By Matthew Rothschild on September 01, 2010

To call the U.S. invasion and occupation “this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq,” as Obama did, is to really cake on the makeup.

Yeah, I watched Obama’s speech on Iraq, and I can’t say I was blown away.

First of all, to call the U.S. invasion and occupation “this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq,” as Obama did, is to really cake on the makeup.

And was it “a war to disarm a state,” as he asserted, or was it, instead, a war to secure oil, or a war to project U.S. power, or a war not of necessity and not of choice but of therapy for George Bush to overcome his Oedipal complex?

By the way, I could have lived without Obama’s saluting of his predecessor, who should be brought before the international criminal court for launching this war of aggression.

And I know every President, every politician, and now it seems every citizen must bow down to all the soldiers who serve in our military, but was it accurate of Obama to say that “at every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve”? I’m sure the vast majority did, and I wouldn’t have traded places with any of them. But what about those who followed Rumsfeld’s brutal interrogation orders? What about Abu Ghraib? What about the dozens of Iraqis our personnel murdered in detention? http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/06221-etn-hrf-dic-rep-web.pdf

Did that show “courage and resolve?”

There was something creepy about the martial tone of Obama’s speech. “Our troops are the steel in our ship of state,” he said, seemingly unaware of the fact that Hitler called his Panzer Corps “men of steel” or that the Hitler-Mussolini military accord was called “the pact of steel.” Enough with the steel already.

Obama also drew a straight line from the War of Independence to the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, blessing every one, including Vietnam. “Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iowa Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar—Americans who fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own.”

Is that really why they all fought, even the draftees at Khe Sanh?

As for Iraq, Obama said that our soldiers who died there “gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries.”

The great historian Howard Zinn, who died in January, would dispute that claim. In the June 2003 issue of The Progressive, he wrote:

http://www.progressive.org/june03/zinn0603.html

“Those who died in this war did not die for their country. They died for their government. They died for Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. And yes, they died for the greed of the oil cartels, for the expansion of the American empire, for the political ambitions of the President. They died to cover up the theft of the nation’s wealth to pay for the machines of death.”

I’m glad Obama is ending combat operations in Iraq and getting most of our troops out of there. But he didn’t need to rewrite history in the process.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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