Clint Eastwood’s new movie Flags of Our Fathers was released today. I have not seen it yet, but I plan to. I have read the book, and had studied the WW2 in the Pacific before that.
The Battle of Iwo Jima is perhaps the defining moment for the United States Marine Corps. What they accomplished there, and the price they paid for it, defies belief. That photograph meant much to America, but it means immeasurably more to the Marine Corps. It signifies who they are. They carry the flag in the face of overwhelming odds, they carry the flag in the face of death, and they raise it where the world can see it. They raise it where no one else can.
The Marines created, and one man took, that photograph in a war where winning a battle was a step forward. Once ground was taken it was held and each new battle was fought on new ground closer to victory. Now Marines are fighting and dying in battles where winning means nothing more than living to fight another battle, retaking the same ground over and over again.
No more can the Marine Corps proudly plant the flag and proclaim victory, because victory keeps being redefined. First it was defending America from a “grave threat,” then it was deposing a dictator, then it was creating a democracy, and now it appears to be creating some sort of entity that can “defend itself and be an ally.”
Nor is the Marine Corps even defending democracy any more. According to our President, our purpose is nothing more than defending ourselves against a physical threat. These are his own words,
“Over the past few months the debate over this bill has been heated, and the questions raised can seem complex. Yet, with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat? Every member of Congress who voted for this bill has helped our nation rise to the task that history has given us.”
I would expect this statement from a leader of the Bloods or the Crips. Street gangs defend turf because that’s all they have. They don’t have aspirations to noble purpose, or goals for their citizenry. They “own” a piece of turf, and they defend it aggressively against all intruders.
In WW2 this country fought for principles of humanity, for freedom and democracy and decency. Today, it seems, we fight only to defeat a threat.
No longer do we plant Old Glory atop a Mount Suribachi. George Bush has reduced the Stars and Stripes to a “do rag” wrapped around the heads of street thugs defending turf.