I felt deep emotions as I watched George W. Bush neatly execute a masterfully arranged photo-op aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. I thought of a similar scene when General MacArthur accepted the surrender of the Japanese military aboard the USS Missouri in 1945.
President Truman was back in Washington, where he belonged. I thought of earlier pictures of Hitler and Mussolini, triumphant, surrounded by their formidable legions, and I thought of Stalin, and subsequent Russian dictators, presiding over massive arrays of tanks, rockets, and hordes of
armed soldiers marching by in endless ranks. For me, it was a "deja vu" experience.
As I viewed the great carrier, I thought of the tremendous power of the weaponry it projects. I thought of the skill and courage of the pilots, and of the gruesome fate that had awaited any who had the misfortune to be shot down. I thought of the carnage (a.k.a. "collateral damage") inflicted on Iraqi civilians who happened to get in the way of the huge explosions of the "Shock and Awe" display, crafted to terrorize the Iraqi government and people. I thought of the millions of dollars slashed from the health care of our veterans in the current Bush budget, which, at last, includes partial underwriting of his War against Iraq.
As I watched the rows of sailors squinting with the sun in their eyes, I thought of the hundreds of personnel on the ship, eager to get home after ten months in the Gulf, probably delayed by the photo-op. I thought of
the thousands of dollars that the photo-op cost us taxpayers-a mere flea-bite, compared to the cost of the weaponry expended to subdue Iraq and Afghanistan. Only later did I learn, from a column appropriately placed in the advertising pages of the GT, of the details of the photo-op-the rejection of the helicopter landing preferred by the Navy, and the careful alignment of the ship to conceal its location just outside San Diego, giving the illusion it was far out at sea.
There is no doubt that this spectacular scene has given the Bush re-election campaign a jump-start.
Sixty years ago I joined the Marine Corps to fight against Japan. After surviving Iwo Jima where my rifle platoon of forty five men was cut down to three intact survivors in a month of heavy combat, we occupied the ruins of Sasebo, a Japanese city of 200,000 which had been leveled in a single B-29 fire raid, with massive civilian deaths, mostly by incineration.
I visited Nagasaki where 70,000 civilian deaths had occurred from the A-Bomb. Ever since that time, I have felt that war is a terrible way to settle conflicts, and I have supported efforts to develop a world government, and to ban weapons of mass destruction.
I believe that President Bush is leading us into a state of perpetual warfare. The doctrine of "preemptive" and "preventive" war, the announced plan to eliminate any power that threatens our military superiority, the rejection of the United Nations, the threat to reintroduce "clean" tactical nuclear weapons -all these are ominous signs of a self-anointed, world-dominating, imperialistic nation.
What would we Americans think of any other nation which behaved this way? How would we respond? George W Bush promised us a "humble" foreign policy. He told us he was a "uniter," not a "divider." He is certainly succeeding in uniting the rest of the world against us.
It will be hard to change course, with Iraq and Afghanistan in chaos and ruins, with millions of their outraged sympathizers hell-bent on revenge, but we must try. No great military power has EVER succeeded in subjugating the rest of the world for long. We need to return to our traditional ideals of freedom and the rule of law-not the law of the jungle, "Might makes Right." The first thing we need to do is to try to strengthen the UN, instead of undermining and destroying it. Next, we need to rebuild bridges to other countries, and we need to get the UN and other countries involved in rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq.
Craig B. Leman is an eighty year old retired surgeon who served as a rifle platoon leader with the Fifth Marine Division at Iwo Jima and is a Corvallis resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org