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Last Monday, on Memorial Day, I decided to visit the Los Angeles National Cemetery, “Tinseltown’s” equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery. I had received an announcement from a group of conservatives in the entertainment industry, of which I am a member, that famous Oscar winning actor Jon Voight, a friend of mine, and other notables would be honoring our fallen heros that morn with a commemorative ceremony.
As I arrived at the cemetery, walking past the grave stones on the way to the ceremonial area, adorned with American flags, and with military personnel and others hanging around in solemnity, I could not but help think that but for the grace of God, I could be lying there as well. The year I graduated from Duke University, 1973, I was slated to go to Vietnam, but just as this was to occur President Nixon ended the draft.
Listening to the speeches of politicians, actors and surviving military heroes extol, rightfully, the sacrifice of our fallen veterans, all of whom unselfishly gave their lives for our nation, I thought back to the Vietnam War and now the Iraq War – conflicts fashioned for political purposes by politicians. These were wars that did not need to be fought but were – at great loss of life and limb and at great taxpayer expense. These were wars that did not bring freedom to our country, or any country – but were ill-advised. Indeed, decades later Vietnam is moving toward capitalism and no longer a foe, even though it won the war and could have simply stayed totally communist. But free market forces and the need to modernize pushed it westward. This would have happened even if our nation had not sacrificed over 50,000 lives and hundreds of thousands maimed.
As for Iraq, all we have accomplished after eight years of war and thousands dead and tens of thousands disfigured is to democratically elect radical Islamic Arabs, loyal only to the mullahs in Iran – Arab terrorist interests who are playing us for fools until we eventually have to leave. Then, true to Arabic culture, Iraq will revert to its past, which does not know or want a democratic state.
So what really saddened – in fact horrified – me is that with all the deserving praise of our fallen veterans, no one dared to mention how many of them died for no logical reason, only because politicians sent them to ill-advised wars for political purposes. What a waste, I thought. And, what is even more sickening and sad is that the veterans who gave their lives, and their surviving families, thought that they had died for something.
I am a conservative, I would like to think a real conservative. At least I wanted to portray myself this way when I ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 in Florida against the Bush Republican establishment. I admire patriotism. I admire love of country and sacrifice. But in hearing not one mention of the brave men and women who died for nothing in Vietnam and Iraq, I thought of my own son, Lance, now 10 years old. If politicians like Presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama will, once of age, ask my son to go to wars like Iraq or Afghanistan, what will I say to him, or for that matter do? In good conscience, will I counsel him to go to a worthless war? I think not.
Regrettably, blind patriotism is no virtue. For it perpetuates the big-shot mentality of the likes of George W. Bush and Barack Obama who think they know best for our nation, but make decisions based on politics and whim. For Bush it was a macho thing to invade Iraq. He could have simply ordered the assassination of Saddam Hussein and allowed the various Arabic factions to sort it out afterward. There was no reason to occupy the country, at great cost, for many years, with no end in sight. And, as for Obama and Afghanistan, a sinkhole of grand proportions that will also revert back to the Taliban the moment we leave, what do we say to our brave soldiers who are dying there because the Afghan people have neither the will nor fortitude to fight their own battle, assuming they can even figure out what it is, other than opium production?
This is why my thoughts at Los Angeles National Cemetery were so tortured and confused.
As a young boy, I would have blindly gone to Vietnam once called up. But as a grown man, and having seen how our politicians have callously wasted the lives of brave Americans to suit their own ill-thought political ends, I can longer say this.
So what is the answer? Elect smarter and more honest politicians? Have a national referendum before the nation goes to war and sends its young heroes off to die? The answer is not an easy one, and in fact there may be no answer. There needs to be authority even in a free society, and the populace does need to follow to avoid anarchy. The president and Congress do need to lead. But can Americans simply praise the war dead and say nothing after their lives are wasted by the establishment?
Let us think this through and return to this discussion at a later date. For we, as free people, need to stand up and fight for liberty. But the next time we get involved in someone else’s useless war, let’s know how and why we got there.
God Bless America and our brave fallen heroes, and may we see them someday in heaven.
But also let God deal in his own way with our intellectually dishonest politicians who wasted and trashed American lives and bodies in wars like Vietnam and Iraq. Let these political hacks rest in hell!