20 years of war

The United States is marking the end of the nearly twenty years of war in Afghanistan, part of the wider “War on Terror” which began after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Although there were those of us who opposed a military response at the time – I vividly recall our group standing near the perimeter of the traffic circle beside our church with signs against war and people driving by honking in agreement – the war began, followed later by the war in Iraq which took a lot of attention and resources away from Afghanistan, which is I think part of the reason the war there went on for twenty years.

I am saddened by so much loss of life, injury, and damage incurred, especially among civilians. I am grateful that many Afghans, especially ethnic minorities, women, and girls, were able to enjoy more freedom and access education, sports, and jobs due to the presence of the United States and allied forces. Unfortunately, many of those gains are being lost because the Afghan government was not strong enough to stand on its own. With the Taliban back in charge, many of the gains and protections for women and minorities have dissolved. I must admit to being perplexed with people who thought that the final withdrawal from Kabul was like the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. I am old enough to remember that, when the military evacuated from Saigon, they did not take Vietnamese civilian partners, translators, and related personnel and their families with them. They did not even try to evacuate the children of US service members who faced hardship because there were mixed race. Over a period of years, some of these former South Vietnamese allies were able to flee the country and re-settle in the United States but it was not because they were evacuated by the US. They made their own way to refugee camps or set out to escape by boat.

In contrast, the United States was able to evacuate over 65,000 Afghan civilians with thousands more evacuated by other countries. While this is by no means all the people who were in need of evacuation, it is much better than the situation in Vietnam in 1975. The US State Department is continuing to work at getting more people out of Afghanistan, as others work on getting people processed and re-settled in the US and other countries.

We will never know what might have happened if the United States had tried to deal with the aftermath of 9/11 through diplomatic rather than military means. Perhaps so much of the weight of response would not have fallen on Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding, and more on Saudi Arabia, whence fifteen of the nineteen hijackers came. None of the hijackers were Afghanis.

I don’t know what will become of Afghanistan. It has been a place of turmoil for centuries. I do hope that the money that has been previously used to make war will be re-allocated to peaceful purposes to help people and the planet survive and thrive.

We can hope.

Memorial Day 2020

Today, the United States observes Memorial Day. It originated as a day to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War, but expanded over time to include service members who died in any armed conflict.

I am also thinking today of all the civilians who lose their lives in wars. Perhaps, this is because I just finished watching World on Fire on Masterpiece, which is about people from various countries in World War II Europe.

As the country continues its struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we often hear politicians and media describe it as a war. The medical personnel, first responders, and caregivers are called the front line, a term that is sometimes also applied to other essential workers, such as transit, delivery, and grocery workers. I am confused, though, by the use of the term “warrior.” Sometimes, it seems that the general public are considered warriors, serving others by staying at home to avoid spreading the virus further. Others are using the term warriors to describe those who are giving up on stay-at-home orders and going back to “normal” whether or not the public health officials say it is wise.

I am extraordinarily grateful to be living in New York State, where our governor and other leaders are methodically working to expand economic activity while safeguarding public health. National news reports have shared data that twenty-four states are re-opening their economies with the rate of infection still increasing, even though the national guideline is that at least two weeks of declining infections is required first.

While I remain unsure of who the “warriors” are, I am painfully aware of who the casualties are in this war. As I write this, there are 98,000+ confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The number will surely reach 100,000 within the next two days. Over these last few months, the United States has lost more lives to coronavirus that it has service personnel in all the wars since the end of World War II combined.

Today, I am commemorating all the service members and civilians who died in war and all the pandemic victims. May their memories strengthen us to serve others.

SoCS: barbed wire

When daughter T was working in Clinton, Missouri, we visited the local museum. The collection was very eclectic with unexpected things around every corner.

One of the exhibits was a barbed wire collection. I hadn’t realized there were so many different styles.

Having grown up in rural areas, both my spouse B and I were familiar with barbed wire fences. B had grown up maintaining a barbed wire fence around the pasture. I grew up with a barbed wire fence that ran along the edge of the reservoir behind my house.

Both of those were meant for protection. It saddens me to think of barbed wire being used to keep people away, though. It especially hurts to think of people who are fleeing war and violence being encountered with barbed wire and other barriers. Instead of finding protection, they find exclusion.

Barbed wire fences never seem to have gates.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “wire.”  Join us! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/03/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-14-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!
https://www.quaintrevival.com/

war

Last night, I put on the television before getting ready for bed, finding out the breaking news that the US had killed General Soleimani, considered the most powerful person in Iran after the Ayatollah, along with a leader of Hezbollah and several others in Iraq.

Having seen the news, I could not go to sleep, so I watched the coverage as more information was trickling in. I, along with millions of others, fear even more violence in the Middle East, including the possibility that the US and Iran may be at war.

In the United States, only Congress can declare war. It appears that there was no advance warning of this attack to the Democratic leaders in Congress. I’m not sure if Republican leaders were informed or not. No one knows what will come next. Will there be a request for authorization to use force against Iran? Will Trump believe that, as commander-in-chief, he can do whatever he wants, even without the support of Congress – or anyone else, for that matter?

Early this morning, I saw the burnt remains of the vehicles that had carried Soleimani and his entourage after the drone strikes.

Later in the day, B, T and I went to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  There were plenty of battles and burnt wreckage.

I prefer wars that take place a long time ago in a (fictional) galaxy far, far away to those happening anywhere here on earth.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/03/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-3rd-2020/

Armistice Day

Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended what was known then as the Great War. The carnage had been so great with several countries losing the majority of their young men that it was thought that this war would be “the war to end all wars.”

Sadly, that armistice did not end wars. The ensuing decades have seen an even larger world war, the development of more types of weapons, many regional wars that have been ideological proxy wars, genocides of various groups, and, increasingly, the torture, starvation, bombing, wounding, and death of non-combatants.

If we truly wish to honor those who have served in the military, we should reflect on what armistice means, what it means to cease hostilities, and what it means to be at peace. Instead of spending so much on expensive weaponry, we could spend more on fighting poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.

This afternoon at my parents’ senior community, there will be a gathering of veterans who live there. A few, like my dad, are veterans of World War II. Others, also like my dad, served in Korea. There are Vietnam War era veterans and those who served during peacetime. They will share coffee and cake and conversation.

I doubt any of them want more war.

They want their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in peace.

SoCS: interference

Late in the night, about an hour before the media blackout before the French election, a lot of the documents from the Macron campaign, mixed with some false documents, were dumped onto the internet. Four minutes before the blackout, the Macron campaign put out a statement, but the media is not allowed to distribute or discuss it.

It looks like this was caused by the same Russian-backed agency that interfered in the US election last year.

These attacks on democracy need to be recognized as cyber-warfare. No one other than the French people, full informed with facts, should be determining the outcome of their election. No one other than the United States people should be determining the outcome of the US election. We know that their was interference from Russia in our last election and we are dealing with the dire consequences.

NO foreign interference! NO “alternative facts”!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is  inter-. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/05/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-617/

 

three anniversaries

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the the terrorist attacks by plane which cost over 3,000 lives in New York City, Arlington, Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks have cost additional lives as those who were exposed to debris and air pollution in the following months went on to develop serious health issues.

Many, many more lives were destroyed  – and continue to be destroyed – by the fifteen years of war which have followed.

On Friday at Binghamton University, there was a presentation on the aftermath of the attacks entitled “9/11: What have we learned? Where do we go from here?” Featured speakers were Ray McGovern and Donna Marsh O’Connor. Video is available here. The theme was building peace, not war. Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost her daughter who was pregnant with her grandchild, spoke movingly about not wanting the death of her daughter to be an excuse for violence and war. Ray McGovern, who was once a CIA analyst, recounted the way that the situation after the attacks was manipuated to spread the war to Iraq. Mr. McGovern is now a peace activist.

Peace.

Something that I want desperately.

For all of us.

Wherever we are.

Whoever we are.

At church on Sunday, we sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” I cried.

Adding to the emotion is a local anniversary. Five years ago, we were suffering from a historic flood after the remnants of tropical storm Lee dropped about ten inches of rain. Parts of my town were underwater, as were other nearby towns along the Susquehanna River. At my home, we had no power and only avoided a flooded basement because we had a generator to keep our sump pump operating. There were flooded homes and standing water three blocks away. In the five years since, we have seen some neighborhoods decmiated as homes were torn down, unable to be replaced as the land was considered too high-risk to inhabit.

Every time there is a flood in the news, we have a good idea what those people are going to go through and how long the process is.

As we watch coverage of floods, blizzards, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other weather-related disasters, we are painfully aware that their increased frequency and severity is related to global comate change. There is a new website that shows how much impact global warming has on weather events. It does a good job showing how particular events are tied to changes in the atmosphere brought on by global warming.

It is sobering but a good tool to help explain the science.

Which leads to a third – and significantly happier – anniversary.

This is the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek. There have been marathons of episodes of the original series and interviews about it and its cultural impact as a franchise that spawned many television shows and movies. In their version of the future, earth is a peaceful place with a thriving natural environment. Poverty has been eliminated. There is racial and ethnic equality, although, while improved from the 1960’s reality, they still have a ways to go on sexual and gender issues.

In an odd way, though it is fiction, it does highlight that we can improve lives and health through science, knowledge, learning from past mistakes, ingenuity, co-operation, and good will.

Let’s get to work on that.

Disconnecting

We are here at our poetry residency to immerse ourselves in art of all sorts. We are urged to disconnect.

And horrible violence happened or threatened to happen in many places in the world.

I haven’t been keeping up with the news these past few days, reading only a bit and listening to a few conversations with my apartment mates, who are staying more informed than I.

But, even though this time around has its own horrific circumstances, a distinct array of victims leaving behind a particular group of mourning family and friends, the underlying story is all too familiar.

I woke up this morning thinking about the now-shuttered Notre Dame church, sitting there being preserved as a historic landmark, but locked and silent.

I remember when the Drury High School Girls’ Ensemble gave a concert there to raise money to travel to an international competition. They sang an arrangement of “One Tin Soldier.” (Recording by The Original Caste here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTBx-hHf4BE)

One group makes war on another, who had offered to share its treasure with them, because they wanted it all for themselves. When they moved the stone which was concealing the treasure,

“Peace on earth was all it said.”

I can’t get the song out of my head.

Veterans’ Day with Dad

Today, the United States and many other countries honor their military veterans. What began as a commemoration of the end of the Great War became a time to honor all veterans when it turned out that “the war to end all wars” sadly was not.

When I was growing up, it seemed that most of the men I knew were veterans. My dad served as a SeaBee ( US Navy Construction Battalion) in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. Because WWII involved so many people, most of my friends’ fathers and uncles had served, too. There were a few women who had served as well, but there were not many opportunities for them in the military at that time. Perhaps because so many had served, these veterans did not tend to talk much about their service, choosing instead to just about building their peacetime lives.

I also knew some Vietnam vets. In my rural area, the Vietnam vets were treated respectfully, but sadly we saw on the news that in other places they were unjustly vilified for an unpopular war. When I was a child, the draft was still ongoing, which led some men to become teachers solely to escape being drafted, as teaching was a protected profession. While some went on to become fine teachers, some of these men should never have become teachers and did a poor job of it for thirty years until they could retire. I have experienced this legacy as both a student and a parent.

The US military has been all-volunteer for the last several decades. In contrast to my dad’s generation when a large percentage of young adult males served in the military, now only a tiny percentage of eligible men and women serve. I can count on my fingers the number of people I know from our circle of friends, neighbors, and my spouse’s co-workers who are currently serving, including a high-school classmate of my daughter’s – and daughter of one of my husband’s co-workers – who was a top-ranked cadet at West Point. Meanwhile, the strains of thirteen years of war have fallen on a small number of military personnel, including National Guard troops, and their families. I don’t have an answer for this problem, but it does – or should – weigh heavily on the national consciousness and conscience.

Today, I’ll be celebrating at a lunch with my dad at a local restaurant that is honoring vets with a free meal to thank them for their service. It’s ironic that after decades of not making a big deal about their military service that so much recognition has more recently come to the veterans of World War II. My dad often wears a SeaBee cap when he goes out and receives thanks from passersby or fellow store customers. Once his cap even led to a pay it forward situation.

The ranks of World War II veterans have thinned considerably with time. With so few people currently serving in the military, in seventy years there will be hardly any veterans my dad’s age.

He will turn ninety in March.

I wish peace, security, respect, and good health to all veterans, in the US and around the world. Thank you for your service.

Thanks, Dad.