We need a parade, Mr. President

Dear President Obama,

You are — as you promised during your campaign in 2008 — bringing American forces home from Iraq after that long, tangled conflict.  The pull-out is essentially complete already.

The American people appear to be with you in this decision, with polls showing that voters and citizens are weary of war and foreign entanglements.

But as I’ve written here before, I think your administration is making a huge mistake in not giving the veterans (and their families) who sacrificed so much in this conflict a national day of recognition.

So here’s my suggestion:

Pick a date for a national celebration, to fall after the 2012 election but before the inauguration in January 2013.  That way, the event will be as non-political as possible.

Schedule a national parade on that day in Washington DC and encourage city and state leaders around the US to hold as many local parades and celebrations as they can muster.

Order the Pentagon to call up Iraqi veterans one more time, reforming as many of our service members as possible into the original units that they served with when they deployed overseas.

These people served side-by-side, watching each others backs.  They should celebrate side-by-side.

But sure to include a big representative sample of all our military branches, including National Guard and Reserve units.

March them together through our nation’s capital.  Put everything on hold for a day while we welcome them home, while we pause to honor their service and devotion.

This event should be — to put it bluntly — a hell of a lot of fun.  Yes we should acknowledge the painful losses, the men and women who didn’t make it home.

But this would mostly be a day for ticker tape, for pageantry, for unity, and maybe even a little partying.

As things stand, we run the risk of not giving full and honorable closure to the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lives have been altered forever by the Iraq conflict.

We are letting these men and women return home in dribs and drabs, to a nation that has already turned its attention to other problems, other conflicts.

This war has exposed a lot of moral failings in our politics, in our national culture.  Let’s not add one more to the mix.

Granted, this is mostly a symbolic gesture.  But symbolism matters in war and at a time when our nation is gradually transitioning back into peacetime.

So hold a parade, Mr. President.  Make it a big one, with all the trimmings.  Bring them home in style.

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29 Comments on “We need a parade, Mr. President”

  1. Jim Bullard says:

    I second that.

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  2. knuckleheadedliberal says:


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  3. oa says:

    “This event should be — to put it bluntly — a hell of a lot of fun.”
    Kinda sick. We never should have gone there in the first place. I’m all for celebrating the sacrifices of our troops, but I think celebrating the needless deaths of 5,000 US soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis in a war we were lied into is, well, just wrong.
    How about finding a way to guarantee employment for the troops for the first two years after they return, instead? Lots of bridges to rebuild, schools to upgrade, flood damage to fix. Tell them we appreciate them by giving them some security. Lasts longer than a parade.

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  4. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    oa, the war in Iraq was a stupid, senseless, wasteful idea. I spent many hours protesting the war. I was among the millions who tried in vain to stop the Bush administration and the neocons in their inexorable march to war. It was wrong in every way.

    None-the-less people need closure. The war is a wound on our collective psyche that needs to be healed or it will fester like Viet Nam did. The festering wound of Viet Nam led to the War in Iraq. Let’s attempt to stop the cycle.

    If a parade and day of celebration will help do that I’m all for it.

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  5. trek says:

    My oldest brother is a Viet Nam vet, and when he returned home in the late 60’s, there was no fanfare or honor or parades. My niece served 2yrs. in Iraq, in recent times, and returned home quietly, but she was comforted by many “welcome home” greetings from family and friends. Today’s vet does get acknowledged through post service support and honor. Wars and killing shouldn’t be a big celebration. We honor men and women for their sacrifices and service all year long, but of course on Veteran’s Day, and sadly, Memorial Day.

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  6. PNElba says:

    I can easily imagine the criticism from the right when Obama holds a parade. I’m with OA, let’s do something that actually helps the vets as they are released from the military.

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  7. Mervel says:

    I think it is a great idea it seals the deal and I think it would be more than symbolic. The reason is once you formally do something like that; I think it lessens the chance of a future president going back in there.

    If I were Obama I would rally push the Republican candidates on their view of going back into Iraq, would they do it now?

    We do need a celebration if nothing else to celebrate that the dam thing is over, for good!

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  8. Mervel says:

    I think if you kind of slink slowly out of a place it is easy to kind of ease right back into a place. By putting a period on this thing by saying the war is over; it would mean that to go in again you would have to be starting a NEW war, versus increasing our presence in Iraq at the request of the government of Iraq in response to new threats and violence, which I could see happening in the next year.

    But this all goes back to the essentially unconstitutional way that we are now waging all of our wars. If this was a real war Congress would have formally declared war on the the country of Iraq and at the end of that war we would sign a peace treaty with the new government that Congress would ratify.

    Paul is right about that we have just ignored our own constitution to our own detriment.

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  9. Paul says:

    “the needless deaths of 5,000 US soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis in a war we were lied into”

    I don’t have an opinion about a parade but oa these things that you think might disqualify a celebration are not the fault of the men and woman who gave it their all in Iraq.

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  10. oa says:

    Exactly, Paul. And I never said that it was their fault. It was expressly NOT THEIR FAULT that they were sent there because of lies. I want them to have jobs and treatment for PTSD, not a party. I remember the parades in NY after the first Gulf War. It made war seem hep and fun, rather than necessary and a last resort. Those parades were no help in helping us make a decision about Iraq 10 years later.

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  11. Mervel says:

    I would go farther, we excelled in Iraq militarily, we conquered an army that Iran couldn’t defeat in 7 years in one month. There is nothing wrong with celebrating military victory in Iraq, which it was, it was an astounding military victory. I mean having a parade and saying well you guys did the best you could even though we all know it was a failure is false praise and kind of like getting the sportsmanship award.

    That is different from saying that we then needed to stay for 10 years trying to fight a civil war and occupy a country and build a country in some image we have of a country etc. We one the war and failed the occupation and the nation building.

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  12. Paul says:

    “It was expressly NOT THEIR FAULT”

    True, so why should the country not celebrate their accomplishments as Brian describes?

    If you think celebrating those accomplishments is “kinda sick” as you describe than you are clearly linking the two things together. This is exactly what happened to the returning vets from Vietnam.

    I think this may be part of why Brain thinks it is a good idea.

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  13. TomL says:

    A national day of mourning and prayer would be more appropriate, with a solemn recognition of the sacrifices of those who fought and their families, and a vow to continue to support them.

    A celebration? What the hell for? What did we accomplish? Yes, Saddam Hussein was deposed, right at the beginning of the war. Not necessary, in my opinion, but it was at least an accomplishment of a war aim.

    What about the rest of the years of war? The thousands of lives, the billions of dollars, the lost civil liberties? Is Iraq now peaceful? Is Iraq democratic? Are people in Iraq better of than before the war economically? Is the US safer? Is the US better off economically? In my opinion the answer to each of these questions is a clear NO.

    A celebration would be delusional. The rest of the world would look upon it in horror or derision. I am sorry for the troops who served and their families, and I am sorry for the people of Iraq. We must recognize our responsibility for their suffering, and do all we can to make their lives better and make amends. But a celebration would only exist to make those of us who didn’t serve or sacrifice feel good about ourselves. It would be phony, and it would be immoral.

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  14. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    Two reasons to have a parade

    1. To celebrate and honor those who served, especially those who suffered and those who died.

    2. To celebrate the fact that it has ended( For us, anyway). When I see all those black and white photos of troops and civilians celebrating VE and VJ Days, I know it was 5% “We won!”, and 95% “Thank God, it’s over!” (no religious message intended here).

    I was a little kid, in my camp dining hall during, I guess, the summer of ’53, when one of the directors came in, hushed us, and said, “They stopped killing our kids in Korea today.”
    We celebrated.
    A victory.
    Of peace.

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  15. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I agree that the word “celebrate” may not be the best to use in this context. It certainly could be interpreted as delusional or any number of other descriptives.

    I also agree that we should be working harder to care for the physical and mental health of the service members who return from war. We should be trying hard to find them meaningful work or provide them opportunities for higher education.

    And I recognize that our role in Iraq wont be over for many years, just as it still isn’t over in Europe or Asia after WW2 or Korea or Yugoslavia, or…

    Still, I think humans have an innate need for ritual to be performed at beginnings and endings. Without a ritual of some sort the we wont have a sense of being finished. We need that.

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  16. Peter Hahn says:

    They may be trying to avoid a “mission accomplished”

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  17. Mervel says:

    Or they may not want to have a parade because the war is not really over and they know it.

    WWII was much more horrible than the Iraq war and occupation, the parades we had then were not about celebrating the killing; but about celebrating not having to kill people anymore.

    Because we now have an unconstitutional way of making war; maybe the concept of saying a war is won or lost or “over” is not relevant because none of these wars are ever really over because they never really started, Congress never declared war on Iraq.

    I really believe having a celebration that this war is over is important for that reason, I think it feels weird not because of the horrors of war but because we never had a constitutional war to start with.

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  18. Mervel says:

    Hopefully if nothing else the candidacy of Ron Paul will continue to bring to light the importance of our constitution particularly in waging war.

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  19. Paul says:

    “I think it feels weird not because of the horrors of war but because we never had a constitutional war to start with”

    Mervel, give it up. That is beating a pretty dead horse.

    The supreme court has ruled on this. Congress authorized the war anyway.

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  20. erb says:

    Sorry, this is not Vietnam. The soldiers each made a choice to sign up for this war, so yes, it is their fault. I believe wholeheartedly that most served honorably and bravely; however, we can not celebrate their service without celebrating the war. This war was unnecessary, costly beyond belief, and ultimately may have been the episode that future historians will point to as the stress that fractured American society.

    And the war is not over. People are still fighting and dying in Iraq, and although fewer of them are US soldiers there are still thousands of mercenaries staying behind.

    Most shameful of all, our jingoistic involvement in the war normalized torture by Americans for the first time. We as a nation became numbed to images from Abu Ghirab. Obama completed the assault on individual rights by signing the NDAA on December 31st to allow indefinite detention of US citzens without charge.

    No, I do not want to celebrate.

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  21. erb says:

    Here’s a thought experiment: would you be keen on seeing a parade for the Baathist soldiers who fought to protect their invaded homeland? Certainly many of them served honorably and sacrificed greatly. What if they had succeeded in the unimaginable and repelled the US forces? Would you have fellow feeling in witnessing their well-earned victory parade?

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  22. Paul says:

    “ultimately may have been the episode that future historians will point to as the stress that fractured American society”

    If it was we were never very solid in the first place. But it will not.

    erb, history has shown us to be much stronger than you give the nation credit.

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  23. Erb says:

    Paul, you are right that the US will endure, but I’m not convinced it will look much like the beautiful vision we all hold in our minds of freedom and integrity. The surplus of the 90’s was wasted in eight years of war, setting the stage for the economic uncertainty we all feel today. The excesses of war – mercenary armies, inhumane treatment, “collateral damage” – are now sanctioned and codified. And, sadly, the suffering of vets is once again shoved under the rug.

    To be clear, the Iraq War is only part of the War on Terror, under which title some of the more egregious abridgements of human rights are taking place (process-free summary executions by drones, for instance.) However, it may have been difficult to maintain enthusiasm for the War on Terror over eight years if we did not regularly see American soldiers in the line of fire.

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  24. Paul says:

    “The excesses of war – mercenary armies, inhumane treatment, “collateral damage” – are now sanctioned and codified.”

    Again I don’t think this anything new? Did you ever see what went on the POW camps on both sides during the Civil War, all sanctioned by both sides governments?

    Believe it or not things have greatly improved. Even if you compare it to the allies in WWII. There were many stories of abuse of prisoners that were never written because the “prisoners” never made it to the prison.

    The 24 news cycle and access to events in real time has altered our view of the world. It has always been bad and in the past I think it was much much worse we just never had access.

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  25. erb says:

    The NDAA is something new in American legislation. In other words, nasty things may have happened in the past, but they were not written into law. Indefinite detention without charges undermines the Bill of Rights, the heart of our constitution.

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  26. Two Cents says:

    Memorial Day and Veterans Day serve this purpose, Nationally, and that is correct. Any other celebrations could be entertained at Military Bases, Cities, Towns, etc.. Main street America can pay their respects in many waYs.
    Holding a National “Victory in the Middle East Day” is a little too “na na nana, we beat you” for me.
    Humility and humbleness should prevail, besides i’d bet the Vets would like the recognition of thanks in a little more sublte way- Health Care, Employment, and a plain but honest “thank you” would probably be much more appreciated, imho

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  27. Mervel says:

    There is a difference between a celebration and a Victory day.

    I think it would play a big role in cementing the fact that we are GONE from Iraq the war is over. The fact is our army won we destroyed them in three weeks and it was a brutal thing as all war is, something needs to be a little more formal though about us totally ending this war. We should have had the parade 7 years ago, Bush was right about one thing, Mission was accomplished back then and we should have left, the results would have been the same. But that is neither here nor there it is not the fault of the military that they were asked to be nation builders etc. A mission they are not designed for.

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  28. Paul says:

    “Indefinite detention without charges undermines the Bill of Rights, the heart of our constitution.”

    erb, I am not sure that you are reading this act properly.

    Note the following from the 2012 NDAA where they refer to detention:

    “”Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”

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  29. erb says:

    Well, I am not a lawyer so I am going by what others have said about the NDAA. I recommend Glenn Greenwald’s several in depth blog posts on this topic.

    The NDAA reaffirms the power of military detention under the AUMF of 2001 including, “detention without trial until the end of hostilities.” Section 1022 seems to imply that US citizens on US soil MAY be held in military detention: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under
    this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” The key word here is ‘requirement.’

    In reference to the passage from 1021 you quoted, questions have been raised as to whether it is the citizenship or the fact that one is arrested on US soil that is the deciding factor. There seems to be a lot of debate about this; here’s a short take on the ambiguity of the language in this section. http://www.lawfareblog.com/2011/12/the-conference-version-of-the-ndaa-lingering-ambiguity-as-to-citizens/)

    At the very least, the limitations of this statute are not crystal clear on whether US citizens are “covered persons.” Given the fact that concerns were raised loudly by civil rights watchers and attempts to address these concerns (http://publicrecordmedia.com/2011/12/ndaa-and-the-feinstein-fix/) were not allowed into the final bill, the lack of clarity seems intentional.

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