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In Remembrance and Regret
By Art Dorland
Memorial Day, 2005.
The following brief address was spoken at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Downtown Cleveland, Ohio seventeen years ago.
My name is Art Dorland. I am a US Navy veteran 1964-1967, stationed one year in Vietnam, comfortably outside the zone of real combat.
I am also a member of Veterans for Peace and a co-chair of the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project. Our project, formed in 1999, has helped repair six water treatment plants in various parts of Iraq. Our last project plant, repaired twice, in 2002 and 2004, is at Fallujah. I can tell you that I went to Falluja in a Veterans for Peace delegation before the war began, and it was not our intention to light the way into that city for the thousands of US armed invaders and gigantic quantities of massed armor that came months later.
We, the people of the United States, owe the people of Falluja a city. We, the people of the United States, owe the people of the world a convincing justification for what we have done to Fallujah, and too much of the rest of Iraq. So far, we have not provided this justification. Some of what we have done has been perhaps marginally good, but not good enough to blot out the evil we have done.
The arrogant package of pretexts our country used to justify this invasion, this occupation, this war, was wrapped in gaudy colors of patriotism and fear and bound up in ribbons of sand. The package has fallen apart and ought to be discarded. The contents are not what we were led to expect. Maybe the whole mess can be swept up and mailed back to the sender, at least in 2008.
In the meantime, on this Memorial Day, let us lift our thoughts and feelings to the families and survivors of all those who have perished on either side of the fighting, or had their lives wrecked by this grand error of judgment. Let us be mindful, too, that people who still support this war—again, on either side—have the same right to mourn the dead this day that we claim. Death is the great leveler: the dead pacifist and the dead aggressor are both, and equally, dead. Whether in Iraq, or Vietnam, or Flanders Fields, those dead people will always breathe a message, simple and brief, to the ones left here in the turmoil of a busy and sometimes thoughtless life: Remember Me.
Art Dorland, petty officer third class, US Naval Support Activity Saigon, 1966-67.