Memorial Day weekend open thread: Guns, not butter edition

Since Memorial Day was established a few years after the Civil War, Americans have marked the holiday every year by remembering our war dead (ok, almost all our war dead). In his weekly address, President Barack Obama asked Americans to honor "not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America."

Every so often I read the I Got The News Today profiles of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to an old Jewish teaching, saving one life is equivalent to saving the whole world. The IGTNT diaries, like “Six More Lost to All Who Loved Them,” are a crushing reminder that the death of one person is like the death of the whole world to the people left behind.

The IGTNT series will likely continue for many more years. The number of Americans killed in Afghanistan recently passed 1,000, and we are preparing to send an additional 30,000 troops there. Although we have fewer troops in Iraq now than we did for most of the past seven years, we have more troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined now than we did when Obama became president.  

The price of these wars is also enormous in monetary terms. On May 30 the estimated cost of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq exceeded $1 trillion. We could have done lots of things with that kind of money. On May 27 the U.S. Senate passed yet another war supplemental funding bill, this time for $58.8 billion. On May 28 the House passed the $726 billion Defense Authorization Bill for 2011 (roll call here). Iowa’s House members split on party lines, with Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) supporting them and Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voting no.

Meanwhile, Congress adjourned for the Memorial Day weekend without extending unemployment benefits or passing another jobs bill. This economic relief bill had already been watered down because of “concerns” about deficit spending. You’ll notice few members of Congress are concerned about deficit spending to fund our endless war machine.

For many, Memorial Day is a time to remember lost loved ones, regardless of whether they served in the military. Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman’s mother recently died, and he wrote this tribute to her.

For some people, Memorial Day is first and foremost the unofficial beginning of summer. Feel free to share any fun plans or picnic recipes in the comments. We’ve been invited to a potluck tomorrow, and I haven’t decided whether to make my favorite chick pea dish (from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking), a North African potato salad with olive oil and spices, or a pasta salad with a Chinese-style peanut butter sauce. I like to bring vegan dishes to potlucks so I don’t worry if they sit outside for a few hours. Also, the party I’m attending tomorrow may include some vegetarians and people who keep kosher (they don’t mix meat with dairy in the same meal).

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend.

UPDATE: Graphs showing number of days in Iraq and number of U.S. deaths in Iraq before and after President George W. Bush announced “Mission Accomplished.”

  • Memorial Day

    I will have the normal Memorial Day barbeque with two of my grandchildren.  their Mom, my daughter is in Minnesota with her hubby and friends.  So the two, 16 and 18 will come over for hamburgers and potato salad.  

    But the one thing that I remember every Memorial Day for the last couple of years is about my Dad.  My Dad,  a navy Pharmacist mate attached to the Marines for the entire WWII,  was in the very first landing party of Marines that landed at Nagasaki Japan after the bomb.  He told me many times, “We were loaded with ammo,  had bayonets fixed and black on our faces.  We were loaded up like cattle in the landing boat.  We hit the beach, and we all ran,  everybody was scared to death.  These were men who had survived Iwo Jima,  and they were still scared.  There was no one there to greet them.  As the sun came up,  a little old man came by and tried to sell them a fish.  The sun rose,  and they looked out over the bay,  filled with Japanese ships.  All were rusted hulks,  they would never have moved.  Dust was falling from the sky.  They didn’t know what that was (atomic fallout). ”  My Dad struggled for the last 20 years of his life with many different skin cancers, on his ears, cheeks, forehead, hairline, etc.  Finally the third melanoma is what I believe killed him.  

        At his funeral, since he was Navy AND Marines,  we had a choice.  The three Marines in Dress told us that they hadn’t had a Marine funeral in several years,  they were almost all gone.  So they did the very slow solemn folding of the flag,  using very slow salutes and motions.  It was really cool.  Until my brother accepted the flag and saluted our Dad,  everybody started crying.  

    All of his bomb pictures he had hidden in a box.  Pictures of half legs, and weapons in the rubble, etc.  I went through all of them several years ago and sent them to the Sasebu war Museum online.  Nobody in my family ever wanted them.  I gave his Japanese flag to my Grandson, who has it safely put away.  All of the WWII guys are almost gone.  Its very sad.  

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