Memorial Day and its hypocrites

Memorial Day has become an increasingly sad and cynical affair. Politicians from both parties and members of the the media, universities, peace groups, churches, and veterans organizations join with ordinary Americans on this day to pay tribute to the men and women who have died or been maimed fighting America’s wars. And while the fallen and wounded fully merit the reverence shown them, many of those showing it are hypocrites of the first rank.

For most of the post-1960 period, our military personnel have been used as expendable pawns by presidents with one eye on the war they started and the other on opinion polls, the media, and the attitude of Europe’s elite. As a result, the U.S. military has been used more to meet reelection needs than as the tool to protect U.S. interests by scoring clear victories.

Indeed, the civilians constitutionally charged with defending the United States have abolished the word victory from their vocabulary. They never order U.S. forces to annihilate the enemy so America wins and can bring them home. Political leaders have forgotten that in wartime — especially if America is attacked first — each American life is worth infinitely more than any number of foreign lives. And if victory takes killing untold numbers of those who attacked us, as well as the civilians who support or sympathize with them, then so be it.

The only mercy in war is its speedy conclusion, and nothing brings that end more quickly than utterly destroying the enemy, his supporters, and his material infrastructure. If it is true, as General W.T. Sherman said, that “war is cruelty,” the only moral policy is to make sure that such cruelty lasts for as short a time as possible, and that can only done by using our military to win completely and quickly.

On this Memorial Day, many of the civilians and civilian groups who will cry crocodile tears for our dead service personnel are as much hypocrites as the politicians. Much of media, for example, loathe the U.S. military and report wars only to: (1) discredit the sitting president; (2) find fault, failure, and/or purported criminal activity by our troops and then sensationalize it to undermine morale, national resolve, and the war effort; (3) disclose classified data that helps the enemy kill Americans; and, (4) rally anti-war and anti-U.S. sentiment at home and overseas against America and its national interests.

Much the same can be said of many peace and church groups. On Memorial Day many are hypocrites and on every other day they are — with the politicians and media — purveyors of long, useless, unwon wars. The peace and church people labor day and night to make the U.S. military’s work more difficult and thus they help prolong wars. The weepy folk from these groups who turn out for Memorial Day services today, will tomorrow be back trying to paint the U.S. military as war criminals, seeking to ban weapons that save the lives of U.S. service personnel, and adamantly arguing the nonsense that in wartime an enemy life is worth as much as an American one. Much of the Christian evangelical and Jewish communities, in fact, will dry their Memorial-Day tears and go home to work even harder to support a foreign nation by fomenting another unnecessary war — this one with Iran — so they can have even more dead to hypocritically cry over next May.

The church and professional peace-lovers will be endorsed by monkish “Just War” professors in U.S. universities. These tenured elitists argue it is moral to conduct endless tit-for-tat wars, to use U.S. force only in proportion to the enemy’s use of his (and so we never win), and to avoid casualties among the enemy’s civilian supporters and sympathizers even if U.S. soldiers and Marines die as a result. To the extent that church, peace-group, and Just-War leaders influence those responsible for conducting U.S. wars, exactly to that extent will the wars be lengthened, made more expensive in lives and money, and, ultimately, made unwinnable.

Generals and the leaders of veterans organizations are the toughest to get a fix on as to why they silently go along with the Memorial Day charlatans. From Vietnam to Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan, the predecessors of these men and women have had their lives sacrificed or stunted by political leaders who start unnecessary wars they do not mean to win. Do U.S. military academies teach that fighting U.S. enemies on terms set by the enemy and their domestic abettors in the United States is the smart way of waging war? Or that fighting in this manner keeps faith with the men and women they command or their parents? One hopes these are not the lessons taught, but the multi-starred men and women who lead our soldier-children into war do silently abet the politicians’ orders to tie one-and-a-half of America’s military arms behind its back and to bind our fighters with rules of engagement that favor the enemy. Have none of them ever heard of the concept of resigning in protest?

Afghanistan today is a prime example of this phenomenon, and proof that it occurs even in necessary wars. Generals Petraeus and McChrystal have limited air support for and night operations by our troops to protect the Taliban’s civilian sympathizers and supporters. And for what? The much heralded U.S.-NATO operation in Helmand province this spring temporarily cleared the Taliban and its allies from Majrah district, but the latter are now returning and rebuilding their dominance. It seems pretty clear that the Taliban fighters can only be returning because they were not killed, and that the Helmand operation provided a fleeting media victory for the Obama administration but had no lasting impact. It also means the U.S. and NATO lives and treasure expended there were wasted.

One wonders what the predecessors of Petraeus and McChrystal would think of their approach to war? How would today’s new-age generals be seen by those who always brought America victory because they knew the history of war, recognized man’s unchanging character, and understood that victory required “as hard blows against the enemy’s soldiers as possible” and actions that would “cause so much suffering to the inhabitants of the country that they will long for peace….”?

Today, then, let us indeed remember, revere, and commend to God’s care the U.S. military personnel who have died in all of America’s wars. They did what they were ordered to do by the country’s political leaders and their generals and admirals. But let us also remember that those who died in Vietnam and since have been cynically used by politicians and political generals who ignore history’s iron-clad law that wars are won by killing the enemy until he and his supporters are eliminated or give up. These men and women instead pursue a more “humane” kind of war where military punches are pulled, fighting is prolonged by years, enemy hearts and mind are sought but never won, and Westernization is imposed. In so doing, they may protect their political futures and appease the most malodorous segments of U.S. and European society, but they wantonly waste the lives of our soldier-children.

For 50 years, then, U.S. leaders have equated a U.S. soldier’s life with the life of an enemy or his supporter and have waged war without seeking definitive victory. Such men and women are fit candidates for the noose, not for re-election. It is our shame as a people that we keep putting them in office. And it is for this shame, as well as in loving memory of our lost servicemen and servicewomen, that tears should be shed on this Memorial Day.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.