It has been just over a year since my father Frank passed from this physical world. Although I understand that love never dies I cannot help but miss him.
I particularly think about conversations we had regarding war. He was a World War II veteran, wounded with a purple heart and bronze star. He spent several years in and out of hospitals with multiple surgeries on his left leg. As a result he carried fragments of German steel in his leg and could never bend his left knee.
We spoke of politics and contemporary wars–of Iraq, Afghanistan, of past wars such as Vietnam and Korea. We agreed that World War II was the last "good war". How to define a "good war"? World events at the time clearly demonstrated the horrific aggressive and destructive actions of the German war machine under Hitler. The fall of Europe and England was a direct threat to our own security. This was even before the entire picture of the Holocaust had even occurred or was known about. If someone lost a loved one in combat during that war, there was a good chance that the ultimate sacrifice could be seen as having a higher purpose. In other words, their loved one did not die in vain. There was a reason to risk their life and ultimately pay the highest price for it.
Sadly, the wars that followed seemed pitifully weak on justification. Of course our country entered each one of them with some self-proclaimed higher purpose. In hindsight they seem pitifully contrived. What frightened us both was the apparent stupidity of those entrusted with the decisions regarding life and death of young Americans.
Did we not learn anything from the fiasco of Vietnam? There was senseless slaughter on both sides with ultimately the nation of Vietnam surviving and thriving according to its own path.
"Saving the world against Communist expansion", "weapons of mass destruction", "nation building"…..are we f–king nuts? What expert on the Middle East and Islamic culture thought for one minute that we, the great Western infidel would be welcomed into Iraq or Afghanistan? Is anyone shocked that we are leaving each with our tails between our legs? US soldiers in each place cannot justify our presence or their sacrifice even to themselves. Once there they only think of surviving and protecting their buddies.
We spoke of Eisenhower's admonition about the Military-Industrial Complex. Generals make their careers during times of war. Billions of dollars are spent and industrial giants reap huge profits when their planes, ships, rockets and weapons are utilized. The cost in human misery and suffering seems to be the least concern.
The last "good war" also brought to an end American complete, unquestioning faith in the decisions our leaders to enter war. Is it any great surprise that we have lost confidence in their intelligence (both kinds) and that we question everything they do?
War is hell but passivity in the face of aggression and threat of destruction by an enemy is foolish. Those who give their lives in the defense of this nation are heroes. But it would be much easier to accept their loss if we would believe their sacrifice had been for a "good war".