History and War

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Over 7,000 men lost their lives on a single day of battle at Antietam Creek during the Civil War. This was considered enough of a victory that Lincoln felt comfortable issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, thus mandating freedom for all slaves in rebellious states. It took another two and a half years to fully enforce.

About 8,000 men lost their lives during the three days of Gettysburg, about 3200 of these were Union soldiers. This was considered such a monumental union victory that Lincoln was swept into office after a rather close campaign. Lee and the Confederate Army were beaten, and never really recovered. This battle was the day in which the Civil War was essentially won. It took another year to end the war officially.

110,070 Union soldiers died in battle alone, another 250,152 died from disease or other causes.

About 19,000 Americans lost their lives in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. The war had already been essentially won, with this being the last gasp of the German Army.

6,800 US marines lost their lives attacking the beach of Iwo Jima, where the heroic flag raising will long be remembered. This was about a third of the total attacking force. The capture of other islands were likewise costly.

The lists can go on and on.

A little over a thousand Americans have died in Iraq over the past year. The news is telling us that all is bad, that we are in a quagmire, another Vietnam.

Yet, Vietnam has some differences. For this to be like Vietnam we would have had to conquer Hanoi, depose the north Vietnamese government, capture the entire leadership, settle arrangements with the borders, and begin the process of rebuilding the entire army and security structure, with the intention of having full democratic votes. Had Vietnam been like the present situation this would have all taken place by 1965, without ever depending on a draft.

However, a curious change has taken place within the hearts of many in this country. There are no causes which are ‘worth it’. Had this been the attitude over the course of American history, there would be no American history to begin with, for England wasn’t all that bad. Or had that happened there would be two countries called America, one United, one a Confederacy. Countless more Jews would have died, and Europe would have been unified much as Stalin unified the USSR.

The problem, and this is new in history, is that those citizens not on the battlefields are the chief detractors. This began in Vietnam, now everything is “Vietnam” merely because men with guns go out to fight, without any reference to real comparisons.

In past wars deserters could be shot, most weren’t. Now, those deserters never go to the battlefield, they desert the Cause of American liberty in their own homes, so afraid of death and eternity themselves they can see no greater reality of Justice which would cause a man to die for something higher. They break down morale. They assault any change of prospects, they change history for their own purposes.

The time for debating war is before it starts. Once begun the only quick way is to finish the job and learn the lessons for next time. The lessons of World War II came into play this time. We learned what happens when you trust the word of a man intent on evil and destruction. People die, more if the world waits.

We have a situation where people cannot believe in themselves, so they transfer their innate weakness to others… fighting supposedly for soldiers who they really revile.

Yes, things are not well in Iraq. But, the mission was accomplished. What we see there are foreign fighters attacking the current government. The mission has changed over the many months, we are now defending a functioning sovereign government. For a cause which has only Freedom on its banner.

People die for all sorts of stupid reasons. 17,013 people died in 2003 from Alcohol related deaths. That is stupid. That is useless. I don’t see any Michael Moore movies about this. Men and women are dying in Iraq for the simple reason to help Iraq be free from tyranny and able to rule itself without power hungry clerics using the voice of God for their own ambitions. That is a cause. When it is done they will come home and be a new generation of heroes.

I’m increasingly seeing little difference between the physical bombs which are planted under cars in Iraq and the rhetorical bombs which are launched for partisan reasons and because an increasingly higher number of people in this country have no cause beyond themselves worth living for.

It’s sad. While I appreciate the role these people play in making politicians think about going to war, I find I’m less and less understanding of the heart which rejects all things American and still can consider themselves patriotic. America is the fight for Freedom. America is the symbol of oppressed people making their way in this world, no longer encumbered by tyrants. We’ve had a long, bumpy path to get here, but we are closer than ever, and want the same for the rest of the world.

And this road has meant people die. This lofty cause means that men and women have given their lives so that their children can live in a better world, and most wonderfully so that the children of others can also live in freedom.

Yes, soldiers still are dying and it is not a rosy picture in Iraq. But, had Americans of generations past had the same attitude of defeat that present Americans have, the greatest steps in establishing freedoms throughout this world would have never been accomplished.

I do not want to be the generation that is remembered for failing the Cause on which America is built. There are realities which are greater than my life, there are causes for which I would give my life. That is the American tradition. May it continue and may the voices who reject this be lost in the shadows of history.

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