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Preparing for the Next Memorial Day


Preparing for the Next Memorial Day

Medea Benjamin

Memorial Day weekend was replete with parades, American flags, and tributes to our war dead, but little reflection on war, particularly the tragic fact that the United States has fallen into the death trap that President Eisenhower warned us about: the military-industrial complex.

Instead of defending our nation as the Constitution stipulates, since the 9/11 attacks the U.S. military, CIA, and military contractors have been waging aggressive wars or interfering by proxy in other nations’ internal affairs.


Thanks so much for mentioning the plight of veterans. I get sick and tired of people going on and on about the military people killed during their service, and then totally ignoring the wounded veterans.

Sometimes I envy the veterans that were killed outright. Since 22 veterans a day kill themselves, obviously a lot of other veterans act on that view.

Posturing about dead veterans is a quick and easy feel-good fix. Working to care for the dependants of the dead veterans, and to care for the wounded veterans, takes a lot of work. Not only that, its very distressing to be face to face with the human debris of "patriotic" wars.

I'm a disabled veteran, who is living in poverty hell because I'm not getting any support from that farce, the VA. And yes, I got an honorable discharge.

Supporting veterans doesn't do much to enrich the oligarchs, so the government does very little to help them. As the article states, wars and new weapon systems are successful in shifting huge amounts of wealth from the 99% into the pockets of the oligarchs. Given that the oligarchs dominate the government, its not much surprise that after every war the veterans get screwed and the oligarchs get richer.

Its amazing how few flag waving people lift their little finger to support veterans. Its amazing how much abusive victim blaming that handicapped veterans experience.

Now I wish I would have stayed home and worked to support democracy inside the US, the largest, most violent, anti-democratic, imperialistic force in the world.

The only thing keeping me going is the hope that I can help stop the oligarchs that are destroying everything I sacrificed my well-being for.


Oligrach's view of veterans has always been that they are expendable labor to be discarded after serving the oligarchs' purpose. Unfortunately, many military workers wear out much faster than workers in many other lines of work.


"When Obama became president, the movement fell apart, mainly because many people thought Obama would end U.S. military adventurism."

Why would they have thought that? He fully supported bombing Afghanistan even before he was elected. From the NYT in 2008:

"In Afghanistan, he has promised to ramp up the American military effort, particularly on the Pakistani border, and has said that if America received intelligence about suspected Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he is prepared, as commander in chief, to act on it."

There was no mystery here. Yet, many chose to dismiss reality and vote for him anyway. And look where we are now?


As worthy as the veterans commemorated on Memorial Day, we would do well to replace it with Constitution Day, because that document has been forgotten. The the AUMF, the Authorization to Use Military Force of 14 September 2001 empowered the President (the Bush) to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
In other words, to wage war with no further debate or declaration of war which, under the Constitution is for our elected representatives, Congress, to decide. Remember that on Dec. 7, 1941, FDR requested that Congress make a declaration of war.
The irony is that every Congressman has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution- but there is no statutory requirement that they demonstrate familiarity with its provisions. Otherwise there would be no need for AUMF- indeed, it is an abrogation of their duty. Read the Constitution and hold them to it!


"since the 9/11 attacks the U.S. military, CIA, and military contractors
have been waging aggressive wars or interfering by proxy in other
nations’ internal affairs."

WRONG! Since 1956. I will repeat. Not since the Twin Towers incident but from 1956, when the USA arranged to blow-up Hanoi's power station .


Always great to read your articles, Medea Benjamin; you are saying things as they are. Thank you for your tireless work.


Hi Pearl,
* Perhaps you'll find my Memorial Day Remembrance of interest. I wrote the first version of the essay in 1999, hoping that I could file it away and forget it, but each year on Memorial Day and Armistice Day, I've had to revise it once more.
Memorial Day 2016
A Remembrance

My memory of war starts with World War II. I was just a boy during the war and it was largely an adventure to us, but I remember the quiet pride and the sadness in the eyes of the increasing number of mothers who hung a gold star in their window, never knowing if my mom might be next and my big brother, a Pearl Harbor survivor, gone.
* The wars, great and small, were legion in the last century. My dad lost his leg in the Phillippines in 1913. WW-I, was the “Great War to End All Wars.” An entire generation died in the trenches. One of my uncles, who lied about his age, was the first, and youngest, soldier from Oregon to die in that war, at the battle of Chateau Thierry.
* The memory of man is short and only twenty years passed before another generation was thrown into the meat grinder to stave off domination by Hitler’s Nazis, Mussolini’s Fascists and Imperial Japan’s expansion.
* We had hardly buried the dead and recovered from the shock of the realities of nuclear annihilation when East and West went at it in Korea, a war which still goes on, the fighting finally just stopped by mutual agreement.
* The cold war and the covert wars went on, with the poisonous testing of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. I was present at one such series in 1956. The memory has never ceased to haunt me. Then along came Vietnam. Since then, the “little” wars have gone on all over the world, like brush fires in the California hills, consuming human and material resources.
* In 2001, we saw the tragedy of 11 September and its aftermath. We watched another war start in Afghanistan, which has been swallowing up armies since the time of Alexander the Great. We are now in the fifteenth year of that war, and have fought a horrendous war in Iraq, which killed US troops in the thousands, and Iraqis in the hundreds of thousands and fostered still more hatred and unrest. We are facing yet more Øbama instigated “preemptive” wars in Syria and possibly Iran. The cold war has been rekindled and is heating up. Once more the toll will be enormous.
* Amongst the dead may be the man who would have discovered the cure to cancer and other deadly diseases, the composer who may have surpassed Mozart or Brahms, the playwright or poet who might have succeeded Shakespeare, the statesman who could have brought about world peace or the person who might have been able to end world hunger.
* Those are the might-have-been’s. The reality is the millions of humans who have died, fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fighters and civilians in this past century, all with the dream of peace and human dignity before them. Yet, with the new millennium, war still goes on around the world, and apparently it will continue until we once again learn to talk, negotiate and compromise, not legislate or dictate at the point of a gun.
* Let us give pause in remembrance of those who died, often alone and forgotten, victim of mine and booby trap, sniper fire or disease and infection, whose resting place is unmarked save for perhaps a little more verdant growth where they have nurtured the soil.
* Let us give pause in remembrance for those who survived, maimed in body or soul by the atrocity of war.
* Let us give pause in remembrance for those who survived to carry on, with nothing but memories, of which they do not speak.
* Let us give pause in remembrance for those whose lives ended abruptly, without warning, on 11 September. And of those of all nations and beliefs who continue to die by war and terrorism.
* Let us give pause and reflect, that we might carry out our lives in such a way that love and tolerance might overbalance hatred and bigotry in the scales of life and the dream of peace might become a reality, so those we remember today did not die in vain.

Steve Osborn
* And still, the wars go on, the bucks roll in, and tens of thousands of lives are destroyed. The 0.001% look at their fat bank accounts and say, "All is well!"


We can easily understand how the corporate world, which includes the military/industrial complex and the mass media, control American thinking by the amount and type of attention they give to each holiday and other events in this nation. Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans' Day are ones where the mass media glorifies military aggression which "keeps us free," while giving lip service to the plight of our veterans. Sporting events now have not only the national anthem to open the event, but also the singing of God Bless America at some point in the contest. On a regular basis we have a veteran reunited with his family in front of a cheering audience at a sporting event or one appearing at a school in a "surprise" visit with his children, which is covered by television and newspapers. All of these events are designed to garner support for our aggression around the world.
On the other end of the spectrum in regard to attention to holidays is Labor Day. The media tells us that this is an excellent shopping day, the end of summer for children who are returning to school, and no significant mention is made of the efforts of working people, since the corporate world has sent many of these jobs abroad and want to destroy the few that remain in this nation.