Here it is again. Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the long American summertime, that fun-filled, three-day whirl of cars loaded with ice chests, camping equipment and beach towels jammed up on the freeways; of mysteriously jacked-up gas prices; of picnics and barbecues, river rafting, beer-guzzling and the inevitable sunburn.
On Monday, the freeway not far from here will be clogged again from 11 a.m. to at least 7 p.m. as people inch home from their holiday recreation in the mountains. How many, I wonder, will think even briefly tomorrow, on the actual Memorial Day, of America’s Iraq war dead?
On Memorial Day a year ago, 2,464 American soldiers had died in Iraq since the war was launched in March, 2003. Since that day, 1,338 more mostly young men and women have died violent deaths there, bringing the total to 3,802.
Less than 1,500 deaths per year in battle isn’t too bad, you can argue. In fact, it’s many fewer than died each year as the war in Vietnam wound down. It’s many fewer than the number of men who died fighting in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War each year those wars lasted.
That’s pretty easy to say thousands of miles away from the war, sitting comfortably on a deck chair with a cold one and a bag of chips while the ribs sear on the grill and the kids do cannonballs into the pool.
But for the families and friends those 3,802 soldiers left behind when they were blown to bits or shot or crushed under a tumbling vehicle tossed like a toy by an exploding homemade bomb, it’s not easy at all. For a lot of them, this will be the fifth Memorial Day since the war began without a beloved husband or wife, without the goofy antics of a brother, or the laughter of a father or mother, or the joy of feeding homemade potato salad and charred hamburgers to their young adult children.
Three thousand, eight-hundred and two fallen soldiers – dads, brothers, moms, sisters, daughters and sons, husbands and wives and lovers — will be missed with intense longing and intense pain, just as they are every day.
In November last year, just before Veterans Day, the American people gave America’s leaders a clear mandate when they voted warmongering Republican candidates out of office and replaced them with Democrats in the House and Senate. Almost 70 percent of people in this country want their soldiers brought home. President Bush’s response to that overwhelming majority was to give us the finger and escalate the war, sending even more soldiers to Iraq to die. He even extended the 12-month tours of the ones already there to 15 months, increasing exponentially the odds that they’ll come home in a flag-draped box in bloody pieces on a military cargo jet, rather than alive and well on a chartered airliner with free movies and boxed lunches.
The Democrats the people elected to bring our soldiers home have not done so, instead looking to their own miserable political futures. Yesterday, they handed George W. Bush a bill funding the continued bloodshed and horror in Iraq with no caveats regarding timelines. He just held his breath and stomped his feet until they caved, as he knew they would. And then he signed the bill, triumphant once again.
May blood soak his dreams. May blood soak theirs, every one of them — regardless of political party — who voted “aye” on that bill.
Memorial Day is not a holiday, if it ever was. It’s always been meant as a day to remember and honor the ultimate sacrifice made by our soldiers in defense of our country. It’s right that we stop for a day and do this. But since this illegal, immoral war was started in Iraq by our criminal president, Memorial Day is a funeral dirge for the brave, selfless soldiers fighting and dying there. And it’s a flag-draped coffin for America.
Update: If you read nothing else this Memorial Day, read this May 22, 2007 post by U.S. Army SPC Milo Freeman, who’s serving his country in Iraq right now and remains, at the moment, alive, well and Very. Fucking. Angry.
Photo courtesy The Memory Hole via the U.S. Air Force