When Johnny Comes Marching Home…
December 22, 2011
The well known song, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”, a song of praise and gratitude that gained popularity in this country during the Civil War, derived from an Irish anti-war song (“Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”) from about 1820. At the end of both World Wars, the song came back to us as our victorious soldiers returned from Europe, and in the Second, Asia.
If we look at the emergence of the multitude of wars since the end of World War II, we find that those words of pride and gratitude have lost their meaning, or, at least, have not found a place in our hearts, as they once did.
On December 18, 2011, “the last American Soldiers” left Iraq, after nine years of combat; 4,500 American lives lost (not included the tens of thousands who have been disfigured mentally, physically, or both); $800,000,000,000 dollars spent, and, according to 86% of the people, the goals of the “war” have been accomplished. Of course, those goals have been constantly changing since our first incursion into the country (ignoring, of course, the first Gulf War back in 1991). I find myself at a loss to understand just what the goals really were.
Though the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein might be considered a goal, it was denied as an objective, at the beginning. We never found the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that were touted as the initial purpose, along with the claims that Hussein was buddy-buddy with Osama bin Laden — a wholly unsupportable pretext. But, heck, we have to have some reason to peddle our success.
However, rather than signing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” in every city, town and village, as was done in the past, it will only be sung in secure military installations, as troops arrive from the third, fourth or fifth tour of duty — and with the inherent mental dysfunction that has been ascribed to such service.
Soon, perhaps, we can expect the same for those who have given their lives, “fighting for our freedoms”, in Afghanistan. And, most assuredly, we will be blessed with a list of goals accomplished in that land of American corpses, as well. It is become blatantly obvious that “getting bin Laden” is not the ruse for that war, though it was the only pretext given to us after the events of September 11, 2001.
Let’s venture back even further, to just a few years after World War II, when we entered Korea to stop communist aggression (in a Korean civil war). I still remember relatives coming home to no fanfare, with heads down and simply a desire to hide from the evils of what they had experienced. Essentially, Johnny had to sneak in the back door. Yet, with only an armistice, after half a century, we still have soldiers on duty securing the border of a foreign country, absent a surrender. Fifty years of Johnny sneaking back to our own country, through the garden gate rather than Main Street.
Just more than a decade later, returnees from Vietnam not only had to sneak in the back door, they had to withstand abuse and ridicule for a war that was lost. With so very few exceptions, the only “Welcome Home” greetings were from one veteran to another, at least until not too long ago.
Unlike Korea, where the war was not lost, only temporarily discontinued, Vietnam was an unequivocal loss, though through no fault of those soldiers who fought and suffered that “war”. Still, there never have been real accolades on behalf of those millions who served there.
Perhaps we should look a bit more closely as our soldiers return home after any conflict. If the outpouring of gratitude and praise is unprovoked, and from the heart, then the action they were involved in is, without question, one of national necessity — at least in the eyes of our citizens. However, when the expression of gratitude and pride is non-existent, or at best, well orchestrated by government and press, we should, perhaps, begin to question just what and why that event warranted our involvement, in the first place.
Let me leave you with one additional thought. The recent headlines regarding the last troops to leave Iraq are absent an essential truth. They should read, “the last combat troops”, since we have left our legacy in Iraq, just as the British did in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, the largest United States Military Air Base outside of the United States (Latitude 30°56’12.39″N, Longitude 46°5’31.99″E, though if you look this up on Google Earth you will find that they are using February 2002 imagery, and the runways and much of the beginning of construction can be clearly seen). Now, just how are they going to man this massive and expensive installation without troops?