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Stars, Stripes, War and Shame


The Pentagon says “only” five civilians were killed Friday, a week ago, by US aerial bombardment. According to Afghan officials and a United Nations report, 90 Afghan civilians died, 60 of whom were children.

Just days after this carnage, the Democrats, so many dressed in red, white, and blue, opened their convention in Denver. In the wake of the barbarity in Afghanistan and the continued suicide bombings in Iraq, the revelry and flag waving in Colorado seemed inappropriate. Sure, I understand that hope was and is in the air, but I reached for the remote and powered off.

Thursday night, I tuned in to hear a sweet, young voice, pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of American. “With freedom and justice for all.”

Freedom and justice are concepts we can no longer take for granted. They aren’t guaranteed by stars, stripes, and platitudes. The truth is that George and Dick have sucked the life out of our Constitution, aided by Congressional Republicans and Democrats as well as too many among the electorate who are guilty by reason of fear or complacency.

The events of 9/11 sent masses rushing to either purchase or dust off their Bibles and reference scripture for guidance and to to justify “an eye for an eye.” Never mind that we leveled a country with no link to those who used our commercial airplanes as weapons. The attack on our soil provided the neocons the excuse they needed to implement their plan for domination of Earth’s bounties. Add to this the groupies convinced that George Bush was chosen by God to be president at this particular time of crisis. That Bush himself believed this should have been a red-flag warming that the path he demanded we follow would lead us, not to an Eden of security and prosperity but, to a miasma of endless conflict and contempt from most of the world.

The warmongers forgot the song learned in childhood:

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

The lyrics crawl through my consciousness as war rages on and candidates for the highest office in our land spar in their own war of words for the power prize, which is the authority to declare war. To John Bomb Bomb McCain, war is something about which to joke, promote, and accelerate. He reminds us repeatedly of his years as a tortured prisoner of war. Yet he never mentions the targets whose eyes he didn’t see–all those Vietnamese peasants, men, women, and children, whose bodies he melted. For Barack Obama who opposed the invasion of Iraq but, without fail, has voted to fund it, the prudent foreign policy strategy is to send more troops to the “right” hotspot, Afghanistan. Russia must love this.

Monday is the beginning of the Republican version of Denver. When McCain, who seems to have a “thing” for beauty queens, speaks, we’ll probably hear about that trip he’s going to take to the “gates of hell.” Also, he’ll offer the usual “we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” and “if we leave too soon, they’ll follow us home,” and that we “must achieve victory.”

But no one is defining victory, so allow me: Victory is pledging allegiance to peace.

Imagine if we had a candidate who said:

So much of the history of our country has been sanitized. The truth is that we have battled unnecessarily, illegally, immorally. We have sent our sons and daughters to die, to return maimed, to sustain traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder while destroying the lives of those we call the enemy, the other. We have invaded for resources that we call our “interests” and for superior positioning. Just to show we can. Just to show our might. Not to defend ourselves. I say no more. Not on my watch. As your president, I pledge allegiance to the people. I pledge allegiance to peace.

Actually, we do have aspirants who have said as much. Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney certainly are transformational choices. Bob Barr, the Libertarian, gets it, too, when he says that war “should be the last rather than the first resort.” But our corporate media give them little credibility and even less airtime.

So, we wait. Some wave their flags and hope while others feel despair and shame at what continues to be done in our names.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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