Veterans Day, 2006: The bravery of soldiers, and the criminality of politicians.


In previous years, NAC has offered eccentric remembrances to mark the annual passage of Veterans Day, and the senior editor has provided thoughts of a more personal nature: My father, Veterans Day and good beer.

Somehow it feels different this time. It is unmistakable that the election on Tuesday was a referendum on the current conflict in Iraq, and that many more Americans than not have come to disagree at some level with the conduct of the war. Certain of these people, me among them, go a step further and remain fatally disillusioned with the illegalities and subterfuge that led the nation into Iraq. We persist in demanding accountability on the part of an administration that has publicly lied and disassembled as flagrantly and continuously as any during previous United States history.

Of course, others stand forever ready to level the accusation that speaking against war is the same as denouncing our soldiers engaged in fighting it, but this isn’t the case, and it never has been so.

There is no disrespect or absence of support for soldiers struggling to succeed and survive in a violent, unforgiving setting. At the same time, there is considerable contempt for the vapid politics of utter foolishness that are responsible for an unforgivable, deadly impasse.

The collective national cognitive dissonance engendered by the pure fact that these soldiers are dying for our right to be addicted to Middle Eastern petroleum makes their sacrifice all the more poignant – and our ongoing societal disingenuousness all the more unforgivable.

There is a hoary axiom holding that war is too important to be left to the generals, but in the case of Iraq, the libretto for Bush in Wonderland flips old wisdom on its head and suggests that in some cases, war is too important to be left to the politicians (and neo-cons). The military establishment seems to have grasped the realities of the battlefield quite vividly, only to be overruled time and again by parlor theorists with an ideological itch to scratch.

The villainous underling Uncle Rummie may have finally been dispatched to a predictably opulent retirement for those of his ilk, but his errors will continue to fester in a condition of self-inflicted infamy. We’ll be paying for them for decades to come, but he’ll do no penance and pay no penalty.

And what of terrorism?

Is terrorism a threat to us? Of course it is, and the costs of vigilance and security are being borne by all of us. But there can be no lasting solution to terrorism without a new awakening of self-examination on the part of America with respect to our place in the world, and more importantly, without a determined effort to understand the “motives, fears and capabilities” of terrorists in the context of their support networks.

The Bush regime may have enriched logistical intermediaries during the Iraq war, and crafted a fairytale vision of reality that appeals to the inherently delusional, but in the end it has failed to act in any fashion remotely worthy of the heroism and courage shown by our soldiers in the field. Those responsible for the debacle should answer for it, and yet it is unlikely that this will occur.

Once again, we’ll have to rely on the judgment of posterity for something approximating justice. It isn’t much, but we’ll take it.

These are unpleasant thoughts for Veterans Day, to be sure. I merely suggest a brief pause from college football and pre-Christmas shopping to consider them.

2005: Package Store Veterans Day.
2005: My father, Veterans Day and good beer.
2006: From the NYT: “What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat.”