FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

American Mothers and War

Mother’s Day in the US was originally conceived of as a holiday against war and for peace.  This was based on a sentiment that supposes mothers know better than anyone the pointlessness of war’s blood and death since it was their children who do the dying.  Susan Galleymore’s recently published book Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War & Terror takes this premise and moves it to today’s headlines.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and the United States.

Interviews and statements from mothers of soldiers, bombers and children killed by all of the former pepper this book with modern conflict’s sheer brutality, pointlessness and just plain sadness.  Underneath the narrative lies a barely contained rage that not only permeates the text but focuses it.  There are no sane reasons for this bloodshed and misery is Galleymore’s message; only the logic of greed and revenge.  Greed and revenge tainted by religion, nationalism, and the hubris of a few men who risk very little except for other mother’s children.

Although the text is occasionally uneven, with most of the testimony coming out of Iraq, Israel and Palestine, there is a consistency to the stories here.  Some mothers express an inconsolable anger while others seem to have opted for an almost zen-like acceptance of their children’s deaths in the world’s battles.  The consistency referred to is not in how they deal with their children’s deaths, but in their common desire that no other mothers suffer like they have.  The most evocative stories come from Iraq and Palestine, in part because Galleymore spent the most time in those two broken nations, but perhaps also because the perpetrators of the death in those places are so close to Galleymore’s own life story.  Indeed, her son served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This fact was not only the motivation for Galleymore’s visit to Iraq and other nations in the Middle East, but was also a motivation to wrote this book.  It is part of her attempt to understand not only what her nation and its ally Israel have done to their chosen enemies that spurred this project but also to understand what compelled her son to join the US military.

Galleymore addresses this very issue in the book’s section on the United States.  To be honest, this part of the text drew the least sympathy from this reader.  Much of what is written here is difficult to sympathize with.  We read the letters of a soldier describing his unit’s interactions with the Iraqi people–indiscriminate killing and fear accompanied by a growing hatred of the mission and the people he was told he was sent to liberate.  More stories of poorly equipped US troops going into battles they should never have fought because they should never have been in Iraq.  Underlying it all is a failure to understand that there is no lasting glory in their mission beyond the individual acts performed on that battlefield they don’t belong.

After these tales of the hardships of the occupiers, Galleymore asks the question she was asked by some of her interviewees in those nations under the US (or its ally Israel) military’s boot.  How can American mothers allow their children to join in this endeavor of conquering and occupation?    Why don’t the mothers of US children considering the military just tell them “no?”

In response, Galleymore considers the cultural assumptions that create the dynamic whereby young Americans join the military despite their mothers’ objections.   In the United States, writes Galleymore, 18-year-olds can “make legally binding choices independent of parents and family, including the choice to enlist in the military.”  Many parents go along with this choice, believing that the military will somehow teach their child discipline.  It may very well do that, writes Galleymore, but it also teaches those children to kill.  This is what most Americans refuse to openly acknowledge: that they have allowed their child to learn how to kill other humans.  In more collectivist cultures like many of those in the Middle East and Central Asia, argues the author, where family, clan, and parental respect are paramount, it is extremely unlikely that a son would enlist without permission from the head of the family.  Then again, here in the United States, the military is everywhere–schools, television, video games.

Our culture is permeated with the military’s presence.  Boys and girls as young as eleven go to summer camps sponsored by the US Army.  Recruiters roam the halls of many high schools and shopping malls looking for future soldiers and marines.  Malls lend shop space to military recruiters  for a weekend geared toward elementary and middle school age children that includes all the free video games kids want to play.  All they need to provide the recruiters on site is their name and social security number.  A few months later the phone calls, text messages and emails began coming, encouraging the youngster to consider joining the military.  If these recruiters were working for a gang besides the military, they would be chased out of town and condemned for the predators they are.

The United States has the mother of two young girls living in the White House now.  From all appearances Michelle Obama seems to be a wonderful mom.  One wonders what she would tell a military recruiter if they called her home looking for Malia or sent her oldest daughter an email extolling the virtues of enlisting in the military.  Hopefully, she would be appalled at the sheer audacity of a recruiter attempting to influence a child.  Yet, this is what the military does.  Without shame.  Of course, if the United States was not so insistent on maintaining and expanding its reach via the sword, then perhaps the military wouldn’t feel compelled to kidnap the minds of middle-schoolers.

One way to change (and perhaps the only way) the drive for empire Washington and Wall Street have locked this nation into is by resisting that drive.  A good place to start is by making the mothers of those children who fight Washington’s wars aware of the consequences of their inaction is.  A good place to start this awareness is at the top.  So, let me suggest that when you finish reading  Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War & Terror you mail your copy to Michelle Obama at the White House.  Perhaps she’ll take the time to read it.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Yves Engler
Ottawa, Yemen and Guardian
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Tracey L. Rogers
Dear White Women, There May be Hope for You After All
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail