Saturday, March 15, 2008

Musings: Short Memories

It was feeling like typical March weather — gray, cool and windy — when Koko and I started on our walk this morning, but while we were out, the sun punched through the clouds, cloaking Makaleha’s jagged outline in soft, rosy garb and casting the pastures in a golden glow.

Now it’s shaping up to be a mild spring day — replete with my first honohono blossom of the season just about to open, and already exuding its characteristic sweet fragrance.

On mornings like this, when the weather is gentle, and my neighborhood quiet and calm, it’s easy to ignore the conflict that is marring so many lives all around the world. But America’s military has been much on my mind lately as we approach the 5-year anniversary of the war in Iraq.

That’s not the only thing that’s pushed our nation’s militarism into the forefront of my consciousness. I’m also writing an article about the Navy’s plans to conduct live fire training exercises in Papahanaumokuakea — the new national marine monument — and yesterday I listened to Democracy Now, which broadcast excerpts from the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings, which included horrific accounts of American soldiers testifying about the torture, rape and murder they witnessed and carried out while serving in Vietnam.

The other night, my bedtime reading turned out to be Paul Kramer’s New Yorker article about how Americans were using the “water cure” — a more primitive form of waterboarding — back in the early 1900s to torture confessions out of insurgents in the Philippines.

Then yesterday, when I went into the Whaler’s store in Anahola, I saw the banner headline on the The Advertiser, which read: “Army wants to add 2,000 troops in Hawaii.”

According to the article, that’s the latest estimate of how many more soldiers may come to the Isles under a "Grow the Force" initiative. In January 2007, President Bush announced he would increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to provide for current and future needs and to reduce stress on deployable personnel.

It left me wondering just what the President has in mind in terms of “future needs” for an expanded military. And it also left me wondering why we as Americans have such a short memory when it comes to the horrors of our war and the brutalities of our imperialistic forays into other nations.

I was struck, as I listened to the Democracy Now broadcast, at how we were surprised to discover soldiers were running amok in Iraq and Afghanistan, when they’d done the exact same thing in Vietnam.

And I was astounded, as I read the New Yorker story, at how the same arguments that were used to justify torture in the Philippines were trotted out a century later to rationalize torture in the “War on Terror.”

We keep acting like this is all new stuff, when in fact, it’s the same old same old. We not only haven’t learned from history, we don’t even remember history.

That’s why it still hasn’t sunk that imperialism and economics — not a heartfelt desire to expand democracy — are what drive us to invade and control other nations.

That’s why we still haven’t recognized that when young men are sent to fight a war waged for immoral purposes, they will behave in immoral ways.

That’s why it still hasn’t clicked that torture is not only an ineffective means of gathering useful information, it debases those who carry it out and makes a mockery of the rule of law.

That’s why it still hasn’t dawned on us that all of our imperialistic excursions are always destined to turn out the same bad way: massive environmental destruction, millions of lives lost or destroyed, countless resources squandered and the coffers of a few greatly enriched by the suffering of others.

Two sayings came to mind as I pondered all this: those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Do we really want this craziness to continue?


Anonymous said...
that's why...

Anonymous said...

Wednesday, March 19 from 5 to 6 PM come protest the fifth anniversary of the war. Kuhio Hwy and Hardy St, Lihue, on the sidewalk fronting the army recruiting station. The message is "The Cost of War" and our signs will contrast war spending with the cost of unmet social needs.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. You also could have used the saying "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."

Unknown said...

I heard Dick Cheney quoted on NPR today as saying he thought the war in Iraq was going very well. After exclaiming at the radio, "What world do you live in?" I remembered, oh yeah, he lives in the world of Haliburton and Blackwater - he and his buddies have made millions. I guess it all depends on your perspective... Thanks for the great blog, Joan.

Anonymous said...

The DN! WinterSoldier audio that i heard broadcast was NOT the horrific archive audio from over 35 years ago - that was brand new fresh war induced degradation from our contemporary victim/perpetrators fresh back from tours of 'service' in the iraqi 'theater'

go team.

(whiskey tango uniform)

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, Jonathan this week DN! is doing excerpts from the testimony of Iraq-Afghan veterans and active duty soldiers, which was taped this past weekend, And according to DN host Amy Goodman, it got no coverage in the mainstream media at all.

Anonymous said...

We should be able to get video of the hearings (I'm working on it, along w/ others on O'ahu and Maui!) Then, let's do what we can to get it shown on Ho'ike.

Let me know if you want to help with this effort!