ANOTHER VOICE: Teach our children the full cost of war

The National Museum of American History, and a billionaire who has funded a new exhibit there, would like you to know that we’re going to need more wars if we want to have freedom.

Never mind that we seem to lose so many freedoms whenever we have wars. Never mind that so many nations have created more freedoms than we enjoy and done so without wars. In our case, war is the price of freedom. Hence the new exhibit: “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.”

The exhibit opens with these words: “Americans have gone to war to win their independence, expand their national boundaries, define their freedoms and defend their interests around the globe.”

Those foolish, foolish Canadians: Why, oh, why did they win their independence without a war? Think of all the people they might have killed!

The exhibit admits the motivation of “expanding national boundaries.” The aim of conquering Canada is included, along with some dubious excuses, as one of the motivations for the War of 1812.

But the exhibit provides absolutely no indication of what in the world can be meant by a war being launched in order to “define our freedoms.” And, needless to say, it is the U.S. government, not “Americans,” that imagines it has “interests around the globe” that can and should be “defended” by launching wars.

The exhibit is an extravaganza of misdirection. The U.S. Civil War is presented as “America’s bloodiest conflict.” Really?

Because Filipinos don’t bleed? Vietnamese don’t bleed? Iraqis don’t bleed? We should not imagine that our children won’t learn exactly that lesson. The Spanish American War is presented as an effort to “free Cuba,” and so forth.

But overwhelmingly the deception is done in this exhibit by omission. Bad past excuses for wars are ignored; the death and destruction is ignored or minimized.

The exhibit provides a teacher’s manual, and its entire coverage of the past 12 years of war-making consists of describing the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

What do young people learn from lessons like these? Jessica Klonsky, a high school teacher, in a new book called “Teaching about the Wars,” wrote that many of her students were surprised to learn that any others than soldiers die in war.

Civilians — children, women, the elderly — have been the vast majority of war deaths in most major wars since World War II, and our young people have no idea. And if students save up for a field trip to Washington, D.C., they’ll return home just as clueless.

People love to complain about the stories the Bush Administration told about weapons of mass destruction. I think the stories we tell about wars after they are over do more damage. The truth would result in an absolute end to war-making.

The truth is not pleasant, but it is the real price of freedom.

David Swanson‘s books include “War Is A Lie” and “When the World Outlawed War,” and he is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



Log in to comment

Columbia Gorge news and businesses