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
- War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
- War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
- Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
- Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
- The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
- The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
- The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
- The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
- Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
- All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
- Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
- The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
- War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
- A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
- The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
- Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
Thank you for this post.
"The War Prayer" by Mark Twain is great also.
Awesome post, Sheldon!
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