Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Monday, May 29, 2006
 
Memorial Day

It's almost over, but I feel the need to observe it.* It has become the start of summer, a weekend of shopping, a day for barbecuing and sailing. It is supposed to be the day we remember the battlefield dead. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to have acquired much more gravitas in the last 4 years when we actually have known battlefield dead again. Here's a little reminder:

Iraq: 2689 Total Coalition Deaths, 2456 Total U.S. Deaths.
Afghanistan: 378 Total Coalition Deaths, 296 Total U.S. Deaths.

Source: icasualties.org

It is my belief that any community of large enough size needs a trained and professional group of people, ideally volunteers, who are skilled in the use of force and able to be called on at a moment's notice to deal with that community's defense. It is an ancient lesson of warfare that such a group of people must have some measure of obedience "in the moment" and leave decisions about the wisdom of such a deployment to commanders. It is a fairly modern but brilliant assertion that a community wishing to rule itself, with some combination of democratic and republican ideals, should make such a group submit to the will of the community government as a whole--the civilian command. And so we have an Army and Navy and Air Force and Coast Guard and Marine Corps: people who volunteer and promise to fight and risk death when and where our government asks them to, and to be as obedient as possible. If you believe in the American system of government, and you believe that it is working, and you believe that when your government asks you to risk death and homicide, it must be doing so for the necessary defense of your community as you conceive of it, well then, this pledge of obedience is quite awe-inspiring. So as part of that community, I thank you for it. I may disagree with many of your beliefs, and try hard to dissuade you from them, but let us say, I appreciate the commitment.

Now another set of you may quibble with my basic, underlying belief. Assumptions have to start somewhere, and that is where I choose to start mine. I do not wish to quibble about it now, but to move on and make the next point. If we are going to send people to other lands to die (and more importantly, to kill) it is our duty to make absolutely certain that we understand what we are doing, that we know why we are doing it, and that we have thought and intelligently dismissed every single reason why we should not. The fact is, we do not do this. We citizens spend too little time considering our foreign policy, our military budget and organization, our treatment of veterans, our war crimes, and the repercussions of our opinions on war and peace and international trade. We spend too much time watching TV and shopping. We've been invading countries and overthrowing governments to please a fruit company here and a timber company there for well over a hundred years, spilling perfectly good American blood and, more horribly, staining its honor with the blood of innocent foreign civilians and foreign democracy. The best that can be said of most of us is that sometimes we take the trouble to recognize our absurdity and laugh darkly at our horror while watching the Daily Show, sometimes we take off a busy weekend to go protest an invasion, and sometimes we pat a traumatized soldier on the back.

It is my humble assertion that the best thing you can do to support the troops and honor the dead is carve out some time from your busy schedule to be a better citizen and pay attention to budgets and foreign affairs from an American perspective. It is not enough to know that there is civil unrest in a given country--one must also know how American companies are acting in that country, and what wealthy or otherwise influential Americans have a vested interest in that country, an interest they might be more than willing to let American troops risk dying and killing for. It is not enough to know that we are going to spend this or that percentage more on the defense budget--one must also know to whom we are handing over the money, and how much more they stand to make if someone decides their equipment and their help will be required for American troops risking death and homicide. And it is not enough to know these things, one must make noise if one does not like the way these things are going, if one might, just might, think they are a bad use of resources and perhaps, even, immoral. Make noise or something more forceful, but surely we should not be silent.

In the mean time please remember that the dead lie there in obedience to our command, even if we give it sleepily and by proxy.

*Especially since I actually went to work today.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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