It's always been kind of sad for me that, ever since my discharge from the military in the mid 70s, the best thing I've been able to say about the American Legion is that their restaurant makes the best damn steak I can get in my tiny Nebraska hometown. Other than that small bit of merit, the organization has done nothing but embarrass me with their rote, pro-war positions and, over the last few years, how they seem to care far more about people burning the American flag than they do about troops being used as cannon fodder and Veterans being neglected in V.A. hospitals.
I thought I hit peak disgust with their twisted brand of patriotism in 2005 when the group's last national commander, Thomas Cadmus, gave a speech at the Legion's national convention in which he called for an end to all "public protests" and "media events" against the Iraq war. The convention delegates then voted to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."
"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Cadmus told convention delegates.
I know when I was sworn into the U.S. Navy, I made a pledge "to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America" and it was apparent to me in 2005 that the American Legion had forgotten that the oath we all took was intended to protect exactly the rights they threatened to destroy with un-American stances like that.
And it looks like they haven't changed a bit in two years.
Now they're after Senator John Edwards and his presidential campaign for creating a web site in which Edwards submits that the best way to observe the upcoming Memorial Day, might be to take a stand designed to limit the number of newly-dead Americans we mourn at 2008's observance.Well, the American Legion's current National Commander, Paul Morin, didn't like that one bit -- he wants, what, more dead in the next 12 months? -- and said so in a strident post on his web site yesterday.
Morin blabs some more and then ends by saying that we should "attend a parade without the divisive political signs."
"One presidential candidate has blatantly violated the sanctity of this most special day. I recently received an e-mail from a group called 'Supportthetroopsendthewar.com.' It included a video of former Sen. John Edwards. He calls on Americans to use Memorial Day weekend as a time to 'bring an end to this war.'
"Shockingly, the video is titled 'A Memorial Day Message from John Edwards,' with the smoking gun note, 'Paid for by John Edwards for President.' Moreover, the e-mail recommends that Americans bring signs with the message 'Support the troops, End the War' to local Memorial Day parades. Revolting is a kind word for it. It's as inappropriate as a political bumper sticker on an Arlington headstone
It kind of tells you where this guy's head is at that he considers banners displaying a message supported by the majority of Americans to stop the needless death of American troops to be "divisive political signs."
But then, this is the same guy whose organization fought like crazy to help keep the truth of the Abu Ghraib photos from getting out, has rabidly supported George W. Bush escalating the Iraq quagmire and who opposes a troop-withdrawal timeline with this misleading and silly analogy: "Thank God there was no mandated timetable after the Battle of the Bulge or Iwo Jima. Thank God, there was no mandated withdrawal or imposed exit strategy at Valley Forge or our Country would have lost the American Revolution."
And, again, the Legion really really spends a lot of energy on the issue of flag burning, despite the fact that I stand a better chance of scoring a hot date with Scarlett Johansson than the average American has of seeing our flag burned in their lifetime.And what outrageous, radical thing did Edwards say on his web site's video to get Morin's blood pressure up? Brace yourself... Here's Edwards:
Harsh stuff, huh?
"What we're asking you to do this Memorial Day weekend is to gather together with your friends, to volunteer, to pray, to speak out and make it clear that we support the troops, we want to honor their sacrifice, that we are incredibly thankful as a nation for what they've done for us in their service in Iraq.
"And the best way to honor their service and the best way to support them is for the President of the United States to do what America has demanded be done -- and that's to end this war. So this Memorial Day weekend, don't stand quietly, don't just go to picnics, don't just gather with your friends -- engage in an act of patriotism, show how much you love this country and speak out in support of our troops and bring an end to this war."
And, in a list of ten suggestions for Memorial Day weekend that included praying for the troops and those we have previously lost, preparing and sending care packages to our military in Iraq and helping Veterans at home, Edwards did indeed suggest displaying signs asking that we end the needless killing of our troops and end this war.
It's going to be tough for the Edwards team to respond to Morin's attack because the aura of faux patriotism created by the Bush administration has made it difficult to question an organization like the American Legion -- even when they make downright un-American pronouncements and other veiled threats to stifle dissent. It doesn't take much these days to be called unpatriotic if you argue with anyone in the military or who has ever been in uniform.
But the American Legion might as well get ready to tell this honorably-discharged Veteran and many more like me that we too are wrong -- and "revolting" -- because a whole bunch of us will stand with John Edwards on this one. I hurt every day when I read the names of those who have been killed in Iraq. My loyalty is with them, not with the American Legion and the right-wing creed of their misguided organization.
And the former Democratic Senator from North Carolina is absolutely right in suggesting that the best way to support the troops is to remove them from the Iraqi civil war.
While John Edwards is expressing the sentiments of the vast majority of the American people, he is also speaking from his own heart about the sorrow he feels for the most recent of those we honor on Memorial Day and making the very patriotic suggestion that we all get out there and do something about it.
Meanwhile, the American Legion castigates people like Edwards, while themselves advocating more war having nothing to do with our security, more death and, in the process, assuming some small share of accountability -- along with their Chickenhawk heroes in the White House -- for the ongoing carnage
John Edwards can't say it, but I can: When it comes to stances like that expressed by Morin yesterday, the American Legion is full of crap - and they most assuredly do not speak for this Veteran.
So let the American Legion continue to give blind allegiance to a president who has the blood of thousands of our brave men and women on his hands because he purposefully misled our nation into war with a country that did not attack us and that we now know posed no threat whatsoever to the United States.
In the face of this disgusting misuse of our military and when honorable people are dying for nothing, the best thing this group can do is battle the people exercising their rights to prevent more military lives from being needlessly lost.
Shame on you, Mr. Morin. You may be a fellow Veteran, but, when all is said and done, you don't have a clue about the principles on which our nation was founded or why we fight.
I haven't forgotten the oath I took so many years ago, sir -- have you?
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