Marc Estrin : GWOT Love

Dedication ceremony for the Vermont Global War on Terror Memorial on Veterans Day, 2010, at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Randolph Center, Vt. Photo by Alison Redlich / AP.


By Marc Estrin / The Rag Blog / November 14, 2010

BURLINGTON, Vermont — I hear on the news this Veterans Day that our thankfully exiting governor — cynically known as Governor Scissorhands for all his ribbon cutting — will be dedicating a new memorial to our Vermont dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The “Vermont Global War on Terror Memorial,” planned and funded by the families of “Vermont’s 36 Fallen Global War on Terror Heroes” to the tune of $350,000, is aimed at “marking both the sacrifice of those who served and the heartbreak of the loved ones left behind.”

A memorial to oneself?

The sculptor of the Memorial describes it thus:

In front of the field memorial stands a low sarcophagus etched with the names and representing the body of Vermont’s Fallen Patriots.

Surrounding the field memorial and sarcophagus are three semi-circular bench walls.

In the center of each bench wall stands a monolith. The monolith on the left is dedicated to all those from Vermont who have served in the Global War on Terror. It has a hand tooled War on Terror Service Medal. The monolith on the right is dedicated to the families of the fallen and the great sacrifices they have made. It has a hand tooled Vermont Patriot’s Medal. The monolith in the back has a bronze dedication plaque and expresses the pride and sorrow of the citizens of Vermont.

Together the three monoliths — their family, their comrades and their fellow citizens stand as sentinels ready to guard the sacred honor of the fallen…

The Cemetery Advisory Board of the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery has provided what they call “a reverent location at the entrance to the cemetery.”

The GWOT Memorial will be a lasting tribute to our Fallen Heroes who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” protecting our country and defending our freedom. They will not be forgotten.

It is hard to know where to begin reacting to all this. I cringe at the language — bathetic, maudlin, soupy, cloying, schmaltzy, large-P Patriotic — but the sentiments inscribed in this language are more problematical still.

A guy stopped by at our peace vigil last night and said, “My nephew got back from Iraq and blew his brains out. He couldn’t deal with the stuff he had done — killing civilians and all that.”

This, it seems to me, is a more accurate description of reality.

Our president, of course, made a typical Veterans Day pledge: “As long as I am Commander-in-Chief, I am going to do right by them [our veterans]. America will not let you down. We will take care of our own,” he said.

On the other hand, yesterday’s release of the draft report from the President’s Fiscal Deficit Commission has recommended establishing Veterans Administration health co-pays. From the report:

This option would increase out-of-pocket costs for veterans in Priority Group 5 — those who do not have service-connected disabilities and whose income is below a VA-defined threshold. Currently, those patients pay no fees for inpatient or outpatient medical care. This option requires copayments for medical care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to these enrollees, saving 0.7 billion in 2014.

This, it seems to me, is a more accurate description of reality.

And today, Obama exhorted Congress to stop shooting down the deficit proposals before they have been studied.

If people are in fact, concerned about spending, debt, deficits and the future of our country, then they’re going to need to be armed with the information about the kinds of choices that are going to be involved, and we can’t just engage in political rhetoric.

A new rhetorical War on Political Rhetoric?

The question of supporting troops is a vexed one. It is true they have suffered — but they have also caused much suffering. Which of the two do we support? Only the first while ignoring the second? The families too have suffered. But is part of their pain related to their own responsibility in sending their children off to kill and be killed in the interests of a governing elite? Do we support such sending off?

In any case, the language of the Vermont Global War On Terror Memorial is tired, empty, and ever less to any point. It perpetuates a sentimental, obscuring cloud-of-unknowing over the realities we currently face and must radically change.

[Marc Estrin is a writer, activist, and cellist, living in Burlington, Vermont. His novels, Insect Dreams, The Half Life of Gregor Samsa, The Education of Arnold Hitler, Golem Song, and The Lamentations of Julius Marantz have won critical acclaim. His memoir, Rehearsing With Gods: Photographs and Essays on the Bread & Puppet Theater (with Ron Simon, photographer) won a 2004 theater book of the year award. He is currently working on a novel about the dead Tchaikovsky.]

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13 Responses to Marc Estrin : GWOT Love

  1. Anonymous says:

    Now you can thank those veterans for your right to write this drivel.

  2. richard jehn says:

    That is a tired (and false) argument. Sadly, the right wing doesn’t care about facts.

    The US is a hegemonic, invasive nation. If all we ever did was defend our own soil, rather than act as the world’s cop, what you say might have some truth to it.

  3. masterspork says:


    Even if there was a landing force the size of the one on D-Day you would still find a reason why it is out fault.

    This Memorial is meant to honor those who have died in these conflicts, not to be used as a political reason for or against these conflicts. Because even despite how people are divided the majority of Americans respect Veterans for the service and sacrifices that they make.

    Also these things are not for those who have lost loved ones, then consider such places like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. This is nothing different then the one that was dedicated in Vermont.

    Lastly when it comes to Veterans, authors like Marc Estrin make sure that negative stereotypes about US service members are alive and kicking.

  4. They are not defending our freedoms (such as they are). they are engaged in a gigantic war crime and crime against humanity, “the paramount international crime” under the Nuremburg Laws, and all the people they kill are murder victims. our country has no business putting armies and fighting wars all over the Earth; and you know it’s only for the sake of those who get rich from the way it’s done.
    Eighteen veterans a day commit suicide, why do you think? they cant forget what they did and saw being done to innocent people; they know it’s all wrong, and their lives were ruined by it; better to end them.
    Our country is sliding down a moral chute into a sewer of barbarism, destitution and repression. Public indifference to torture and war crimes, and indulgence of the burgeoning police state, prepares the way. If you cant yet ‘throw your body on the gears, at least get off the fence…

  5. masterspork says:

    1. The purpose of this monument is to honor the fallen in service to our country. No to decided if going to Iraq was the right choice or not.

    2. There is not a war crime for going to Iraq in the first place. While I understand and agree with the argument that we should not have gone to Iraq in the first place, to say the invasion is a war crime is a lie becasue:

    A. The UN gave resolutions for us to be there after 2003 up until the US Iraq Security policy took effect in 2009.

    B. The Gulf War was stopped on the promise that would follow certain things that they never did and or interfered with the enforcement of such. Therefor the UN considered the us of military use against Iraq and did not prohibit it.

    C. If the UN thought we were in the wrong then they would have called for a immediate withdraw like that did with Iraq over Kuwait.

    3. Site your sources for those 18 a day. Suicide it a problem in the military but not always for the assumed reasons. Also for the most part the majority of those that served in Iraq have done so with honor and the Iraq I went to is nothing like the one you describe.

    Do not assume what we do our how we act because you disagreed with going to Iraq. It it a lie a insult to those that have served.

  6. richard jehn says:


    1. There was never a UN resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2003 (or anytime thereafter).

    2. The UN resolution (1483) you mention merely identifies the US and Britain as occupying powers and calls on them to improve security and stability. Further, it reminds those parties that they are obligated to abide by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907.

    3. The Nuremburg Principles NP, specifically Principle VI, state:

    Principle Vl
    The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under; international law:
    1. Crimes against peace:
    a. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
    b. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i). (my emphasis)

    4. Again, the NP state that,

    Principle VII
    Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law.

    That’s pretty clear to me. Anyone who knowingly went to Iraq to take up George Bush’s dirty little war of aggression violated Principle VI of the NP. Moreover, and need I mention, the US and Britain did a dismal job of “improving security and stability” in the wake of their illegal invasion, causing the death of tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq.

    You have demonstrated repeatedly that facts don’t matter to you. And I, for one, am tired of your nonsense.

  7. masterspork says:

    In 2002, the UN made a statement about Iraq’s actions in the decade up til then. It makes comments about what the next step would be if Iraq continued it current actions. Also it may a few references to the US resolution in 1990.

    “Recalling that its resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore international peace and security in the area,

    2. Which we have, our forces as a whole have and are following the rules given in regard to the laws of war.

    3. Our actions in going to Iraq was based on Iraq violating the cease fire resolutions and was just a renewed conflict which the UN sanctioned 13 years before.
    Again if the UN thought that we were in violation of any laws why would they keep giving us resolutions for us to stay.

    Also the past history that the UN put sanctions and the No fly zones to protect the Kurds and the Shiites.

    Our forces are following the laws of war as a majority.

    Face it, the war was not illegal, if you want to talk about was it a good idea to go there I can see a case being made but not for the one that claims that any laws were broken.

  8. richard jehn says:

    Thanks, MasterGeorgeWSpork. When the rules don’t fit, invent new ones.

  9. masterspork says:

    Just like old times eh? When you cannot win, you start with the name calling?

  10. richard jehn says:

    Not exactly. The Nuremburg Principles were put in place following the worst case in history of a war of aggression. To ignore the NP and pretend that coerced and bullied UN resolutions authorizing the presence in Iraq of a nation that already was present in Iraq making everything about that invasion and subsequent occupation okay is just horrible. You miss the big picture and until you get it, you will keep subjecting us to the same awful stuff.

  11. masterspork says:

    Which the UN is one that is looked to to enforce those rules. So considering how the Gulf War ended and the fact that the UN has no problem with us being there then what does that tell you about if any laws were broken?

    I say again, if you want to talk about was it a good idea to go there I can see a case being made but not for the one that claims that any laws were broken.

  12. richard jehn says:

    You can’t hear one word I’ve ever said, MGWS.

  13. masterspork says:

    I am, however you are ignoring the fact that the UN is the organization that are in charge of enforcing international law. So there actions regarding to what resolutions that they have given us should not be ignored. More so if your trying to claim that war crimes happened.

    Also you are ignoring how the Gulf War ended and how that affects the Iraq war. Because when you take this account it makes a major difference when talking about international law.

    Last but not least, just because I do not believe the Iraq War was illegal does not mean that I agree that we should have gone there. Some of the reasons that I went myself was to help make sure that Iraq would not turn into a place like Somalia or the former Yugoslavia.

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