Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"November Eleventh, Accidentally My Birthday"

"…November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy all the people of all the nations which fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I've talked to old men who were on the battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veteran's Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veteran's Day is not…Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things."
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

"November 11 is a cause for mixed emotions among those former members of the military who wish to permanently halt the horror of war.

A holiday in our name is indeed an honor, as was our service itself, but “Armistice” somehow still sounds more suitable. That word refers to the end of a conflict, the end of the killing, the maiming, the destruction, the inhumanity, the erosion of civilized personal behaviors that have taken centuries to mold. While “Armistice” does not connote lasting peace, at least it does connote a chance for societies to grasp hold of themselves and, if able, to pull back from the abyss.

Veterans For Peace, while grateful for the parades recognizing our duty and the ultimate sacrifice of our fallen comrades, would prefer a time of reexamination of the jaded justifications and obscene outcomes of the military causes we served. All too frequently those justifications have been morally insufficient to vindicate the malevolent international conflicts to which they gave such ignoble birth.

For these reasons Veterans For Peace gratefully acknowledges the heartfelt recognition which our nation solemnly offers us today. But we fervently urge that tomorrow our great nation devote its equally heartfelt and solemn attention and talents to the cessation of existing wars and to the prevention of similar calamities in the decades to come."

Members of Veterans For Peace, an anti-war veteran group, stand around 2000 candles in Oakland, California, October 25, 2005 in memory of the 2,000 US soldiers killed in Iraq.

Smedley Darlington Butler, 1881-1940
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps.

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket."

Watson Institute for International Studies
Brown University

"November 04, 2010. In a new video, Brown Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann and Institute Professor Catherine Lutz describe their experience interviewing dozens of anti-war veterans and compiling the results into their book, Breaking Ranks: Iraq Veterans Speak Out against the War (University of California Press, 2010). “As anthropologists, we approached these veterans as people who were American, who grew up in the late 20th and early 21st century, and are really products of that society and its values about masculinity, nation, and the individual — and we focused on how they think about their experience from that perspective,” said Lutz. “These are not universal, natural, inevitable kinds of soldiers. They are very much American soldiers.”

Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen

"When Pete Seeger originally wrote this song, he was singing for the soldiers in Vietnam ("If you love your Uncle Sam, bring em home. Bring em home...") Lately, however, Seeger and others have resurrected the tune as a tribute to the soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. This version was reprised by rock icon Bruce Springsteen in his tribute to Seeger in 2006."




  1. As a veteran that got a look at things beyond the illusion we are taught to believe I would like to think at some point the Wall Street bankers would simply run out of fools willing to fight for their increased profits. The problem is that while the supply of human cannon fodder is decreasing there is still more than enough that will sign up to go kill others for insane ideas like finding non-existent WMD's and spreading American Democracy.

    I have said it before, the biggest aid to peace would be restarting the draft. You start drafting the middle class and a few upper class kids these days and you would see a peace movement that would make the one during Vietnam seem tiny.

  2. BB: I just wish there would be no more war, but if there has to be, bring back the draft. I totally agree with you on this. Hell, Insane McCane and Co. are already pushing Obama to go into Iran. You know Insane is serious when he looks down at the floor, knits his brows and looks pensive, as if the matter is of such grave concern that he can't even articulate it.

  3. Something to celebrate: Happy birthday, dearest tnlib.

  4. Our once-good ol' USA can't afford anymore warrior presidents, whether Democratic or Republican, even if the former is marginally better than the latter. That's the Progressive message. Obama fooled me: I wanted an authentic game-changing leader in the white house. We got a counterfeit.

    We need to change our game. The first step is to stop spending bucks we don't have on things that do us no good. Bush and Obama's wars amount to our Carnival Splendor, which urgently need towing back to our shores. Before we are reduced to eating Spam.

    Happy Birthday, Tennessee.

  5. God Bless our Veterans. Bring Back the Draft. End these hideous wars........


  6. Thanks everyone.

    Vigil, I have to confess that for the first time since his election, I've really become disillusioned. I'm becoming like that lady who told him that she was tired of defending him. I haven't completely given up but I have no illusions about the future. I'm angry and profoundly saddened.

  7. Yeah, but I took out the line referring to it because I wanted to keep the focus on Kurt V and the vets who are against the war.

  8. What a moving and thought-provoking post - I'm linking to it because I can't say this any better!

    (And many happy returns ;-)

  9. I do not share the opinion that the draft would mean the end of war. That would be a horrific mistake.

    The notion that we can make it all better by making it all worse for everyone does not work for me. The idea that the way to end war is to set Americans against one another in violent demonstration does not work for me.

    And never underestimate the ability of a media subservient to Right wing agenda to hoodwink everyone into believing the war is just and winnable.

    Instead it could lead to a total war psychology and eventually an economy completely geared to war production.
    As casualties mount it would add pressure to use WMDs against whole populations. Entire regions could be scoured of life.

  10. Good points Magpie...


  11. Magpie: That's pretty grim. I think what a lot of people are thinking is that now we have a volunteer army. If we had a draft, the hawks who start the wars might think twice before engaging the U.S. in overseas actions. As it is now, they are untouched by the hardships our troops have to endure, the mental and physical pain - ptsd and loss of limbs - and death.

    On the one hand, when you think about it, this didn't deter the hawks in Congress when we had the draft before. They just made sure their loved ones got the safe desk jobs. On the other hand, the people on the street who supported the wars didn't always have the necessary connections, so they had to suffer losses like everyone else. It is these people who rose up then and will rise up now in protest as well as those of us who think like Smedley.

    We already have the biggest war budget in the world - by billions - and the media is already a whore of the right.

    Peace doesn't seem to have much of a chance, does it?

    Sue: Thanks. One day older and deeper in debt.

  12. HAB -- Happy Accidental Birthday.

    I have heard of accidental conception, but not accidental birthday. I hope you were not dropped on your head -- although some of your critics here may think so.

  13. That Smedley Butler piece should be read and discussed at some point in k-12 education. It highlights an aspect of misuse of the military that's all but ignored in public education, and shouldn't be.

    Of course, that will never be allowed because the radical right would go ballistic. Limbaugh and Hannity would love to have it to demagogue about. The Texas School Board would reject textbooks that include it. I'm sure wealthy wing nuts would even refuse to donate to colleges that made a point of teaching it.

    IMO, the two world wars should be studied and discussed at length in high school. Their history makes painfully clear the gruesome futility of wars of aggression. So many lives lost or shattered. So much destruction. So much loss and grief. And for what? If you look at Europe today, you have to be impressed by how its nations are all still there and have about the same relative wealth, power and territory as they did in the late 19th century. Those wars ruined many and made fortunes for some. Mostly, they just soaked the ground with blood and filled it with bodies of those dead long before their time.

    The goal of teaching the world wars in depth wouldn't be to make doctrinary pacifists out our young. That would be a mistake because this world still presents evil threats that must be deterred and defended against. The goal would be to promote a background of knowledge that could serve the exercise of independent judgment when another Johnson wants to escalate a Vietnam misadventure. When another Nixon breaks his word and perpetuates his predecessor's mistake. When another Nixon or Reagan wants to conduct secret, illegal military campaigns. When another Bush talks up the need for pre-emptive war, especially on bogus charges.

  14. Note to tnlib: While I was first writing this comment, the page refreshed all by itself, and my comment disappeared. I rewrote the comment in a text editor. Somehow, when I went to paste it in, I was in the previous post. Hence, the duplication. Please, if you can, delete the duplicate under the previous post and accept my apology for the trouble.

  15. JC: My family knows it.

    SW: I agree totally but it will never happen for just those reasons you state. WW II may be a bit different, though. We were attacked by Japan, hopefully we had a big hand in ending the atrocities of the Holocaust and our financial aid certainly contributed to the rebuilding of Europe. That is the only exception I might make.

  16. Just read on that Iraq had reached an agreement on "shared power" in its government, but "it all fell apart this afternoon." This one will haunt us for decades. BJ

  17. RZ: Thanks but the quote is from Vonnegut. It just so happens this is my BD but what I'm really trying to do is honor vets who have the courage to speak up against war.

    Octo: Ahem what? What did I do this time?

    BJ: Yes it will.

  18. Happy Birthday Pippin. A fitting day for a gentle soul.

    This night, like many others before, finds Frodo beneath the Planet Venus, singing the song "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream."

    'Nuff said.

  19. Frodo: Must have been a nightmare, eh? But thanks.

  20. tnlib, if you read President Woodrow Wilson's address to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany, you'll see that Americans were killed and American ships sunk, repeatedly. Be advised, it's long winded and detailed, but still worth reading. No wonder it took Congress four days to respond.

  21. Yikes, forgive me. I meant to add, Happy Birthday, and many happy returns of the day.

  22. SW: I'll try to get a copy. I have to confess that I don't know my WW I history nearly as well as I should, although there was a period of time I read quite a bit about it but I think I was focused on Europe. Anyway, that was soooo long ago as this day keeps reminding me. Thanks.

  23. Sorry, I should have said happy birthday too... manners get lost on the net sometimes.

  24. SW: I had seen the dupe but when I went back to delete it, it wasa gone, so figured you had deleted it yourself. Sometimes Blogger gets the hiccups I think. This message went into my spam folder so just now noticed it.

  25. tnlib said... "SW: I'll try to get a copy."

    There's a link to Wilson's war declaration message in my comment.

  26. SW: Didn't notice. Getting blind in my old age. Thanks.

  27. Happy belated birthday!! I have it in my calendar for next year. 39 spanks+1?