Uncle Charles Flannery and the author
I remember as if it were yesterday my Mom crying, a soulful wound torn open upon hearing that my Dad’s brother, Charles, died of internal bleeding because years earlier he’d been shot in World War II.
President Woodrow Wilson’s promise that World War I was the war to end all wars didn’t prevent World War II.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WWII, said, “There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”
We could therefore erect no finer memorial to our war dead than to rededicate our nation to peace.
Eisenhower, in his farewell address in 1960, told the nation, “We must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.” It is past time for us to reconsider his advice.
Our wars since World War II have been about property – the differences by and between communism, socialism and capitalism. Also about ethnicity – over nationality, color, religion and region.
The nation state now caught in the congressional and executive cross-hairs is Syria.
We insist our wars are honorable because we are fighting for individual freedom but those we would “save” all too often recoil at the definition of “freedom” we seek to impose.
We are hard-pressed to claim the high ground for freedom when the recent observable evidence, since 9-11, is that we distrust our citizens, frisk them, tape them, follow them, kill them with drones, kill innocent women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and imprison innocents in Cuba without any formal charges or evidence.
Now we are ramping up to weigh in to Syria’s civil war, to spend funds we don’t have, perhaps even to add our own men and women to the 80,000 dead and million already displaced.
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham want us to create safe zones for the Syrian rebels, arm the rebels, train them, conduct targeted air strikes, and deploy scud missiles.
Days ago, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted 15-3 to arm and train these rebels.
We are going to arm rebels that may include al Qaeda terrorists. Radical Sunni preachers recently issued a call to jihad to support the rebels, spurring an influx of rebel fighters.
Abu Sakkar, rebel leader of the Omar al-Farouq Brigade, should give us further reason to oppose intervention. Abu cut out the organs of a dead Syrian soldier including his heart and liver, and bit down on one organ in a gruesome snuff video he filmed, while addressing the Syrian soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying, “I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar the dog.”
Virginia State Senator Richard Black has called upon the United States to “end its intervention in Syria.” I agree. Senator Black cited the cannibalizing of the soldier as one of several good reasons, and published reports that we were training and equipping the rebels.
Is there any hope for peace?
There are peace talks tentatively set for June. The rebels have, however, interposed a speed bump on the road to peace, demanding, as a precondition, that the Syrian President resign.
A step toward a worthy memorial to our war dead is to work for peace without war-like intervention.
This would build on what President Barack Obama said last week in a speech at the National Defense University.
The President proposed that we turn toward peace, given we have and are ending our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, after spending over a trillion dollars on these wars, after losing 7,000 Americans, after damaging many others irreparably.
The President thought it time that we respect President James Madison’s warning that, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Acknowledging we still had to confront a “lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates,” the President said, we must now supplement our military efforts and fight “to win a battle of wits, a battle of ideas.” Eisenhower had similarly recommended “intellect and decent purpose.”
Robert G. Kaiser, a Washington Post editor, wrote that “the modern version of [congressional] culture is hostile to creative problem-solving.” He said, “In the ‘world’s greatest deliberative body,’ there is little deliberation.”
We have to do better, because if we are not smart enough to make peace, then we may only make war, and thus shall we dishonor the memory of those war dead who served so this nation might be preserved and protected at peace.