My Good friend Kumah Drah is Ghanaian. His father was in the British Army, fighting the Japanese in Burma. How ridiculous, you might think. Why would a poor African fight for his imperialist masters against people he had no problems with?
Think about his then. My father was born in Greece, lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he earned money setting up pins at the bowling alley, fought the Germans from D-Day at Omaha beach, through France, Belgium, Germany and on to Prague and was shot twice in the process. Where is the difference?
I now believe that was not our war and had I been alive in the 1940’s, I would have opposed sending troops as much as I did the war our (wealthy) rulers reserved me: Vietnam.
The other day I took my Uncle Gus, cousins Corinna and Christopher and my German woman Sonja, to Omaha beach. It must have been my tenth visit to the cemetery; more than ten thousand graves, further thousands of names on a wall of young men whose bodies were never found.
Don’t get me wrong. My father of the 741st Tank Battalion, which landed on Omaha Easy Red, remains my hero. Uncle Gus, like me, came to worship that hero. Sonja, who lost an Uncle (pilot) in the Battle of Britain, another on a ship in the Atlantic (she could care less what ship) and her third in Czechoslovakia in the opening days of the war and who spent her childhood calling her father a “murderer” (he was a medic captured after el- alamein and spent the rest of the war starving in a camp in Casablanca) has no hero worship for dead warriors.
Yet, Sonja and Uncle Gus sat down in that cemetery and cried together at the uselessness of war and the waste involved when the well-to-do send young men to kill and be killed. (My opinion is a bit different, see below.)
Below the cemetery, under the bluffs where well hidden Germans soldiers cut to pieces American farm boys from Montana and Texas and Kansas, a Frenchmen drove around in a 1943 vintage Willis Jeep, painted olive-green with all the American insignia to the joy of tourists. Right there, on Easy Red sector, youth played soccer. Uncle Gus started crying again and said “the boys up their (in the cemetery) never got the chance to kick around a ball.” My Uncle does not believe we had any business in that war. He dislikes war in general.
I agree, that was not our war and we should not have sent young men to fight it. My skepticism began in 1994 when then French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac praised the French who “liberated Paris on their own by themselves” fifty years earlier. Chirac did not make a mention of the Americans or other allies involved, nay, who opened the road. Dad said he sat outside Paris for two days waiting for the French, who finally landed in August 1944, to enter the city first as the politicians had agreed they should. (French Colonel Keiffer did land 177 men in Ouistreham on D-Day to take the … Casino).
But my opposition to our involvement in that war matured. It was a European problem. Did they listen to Wilsonin 1919 at Versailles? Did they accept his ten points or did they just want to punish Germany, setting the agenda for revenge upon revenge?
‘But what about the Jews’ you may ask? Do you really believe our New England anti-Semitic aristocrats gave a damn about the Jews? Or the Gypsies? Or the Greeks (10% of the population died fighting the occupiers in WWII)? Or was it because they saw a nice way to make extra millions and become world number one?
Did the allies bomb the death camps? It becomes clearer and clearer they knew a little more than a little bit about what was going on there.
What would have happened if the US did not fight the Germans? For the Europeans we cannot be sure. Hitler may have been reversed by his own people. The bourgeois and aristocrats were unhappy with him. He would have died and then maybe something along the lines of what happened in the Soviet Union would have happened. The Soviets may have won the war. But the US would have gone on living, feeding itself and developing while, in good Monroe Doctrine tradition, protecting the backyard. In other words, those young Americans buried on Omaha would have lived, married, had children and known moments of happiness and sorrow.
More than that: those who sent the young to die and kill, would have done good business with Germany. Just ask IBM.
So, why talk about this today, other than the fact I went back to the cemetery and touched the stones of those “Unknown But Unto God” (I always feel a special empathy for them) and wondered why a few had the Medal of Honor for dying where all had died? Did Nietzsche not say “we are all equal before death”?
Think about it. The United States has been at war in one way or another since 1941: Always to make the world a better and safer place. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson wanted the US to be an agrarian country, self sustainable and out of the European conflicts. Franklin, I am told, wanted the wild Turkey to be the national emblem because, he said, it is a bird of peace although I suspect it may be because he had low expectations on American intellectual capacities. What would we, the people, have lost, by staying home and taking care of our own shop?
Our warrior heroes are heroes. But I reject the myth those who sit back, make money and do not fight, have force fed us. It is the same myth that has us ‘liberating Iraq’. Why do Americans let this happen? Is it because we have not had a war on our territory in 142 years? Is it because we have not seen our mothers and sisters raped by the conquering armies or because we did not grow up without Uncles like Sonja? Is it because everything has not been carried away or destroyed?
When you think war, think about globalization. Think about who is winning and who is losing. Or as we say in journalism: “follow the money.” Are you listening Halliburton?