"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, June 23, 2014

How can we equate "the good war" with D-Day?

We saw a television documentary about D-Day at the time of the anniversary. It's important to understand what all happened during these significant world events. This documentary was almost too much. I'm sure it was totally accurate. And that was the problem. The level of man's inhumanity toward man was too much.
The male gender was behind all this conflict. Was that part of the problem? Don't women have more of an instinct of wanting to protect life?
The TV documentary revealed all sorts of problems in the Allied advance into France. The generals' script could just as well have been thrown out the window. Advancing from the sea was smart. The devil himself is smart. Troops cannot retreat or run when they're coming out of the sea. What causes man to descend to this level of conflict?
The storied D-Day and the conquest that immediately followed were fraught with setbacks and unspeakable loss of life and suffering. Hollywood tried to make that clear with "Saving Private Ryan." The movie "Windtalkers" showed the bloody conflict with similar vividness. Hollywood decided that honesty was essential. We see the nature of our species at its most depraved depths. We see the enormous machinery of war, crafted with the idea of blowing human beings apart.
You watch that D-Day documentary with a feeling of wondering if it's really necessary to dwell on all those details. The Nazis did in fact put up a pretty effective wall.
Oliver Stone argues that the Red Army from the east was primarily responsible for thwarting the Nazis. We have never adequately appreciated this, Stone tells us, because the Soviets became our enemy after the war. The Cold War was this annoying impalpable threat that hovered over my generation as we grew up. It was a giant boogeyman.
The Soviets were instrumental in thumping the Nazis. Without that powerful force, who knows what would have happened? In the closing stages of the war, the Germans were more scared of being taken by the Red Army than by other forces. They would have much rather heard the bagpipes of the British!
We were then taught post-war that the Soviets were our adversary, and we'd better take all possible steps to "keep up with them" (as in the space race). Was a lot of that propaganda just to ensure we could keep fueling our military apparatus? Was it that "military industrial complex," warned about by Eisenhower?
Post-war, Eisenhower was no enthusiast for keeping the U.S. military large. He had seen the utter tragedy of war. He knew such military tools were a necessary evil, nothing to relish. All those Germans and Americans killing each other because their governments told them to. Many parents of the U.S. casualties weren't prepared to salute the war effort. Many ended up truly embittered as well they should be.
We are now seeing the unraveling of Iraq. World War II was "the good war," we have been told. Maybe a legacy is the feeling we can send our good soldiers to fight battles, extinguish the adversary and promote all that's good. Korea wasn't quite the grand conquest that WWII was. The meme about war tumbled even further with Viet Nam. My generation absolutely pulled its hair out over Viet Nam. We got military conscription eliminated.
In the aftermath of that, we scrounge for troops as with "stop-loss" and the perverse deployment of state National Guard companies.
The "good war" of WWII brought tragedy on an unfathomable scale. We taught ourselves to think all that was necessary because of what the Nazis represented, and because of the need for vengeance after Pearl Harbor. Why did we expose such an attractive target in the Pacific? Many years later, why was such an attractive target available for terrorists, in the form of the WTC in New York City? Why couldn't all that corporate activity have been dispersed more? It would certainly seem practical in this computer age.
The 9/11 attack gave justification for the neocons like Dick Cheney, himself a "chickenhawk," to push for the invasion of Iraq. It had consequences all the way back here in Morris MN. The U.S. lost Viet Nam and we may now have to acknowledge the futility of our Iraq venture.
Saddam Hussein was a Middle East strongman who helped keep Iran in check. Too much of the TV news coverage had the effect of caricaturing Hussein as if he represented evil on a Nazi-like level. He did not. There were no WMDs. Some of the stories about his evil lacked veracity. Remember that "shredder?" The Middle East countries will never blossom into a Jeffersonian democracy. Let's mind our own business a little more.
Our best course would be to become less dependent on Middle East oil. Alternative and "green" energy must be promoted to the utmost.
The jingoistic voices grew in part out of our triumph in "the good war" of WWII as if we'd actually want to re-live that. It's the last thing any of us would want to re-live. The TV documentary about D-Day left me chagrined. Might D-Day and the weeks following have actually been a failure? Our best-laid plans seemed to go awry. Were the Nazis doomed anyway? The SS was needed just to keep their own generals in line. We see this in the movie "The Bridge at Remagen." The Robert Vaughn character is executed at the end. He was outside the circle of crazed Nazis, the Nazis defying reality.
The Red Army was like a vice closing on the Nazis from the east. Perhaps D-Day is overrated as a factor that brought "victory." So much of the planned strategy crumbled on that day. Everyone seemed to just end up improvising. The Waffen SS didn't even take prisoners. You were a goner.
The "good war?" We should study it only from the standpoint of learning about man's most base inclinations. We should wince when seeing that TV documentary about D-Day, from the comfort of our living rooms.
My generation saw the movie "The Longest Day" when young. It was a typical 1960s World War II movie. We are left with a good feeling about what our troops did. We don't see any blood. We are inconvenienced by seeing a few troops fall over like they're dead. We quickly forget about those pathetic faceless souls and focus instead on John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. There's a rousing theme song. We see a helmet lying on a beach as a symbol of what happened. Still no blood and no cries of pained anguish, none of the desperation the men all felt.
"War is hell." It should have been avoided in Iraq.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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