Monday, May 30, 2016

When you go to war, people die

For this Memorial Day, here are some thoughts from J. Kael Weston who served the U.S. State Department at the UN and deployed as a political advisor alongside U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He discussed his book, The Mirror Test, with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. During his Iraq deployment, his decision to send Marines to guard Iraqi polling places in Anbar province had the consequence that 31 young men were killed in a helicopter crash. He will mourn these soldiers for the rest of his life.

WESTON: I think that war refocuses you on right and wrong wars. And I'm not anti-war, but I'm anti-wrong-war. And I feel that Iraq met that standard of being a wrong war. ...

GROSS: ... And since Memorial Day is coming up, I'd like to hear what Memorial Day means to you and why you chose to make those visits on a Memorial Day weekend?

WESTON: It means we need to take very seriously not just the weekend of when we remember our dead - there's a memorial in South Boston for Vietnam dead that says if you forget my death, only then will I have died in vain. And I think that's the cleanest, most powerful message that should apply to every war, whether a right war or a wrong war.

So remembering the cost of war, remembering the dead, I think, is the role, as citizens, that we have. I also think there's a responsibility and an obligation, really, to think hard over Memorial Day weekend about who our commanders in chief are. I vote based on that profile - which person, male, female, Republican, Democrat, is going to be the commander in chief that our troops deserve and need, especially at a time when these two wars go on and on and on.

And so I think Memorial Day is reflection, reckoning but also responsibility. And I think citizens shouldn't just do the barbecue or go shopping at the sale or go to the beach. We should think hard about, you know, when you go to war, people die. And is that person making the ultimate decision worthy of that sacrifice?

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