May 26, 2008

Memorial Day links and thoughts

Posted in Government, History, Iraq at 4:55 pm by The Lizard Queen

Angry Black Bitch has a touching post up to mark the day: A Memorial Day memory…

Via Crooks and Liars comes this article about the prevalence of mental illness among veterans: On Memorial Day: Broken promises to our veterans

Also at Crooks and Liars is this week’s In Memoriam: “According to, the casualty count for Iraq is now 4,393. And per IBC, there were 158 Iraqi civilian casualties this week.”

Three of my four grandparents served in the military, and I’m grateful to them and to other veterans who have given their time, energy, and even lives to the service.  Even as I respect and appreciate their service, though, I can’t condone war.  My thoughts go to the words of President Eisenhower in 1953 (excerpted from a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors):

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in [sic] not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Given what I know about politics and the history of the Cold War, I’m not sure whether Eisenhower was truly in earnest or if the speech was mostly rhetoric (in spite of his assertion that he “care[s] nothing for mere rhetoric”) to get the Soviets, etc. to stand down.  Nevertheless, I believe that what he says is true.



  1. DavidD said,

    Eisenhower popularized the term “military-industrial complex” in his final speech as President on January 17, 1961 when he warned against letting the MIC have too much influence (no, I wasn’t watching). He truly was against excessive military spending, an attitude Kennedy exploited by raising the question of whether Eisenhower had allowed a missile gap to develop between the Russians and us. In fact Kennedy was spouting nonsense when he said that, as he learned when he became President. The sixties were the last time Democrats were ever more hawkish than Republicans. Vietnam killed that for my lifetime.

    At the same time, any responsible person followed the strategy of tit-for-tat during the Cold War, as justified by game theory and experience fighting the Cold War. So neither Democrat nor Republican backed down from war during that time. One has to have a rather non-competitive view of life to avoid war entirely. One can’t mind losing something for the sake of avoiding war, if peace is the primary goal. I’d be interested in hearing someone try to win over the American people on that. McGovern sort of did that in 1972, saying we should pay attention to our domestic problems first. That didn’t sell well.

    It’s been said that paying for a tractor has dividends in the things that tractor then does to help people’s productivity, while paying for a tank has no such side benefit. But you can stave off a tremendous amount of destruction with a tank, in which a case a tractor is useless. It depends what the facts are, whether your enemies are foreign or domestic aggressors a tank will stifle or economic deprivation best helped by a tractor. If politicians lie about such things, they can cause a real mess. Eisenhower would have been against that.

  2. iris said,

    Thank you for the quote from Eisenhower. I’m sure those numbers are even more striking in today’s dollars. There are convincing arguments for and against military spending as a means of pre-emption of attacks or gaining peace. But without education and health care, people will not see the benefits of peace or any reasons to “pay attention to domestic problems” rather than continuing strife. This is being played out all across Africa right now.

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