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  • Monday, February 28, 2005


    The Dogs of War Come Home

    I feel profoundly ambivalent about returning veterans from Iraq. On one hand, I recognize that many of them joined the military as a result of the "poverty draft" and very aggressive recruitment tactics. They may have joined the military for any number of reasons: patriotism, educational opportunity, poverty, spiffy dress uniforms, recruiter's lies, etc. As individuals, I feel they need support, aid and comfort upon returning to the US. However, as agents actively carrying out the foreign policies of the Bush Administration, they played a considerable role in an unprovoked war of aggression. The Nuremburg Principles don't absolve them of responsibility and neither do I. No, I don't want to put all our soldiers on trial. I don't think it should have to be a soldier's responsibility to second-guess the government's policies and whether they are committing an international crime. Supposedly the checks and balances of our government should keep such massive mistakes from happening. But it certainly didn't in this case.

    Can anything good come out of this? To me, part of the answer lies in how we treat returning veterans. I do not like the military but I also recognize that we, as a country, owe something to those who put their lives on the line. It is not a light obligation. Here's a small quote from "The Bonus Army" Lesson. It's definitely worth reading the whole piece.

    How are troops supported? For an excellent historical reminder that soldiers are supported by organized action outside of the political process, get yourself a copy of The Bonus Army: An American Epic authored by Paul Dickson and Thomas B. Allen.

    By the cutoff date of July 25, 1956, 2,232,000 vets had enrolled in college using the GI Bill. "The education produced 450,000 engineers, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists, and more than a million other college trained men and women."

    Nearly 8 million vets benefited from the GI Bill with 11 million homes being built in the 1950s, financed by GI Bill loans. Amazing how neocons completely ignore such things when chastising "liberals" about free-market panaceas and how government programs only make things worse.

    "The enduring legacy of the Bonus Army," write Dickson and Allen, "goes well beyond the GI Bill...(They) taught an American lesson to those who fretted over revolution: If you have a grievance, take it to Washington, and if you want to be heard, bring a lot of people with you."

    As you read these words, there are veterans in VA hospitals paying for their meals while the president's budget, among other things, would more than double co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs, and would require some to pay new fee of $250 a year to use government health care.

    BTW, the title of this post refers to the following quote:
    Blood and destruction shall be so in use
    And dreadful objects so familiar
    That mothers shall but smile when they behold
    Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;
    All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
    And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
    Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial.
    Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene I
    "Havoc derives from Old French, and probably derives from a now lost Germanic word (perhaps Walter will show up with the best derivation). It means to plunder, and entered English through Anglo-Norman, crier havoc, meaning to cry (shout) plunder. To cry havoc is to release one's troops to plunder the enemy camp or town." This explanation is from this discussion.


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