we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- these honored dead by using them as hostages against the living. by Anthony McCarthy
Abraham Lincoln, in his most revered speech, unwittingly provided a weapon that has been used since to kill many thousands of people. American soldiers and the countless others who, thought unmentionable in the United States, are indissolubly bound to our dead through the absolute requirements of justice and truth due to their being killed by the actions of the United States government, in our names, often giving Lincoln’s words as the reason.
How many times in the United States, as an excuse to continue the slaughter in Vietnam, Iraq and other wars of empire, has that weapon been used with the horrible potency generated by unthinking, unreflecting, coercive patriotism and rote reverence?
How many more people have died through the deployment of Lincoln’s words “should not have died in vain”?
Lincoln was honorable. He may have been the American President who had the truest sense of honor unbound by the conventions of aristocratic pretense. It is likely that he provided the weapon out of innocence borne of his great character and out of the requirement to address the necessities of the hard weeks during which he gave the speech, some of the worst in our history. The price the world has paid for those poetic words almost certainly wouldn’t have been worth their price to him, had he realized how they would be used by others.
People without morals and who have no honor, have no reservations about killing people. Given their readiness to kill without cause, saying they distort even the most sacred words for the purpose of killing more people is an idea shocking only to those in the habit of pretending they don’t see what they can plainly see.
Unfortunately, when you look down the list of American Presidents, you find a notable lack of character and in even some of those of high character it isn’t reliably coupled with wisdom. We can hope and pray that George W. Bush, utterly corrupt, utterly incompetent and reveling like a theatrical Caligula in his role as vicarious warrior, is the worst that our system can produce. I doubt that even with the example of the worst of his predecessors, Lincoln could have imagined someone as putrid as him attaining and holding the presidency. What he could have made of the regency of Cheney is even harder to imagine.
This week, as in all weeks of all of the imperial wars begun and continued by those who have no honor, no morality, no intention to allow the rule of The People, the tinny echo of Lincoln’s words as spoken by mimics sound through the helium balloon that diverts but refuses to inform the American People.
Those words from those mouths in the context of Bush’s war in Iraq do nothing to honor the dead, they prop them up before the camera as hostages, not to ransom a purpose for his criminal war, but as an emotional bribe to continue it until he can pass it and the blame for it onto someone else. It turns the deaths of those who have already died into a weapon against those who haven’t died yet. The honor due them is transformed into blackmail.
The plain truth is that those who have died in Bush’s war in Iraq have already died in vain. There is no further price that can redeem that terrible truth or to turn the utterly corrupt motives of those who have brought and continued this war to any more than a pantomime of greatness. The attempt only exposes the decay of our entire establishment, even those who say the words don’t believe them. Nothing that can be said can change that horrible truth and telling that truth will be punished because our ruling elite have buried democracy deeper than Robert Lincoln was forced to bury his father. He did so to prevent the theft of his corpse. Unfortunately he couldn’t do anything to protect his father’s soul from being stolen by criminals lower than grave robbers.
Note: If you ever see me mention the American dead without also mentioning those killed by the American government and its proxies, please point out the omission.