AuthorTopic: Dulce Et Decorum Est...  (Read 556 times)

Offline Surly1

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Dulce Et Decorum Est...
« on: May 28, 2018, 06:57:04 AM »

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 28, 2018

“If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.”

 ― Wilfred Owen

As we observe yet another Memorial Day, it is at this time of year that thoughts turn to those who have served, those lost, those gone. At a time when the NFL make rules to enforce compulsory public worship of militarism (let's not call it patriotism, shall we?), the better to stifle the protest of domestic oppression, it is well to remember a time when grace and magnanimity softened hearts. Today marks the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day's official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868.

Although not widely known today, the early evolution of the Memorial Day holiday grew from a Southern expression of magnanimity. An article by Richard Gardiner, The Forgotten History of Memorial Day,  traces the holiday's beginnings. 

During 1866, the first year of this annual observance in the South, a feature of the holiday emerged that made awareness, admiration and eventually imitation of it spread quickly to the North. During the inaugural Memorial Day observances which were conceived in Columbus, Georgia, many Southern participants – especially women – decorated graves of Confederate soldiers as well as, unexpectedly, those of their former enemies who fought for the Union. 

Shortly after those first Memorial Day observances all across the South, newspaper coverage in the North was highly favorable to the ex-Confederates. 

“The action of the ladies on this occasion, in burying whatever animosities or ill-feeling may have been engendered in the late war towards those who fought against them, is worthy of all praise and commendation,” wrote one paper

On May 9, 1866, the Cleveland Daily Leader lauded the Southern women during their first Memorial Day. 

“The act was as beautiful as it was unselfish, and will be appreciated in the North.”

Newspapers spread word of the magnanimous deeds of the southern women on "Decoration Day,", and it was memorialized in a popular poem, "The Blue and the Grey," often learned and recited by schoolchildren. With the ritual repeated on both sides of thre Mason-Dixon line, the holiday became a part of binding the wounds of a fratricidal war. It was a visible manifestation of Lincoln’s hope for reconciliation between North and South.

Somehow, the revulsion to war was lost as late nineteenth America grew in commercial and economic power. By the time a marine named Smedley Butler appeared in the US military, American was already flexing its muscles for entry as a player on the world stage.

Those not familiar with the career of Butler have missed a fascinating chapter of US history.

Smedley Darlington Butler was at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. He was a welter of contradictions: a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism; a high school dropout who became a major general, a Quaker and devout family man who was among the toughest of Marines; an aristocrat who championed the common man; a leader who thought of himself as striving to help the oppressed of the countries he occupied as commander of an imperial fighting force. During a 34-year career he participated in actions in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean, and France in World War I. He twice won the Congressional Medal of Honor, as well as numerous other U.S. and foreign medals. Our age has not seen the like of this larger-than-life soldier, but ours is not an age that produces heroes as readily as louts.

After he retired, Butler became a well-known and outspoken critic of the US military-industrial complex. His most well known work is his 1935 book "War is a Racket", in which he described war as a money making enterprise.

In "War is a Racket" he described and criticized the foreign actions and wars of the United States including his own, as so much gangsterism, not sparing American corporations and the politicians who enable them.

Butler's words have resonated through our day, when the interstices used by the interlocking nexus of international banks, construction companies, corrupt politicians and "foreign policy professionals" have combine to inflict a new, less straightforward version of colonialism on smaller, weaker countries or those (e.g. Greece) inclined to go their own way. Many of his memorable phrases are still quoted today, as they remain eternally true.

"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

Near the end, Butler has some modest proposals for making war unprofitable, thus less likely.

It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war. The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labour before the nation's manhood can be conscripted.

One can imagine how unpopular this prescription was to the war profiteers. 

In an interesting codicil to an outstanding career, Butler was recruited to be a member of what came to be knows as the Business Plot. He later told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Butler would be selected to lead a veterans march to become dictator, along the lines of other Fascist regimes emerging in Europe. The conspirators had picked the wrong man. All involved denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations. But a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's testimony. The incident was forgetten. 

The techniques Butler describes are updated decades later by John Perkins, who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, published in 2004. In it Perkins describes his role as to convince leaders of underdeveloped countries to accept substantial development loans for large construction and engineering projects that would primarily benefit the richest families and local elites, rather than the poor. And the projects would be contracted to U.S. construction companies. Such loans would give the U.S. additional leverage for access to estract the host country's natural resources at favorable rates. Indeed, the business of America is business.

Just another reason Why People Hate Us. A nation immune to history has no recollection of its own history of intervention and interference. Saddam Hussein and Khaddafi were undoubtedly bad actors, and many believe that regime change was rightly forced upon those countries. But via the CIA, America has been busily replacing democracies with dictatorships in countries all over the world for more than 30 years. The justification was often to counter Soviet influence, but in many cases there was little or no evidence.

So why would the rest of the wrld hate us? Simply because Americans act like we are the center of the universe, we have to win everything all the time, we eat everything, Nukes, your country's natural resources are our birthright, and so is your energy– only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 26 percent of the world’s energy. We meddle all over the world, the scream to high heaven when other countries meddle back, we export trash materialistic culture, and we act unilaterally whenever and wherever we want, because American Exceptionalism. 

Now as Twitler advances a foreign policy of brinksmanship, there is talk in some quarters of reinstating the draft, since the time may come when the prospect of being the first to rush into the breach to die for the Trump corporate brand may be insufficiently motivating for enlistments.

Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary.

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Offline Eddie

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Re: Dulce Et Decorum Est...
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2018, 09:02:30 AM »
Well written and well timed.

It occurred to me that Smedley Butler was a witness to the civil unrest that occurred during the Great Depression known as the Bonus March. What I did not know was that he actually made a speech to the veterans march on DC.

(The transcript below of a Smedley Butler speech to the Bonus Army appears to be different from than the one seen in the Youtube clip above but given around the same time. My heartfelt thanks to the Veterans of Foreign War national office for sending me a copy of the article that appeared in their magazine Foreign Service in 1933.)

Foreign Service, December 1933

Youve Got to Get Mad
Too Many Veterans Still Believe In Santa Claus

By Major General Smedley D. Butler

On the Firing Line for the V. F W.

Americas most colorful military figure, Major General Smedley Butler, is off to war again! He is responding to the V. F. W. call to arms by going on a speaking tour under the auspices of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U. S. Starting in Cincinnati on December 1st, he will visit ten different cities in as many states prepared to tell the truth about the vicious anti-veteran effects of the Economy Act. He will tell the publicin his own inimitable wayjust what he thinks of those who would make the veteran bear the brunt of the depression. And he will preach the gospel of the V. F. W. to those overseas veterans who have not yet become members.

I HAVE been asked to give the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States some good advice. Boys, there is no use giving you any advice. You always do the right thing anyhow. This outfit always does. The V. F. W. isnt a knitting society; it is a real outfit and it always pleases me very much to be invited to meet with you because I just love to go every place soldiers ask me to go. I have noticed that you are getting a little old, but you are the same lovable class of Americans as everdumb though you are. Anybody can put anything over on you but you are lovable just the same.

Usually soldiers dont know what it is all about. Somebody beats a drum, somebody yells Patriotism and the soldiers go out, carry the guns, get shot, and, when there is no war, do all the suffering at home. Peace times they suffer and in war times they bleed.

When you got ready to go to war to lick the Hun, what did you do? You first learned how to fight, and a whole lot of brass-hats wrote a lot of instructions on how to shoot, how to march, how to do everything; so that you all marched together, keeping step. You all spoke the same language. You all had the same objective and when anybody asked you your general orders, you all said the same thing.

Now what happens? There arent any ten veterans in a hundred who will say the same thing to a man who asks them about a veterans question. No positive information. My advice to every Post is to go to school.

We are divided, in America, into two classes: The Tories on one side, a class of citizens who were raised to believe that the whole of this country was created for their sole benefit, and on the other side, the other 99 per cent of us, the soldier class, the class from which all of you soldiers came. That class hasnt any privileges except to die when the Tories tell them. Every war that we have ever had was gotten, up by that class. They do all the beating of the drums. Away the rest of us go. When we leave, you know what happens. We march down the street with all the Sears-Roebuck soldiers standing on the sidewalk, all the dollar-a-year men with spurs, all the patriots who call themselves patriots, square-legged women in uniforms making Liberty Loan speeches. They promise you. You go down the street and they ring all the church bells. Promise you the sun,  the moon,  the stars and the earth,anything to save them. Off you go. Then the looting commences while you are doing the fighting. This last war made over 6,000 millionaires. Today those fellows wont help pay the bill.

All of these things you must be told so that you can present your case. Remember, we cant win this alone. We have got to have the sympathy of all of our class of people. Go out and make friends with the farmers; they are a scrapping outfit. Be able to argue intelligently; know what you are talking about. Get all these people to join and then go after the enemy in the way that is provided for in your constitution. That is, go to the polls. Before you go to the polls, make every public office seeker state where he stands. Dont take any alibi. A man who is not for the soldiers is against them. There isnt any middle course. If he hasnt got the courage to say yes for you, then lick hell out of him.

You can only lick him by every Post and every man going to school on your meeting nights, learning what it is all about with your instructions from your headquarters just as when you went to war. There is no difference between this battle and a sanguinary battle with guns. Learn what you want, learn to be able to express yourselves. If I were the Commander of a Post, I would have a speaking class so that everybody would learn to get up and shoot off his mouth. Bring into line all his family, all his friends, because the American people are absolutely fair. It is only this damned Tory class that doesnt want this thing, doesnt want the veteran class cared for. Dont you realize that when this country started out, it wasnt worth more than 2.5 cents, and that every damned bit of land we have we took at the point of a gun? The soldiers took it. All except a bare 60 millions that we paid France and Spain after we took their land from them. And now this nation is worth 320 billions by the work of the soldiers. So dont let anyone bluff you. Stand by your own kind. That is what your conventions are for, to get together and learn to love each other all over again. Some of you have got falling chests and dont look exactly right but you rub shoulders and it all comes back. There is a bond among soldiers who have slept in the mud together that nothing can supplant. Just get over your petty jealousies. Because one fellow may get ahead a little faster, the rest turn on him. You have been used to discipline and now you havent got it.

When you came home from the World War, you marched along Fifth Avenue, great heavy masses of men, all your feet moving together, one objective, one cause, all swaying back and forth as you went along. You were a unit. All the people of America applauded. But on the second day they disbanded you and they said, To hell with you, because you were then individuals and politically the soldiers never amounted to anything.

A whole lot of things face the veterans continually. Right now we are all called upon to support the administration. I know the soldiers; no matter what you tell them they are always going to support any president up to a certain point, but you must remember that you have two duties. One is to your own flesh and blood, yourself and your family; and the next is your public duty. Combined is another duty, equally important, and that is the duty to the people, the buddies who served with you, who have been hurt. Go along, do the right thing. We cant afford to bust up this country. Nobody knows where these schemes are going to lead us nowadays. But they wont work if the soldiers dont make them work. You know that. Because we are the class that wins all the wars. Hell, this is a war, but at the same time you give some advice. In other words, you scratch my back and Ill scratch yours to this capitalistic bunch. You have a difficult role to play because you cant afford to have public opinion against you. At the same time, we must not desert the fellows among us who deserve help.

After all is said and done, the soldiers are one class of people and we deserve some-thing as a class. Never mind what we have done. Every other class is getting something but the soldiers. This organization, every other soldier organization, will    disappear from the earth if you dont do something for your less fortunate comrades, the fellows who have done all the bleeding. So just think it over. You have a whole lot to decide. You have got to decide whether to put up NRA signs. I am going to put an NRA sign in my window but I am going to say, Here, come across for the soldiers, too.

It will come, dont worry. You have been spanked two or three times. This is going to be a tough battle all the way through and you will have to be spanked and spanked and. spanked until you get mad enough to do something. There is no class of people in the world which has been as abominably treated as the soldiers in the United States, and it is all your own fault because you havent stood together. Two big veteran organizations fighting each other and the Spanish American War fellows get in between. Nobody joins hands, nobody joins together to fight a common battle for the class of people who do the dying.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a gorgeous scrapping outfit. There are no fakers in it. For that reason, it is a joy to be with you and it is our business as soldiers to stick together.

Let me tell you again. Just get together, learn your lessons, be able to say them in your sleep. Get together, follow your leaders. You have never had a leader in this outfit that sold you out and I dont believe you ever will. I never knew a commander of another veterans organization who didnt sell out every year. When you go down to Washington, youve got to growl and bite. When you soldiers agree to lay aside your petty jealousies and personal ambitions and fight as you fought in wars, youll get somewhere. Not until then will you get what you want.

Youve got to get mad. Youve got to hate. Youve got to turn on these fellows who call you names such as treasury raiders.

The only trouble with you veterans is that you still believe in Santa Claus. Its time you woke upits time you realized theres another war on. Its your war this time. Now get in there and fight.

Unfortunately, TPTB as they had done before and will no doubt do again when it suits their purpose, engaged in an act of undeclared martial law and cleared the peaceful Bonus Marchers from their tent city in Washington using mounted troops and military force. This despicable violation of the US Constitution was ordered by President Hoover and carried out under the command of General MacArthur. George Patton was another participant. Civilians were gassed and a few people apparently died, one of whom was a child.  No one was ever charged.

*NRA in this context refers to the National Recovery Administration.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2018, 09:09:31 AM by Eddie »
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Offline Surly1

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Re: Dulce Et Decorum Est...
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2018, 09:11:24 AM »
Well written and well timed.

It occurred to me that Smedley Butler was a witness to the civil unrest that occurred during the Great Depression known as the Bonus March. What I did not know was that he actually made a speech to the veterans march on DC.

Unfortunately, TPTB as they had done before and will no doubt do again when it suits their purpose, engaged in an act of undeclared martial law and cleared the peaceful Bonus Marchers from their tent city in Washington using mounted troops and military force. This despicable violation of the US Constitution was ordered by President Hoover and carried out under the command of General MacArthur. George Patton was another participant. Civilians were gassed and a few people apparently died, one of whom was a child.  No one was ever charged.

Thank you. I DID know that about Butler, actually. His ability to speak and be respected by the Bonus marchers was ostensibly one of the qualities that led the men behind the "Business Plot" to choose Butler to lead their fascist putsch. As history shows, they chose the wrong man. Yet after Butler gave his congressional testimony, it was he who was ridiculed, and the entire affair passed into history's memory hole.

Two CMH's and countless other decorations, yet his greatest service to his country was likely the one for which he gave his reputation.

A genuine American hero.
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Offline Surly1

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Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2018, 09:42:17 AM »
Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?

Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?

Article. By Howard Zinn. 1976.
Essay urging readers to rethink Memorial Day, who we honor, and what resources we prioritize.

  • Themes: Wars & Related Anti-War Movements | Resource Types: Articles
thezinnreaderBy Howard Zinn

Published on June 2, 1976 in the Boston Globe and republished in The Zinn Reader with the brief introduction below.

Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.

In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year’s Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was cancelled.

* * * * *

Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars be honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.

“The shell had his number on it. The blood ran into the ground…Where his chest ought to have been they pinned the Congressional Medal, the DSC, the Medaille Militaire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, the Italian gold medal, The Vitutea Militara sent by Queen Marie of Rumania. All the Washingtonians brought flowers .. Woodrow Wilson brought a bouquet of poppies.”

Those are the concluding lines of John Dos Passos angry novel 1919. Let us honor him on Memorial Day.

And also Thoreau, who went to jail to protest the Mexican War.

And Mark Twain, who denounced our war against the Filipinos at the turn of the century.

And I.F. Stone, who virtually alone among newspaper editors exposed the fraud and brutality of the Korean War.

Let us honor Martin Luther King, who refused the enticements of the White House, and the cautions of associates, and thundered against the war in Vietnam.

Memorial Day should be a day for putting flowers on graves and planting trees. Also, for destroying the weapons of death that endanger us more than they protect us, that waste our resources and threaten our children and grandchildren.

On Memorial Day we should take note that, in the name of “defense,” our taxes have been used to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a helicopter assault ship called “the biggest floating lemon,” which was accepted by the Navy although it had over 2,000 major defects at the time of its trial cruise.

Meanwhile, there is such a shortage of housing that millions live in dilapidated sections of our cities and millions more are forced to pay high rents or high interest rates on their mortgages. There’s 90 billion for the B1 bomber, but people don’t have money to pay hospital bills.

We must be practical, say those whose practicality has consisted of a war every generation. We mustn’t deplete our defenses. Say those who have depleted our youth, stolen our resources. In the end, it is living people, not corpses, creative energy, not destructive rage, which are our only real defense, not just against other governments trying to kill us, but against our own, also trying to kill us.

Let us not set out, this Memorial Day, on the same old drunken ride to death.

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Offline RE

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Re: Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2018, 09:54:28 AM »
Don't forget Smedley Butler.

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Offline Eddie

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Re: Dulce Et Decorum Est...
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2018, 10:01:29 AM »
Headed out to the lake. Carpe diem, y'all.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.


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