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.
The state inculcates an unquestioning faith in its war-making by associating it with patriotism, heroism, and the defense of "our freedoms." This strategy builds in its own defense against any criticism of the government's policies. Anyone who questions the morality of a war is automatically suspected of being unpatriotic, unappreciative of the bravery that has "kept us free," and disrespectful of "our troops," in a word, un-American.
To counter this common outlook, which people are indoctrinated in from birth and which is shared by conservatives and Progressives alike, we should do what we can to teach others that the government's version of its wars is always self-serving and threatening to life, liberty, and decency.
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 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 (some of which I've read, some of which I intend to read):
- We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods Jr.
- The Failure of America's Foreign Wars, edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob G. Hornberger
- 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
- The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination, by Jeremy R. Hammond
- The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe
- The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
- Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II, by Jim Powell
- American Empire: Before the Fall, by Bruce Fein
- Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, by Patrick J. Buchanan
- Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, by Jonathan Kwitny
One book that helped start me on the journey from hawkish patriot to skeptical revisionist is Jonathan Kwitny's Endless Enemies.
Agreed! I thought of it, but then let it slip away. I will add.
I don't deny that there are "private" interests that benefit from war, and maybe others have said this before and better, but don't you think that the United States, lacking a sort of ethno-nationalist identity (French people have an idea of Frenchness for example)is prone to militarism because the state sees it as a way to mobilize and unify the population? I've long been interested in the ways the state interacts through symbol and rituals with those it "governs". War seems like a very powerful example of this.
I notice that with mammals, the pattern is that the males pick fights with one another and the females mate with the winners. Perhaps if humans would stop being mammals.....
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