It’s Memorial Day in the United States today, the official beginning of summer. Fierce Americans mark the day by beating their war drums; gentle Americans by beating their breasts. The newspapers, as usual, are full of improving homilies and exhortations. But this year there is something different, something inspiring and humbling. In the Washington Post the anti-war conservative Andrew J. Bacevich has marked Memorial Day with a tribute to his son, who died earlier this month in Iraq.
Bacevich teaches history and international relations at Boston University and is the author, most recently, of The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.
A graduate of West Point, he served in Vietnam and began his writing career by contributing to The National Review, The Weekly Standard and Commentary, all pillars of neocon orthodoxy. Now he writes for the left-wing, anti-war Nation and the right-wing, anti-war American Conservative (as well as for the dreaded MSM — the mainstream media).
America’s present belligerence, he believes, is in large measure explained by what amounts to a flaw in popular culture: the widespread belief that that every international crisis is a replay of Munich (and that each new enemy is therefore a ‘New Hitler’). In the Spectator last July he wrote:
‘For … neoconservatives — for large numbers of Americans generally — history is above all a morality tale. They prefer simple stories that yield simple and unambiguous truths: about the folly of ignoring, appeasing or otherwise failing to confront evil … Classifying the war on terror as World War IV [as the distinguished American journalist Norman Podhoretz has done] offers attractive benefits. It provides a reassuring sense of continuity: we’ve been here before, we know what we need to do, we know how it’s going to end. See the conflict with violent Islamic radicals as World War IV and the Bush administration’s crusade to democratise the Greater Middle East … not only makes sense: it becomes a categorical imperative.’
Young Americans (and young Englishmen too) continue to die for this comic-book vision of America’s manifest destiny. But those who die are not comic-book heroes. Their deaths are real deaths; and their parents feel real grief. This is flesh-and-blood horror.
As Andrew Bacevich writes:
‘I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.’
Read the whole thing.Tags: The week that was