“The true Memorial Day slogan should be: “Never Again.” -Jeremy Weiland
“The idea of “democracy” has persuaded countless gullible people that they are somehow “consenting” when they are being coerced. The real triumph of the state occurs when its subjects refer to it as “we,” like football fans talking about the home team. That is the delusion of “self- government.” One might as well speak of “self-coercion” or “self-slavery.” –Joseph Sobran
by Anna Morgenstern (originally published by Center for a Stateless Society)
The government holiday now known as Memorial Day has become largely, in practice, ”Barbeque day” here in the USSA. The purpose for which it was established is much more nefarious. It is meant to be a memorial of the soldiers who died fighting for the government (specifically for Union soldiers after the Civil War, it was expanded after WWI). But from an anti-state point of view, there is a good purpose in remembering our dead soldiers. That would be the same as remembering the victims of any atrocity. So that instead of saying “thanks for propping up our government” we can say “never again”.
The United States, like most nation-states I suspect, is chock full of war memorials. Every city has a few. The US has been a very warlike nation in its short history. These memorials, in addition to a token pacification of the pain of losing family members in war, act as an incentive to potential new soldiers. “If you should die fighting, we will remember your sacrifice.” But what have they sacrificed for? Despite what the propaganda saying says, they did not, in most cases, die for our freedom.
There are only two cases of US government war (post-revolution) where any sort of case could be made that the government was fighting for its citizens’ freedom: The Civil War, and WWII. Despite the fact that there is a growing faction of people who argue otherwise, I think the Civil War has a decent case to be made. Once the southern states seceded, there was no longer any sort of legislative possibility of freeing the slaves in those areas. If the US had opened its border to fleeing slaves and gone as far as to extract them from the south, there likely would have been war anyway. And the southern states seceded, at least in part, over fears that slavery would be abolished. However, even in this case, there is a lot of moral ambiguity. Did the northern states emancipate their slaves in 1860? Even the emancipation proclamation only claimed to free the slaves in the confederate territories. And the war itself was conducted using tactics that amounted sometimes to crimes against humanity. The Civil War was not explicitly fought in order to free the slaves, but to reclaim the territory of the southern states. Does anyone believe that if the CSA had emancipated its slaves in 1861 that the US government would have called off the war? Lincoln could have said something to this effect. He could have said “we accept your right to secede, but we cannot accept your enslavement of millions.” But of course he didn’t, and so the war was at best a dark grey affair. It is this war which produced much of the war memorials and Memorial Day itself, as the government tried to pacify its people from the anguish and horror of what had just transpired.
As for WWII, the possibility of the Axis successfully taking North America may have been unlikely, but it was a real threat. Hitler was working (somewhat unsuccessfully) on cruise missiles, long range bombers and nuclear weapons to use against us, and Japan had struck our shore. So in this instance, there was a self-defense motivation to fight and win this war. It has been argued that FDR intentionally manipulated the US into the war, which is entirely possible, yet it is also possible that Japan would have attacked us sooner or later anyway. Our conduct in the war however amounted to mass murder of civilians through bombing, both nuclear and otherwise. And let’s not forget the internment camps, where 100000+ US citizens were imprisoned simply for having Japanese ancestry. WWII was also a direct result of the effects of WWI and the terrible, punitive conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty Of Versailles. And WWI was one war that the US entered simply for reasons of world domination, economic and otherwise. Had we not entered, it is likely that the allies would not have been able to press for “unconditional surrender”. As for the Jews, they were turned away from our shores during Hitler’s reign before, and even after we entered the war. Not one bomb was dropped on the train tracks leading to the camps, though bombing raids were taking place nearby. Why didn’t the US government say “Send us your huddled masses, even Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals”? Again, this one is at best, a dark grey area.
Outside of these two conflicts, the US was involved militarily over and over simply for reasons of economic and political domination. We still are today. The extensive war in Afghanistan no longer has much if anything to do with Al Qaeda, if it ever did. And Iraq is simply a case of US power politics taken to the level of mass murder. You don’t have to poke very deeply to see the economic corruption behind the scenes of these wars, just as with Vietnam and Korea, Panama and Grenada, Cuba and the Phillipines. General Smedley Butler gave a rather famous speech called “War is a Racket“, which he later expanded, and it’s still relevant today. To quote one of the more well-known passages:
“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. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Governments will always create pretexts, however thin, for their activities, especially war. But in most cases, it is the same sort of business-government corruption that occurs throughout our economy, only writ large and more deadly. So when you go about your memorializing this Memorial Day, please, remember those who died (unwittingly, for no soldier would openly fight for something as crass as gangsterism, unless he was getting a cut of the action, which in most cases, they don’t) both soldier and civilian, to fatten the pockets of the power elite. And remember that as long as we have a power elite who historically have been willing to kill off entire cities to make a few extra bucks, we will always have war. Remember that. And if you do, perhaps one day we can honestly say “never again”.
Anna O. Morgenstern has been an anarchist of one stripe or another for almost 30 years. Her intellectual interests include economic history, social psychology and voluntary organization theory. She likes pina coladas, but not getting caught in the rain.