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Yesterday was the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In the USA we call this Veterans Day. In the UK and Commonwealth nations it's now called Remembrance Day. Originally it was called Armistice Day. Along the Western Front -- France and Belgium -- the Allied and German generals agreed -- arbitrarily -- that the guns would finally fall silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The most famous poem of World War I, "In Flanders Field," fixed the poppy flower as the symbol of the dead Allied combatants of the war. BBC and the British Premier League of football/soccer have been wearing poppies for the past month.
At top, a newer version of the Endless Wars Memorial which eventually will be built in my hometown, Washington DC. The Afghanistan War has long since broken the USA record for longest overseas war, it's still going on, there exists no evidence that the USA and its allies will withdraw, and there is certainly no evidence that the USA-led coalition will win this war.
The last foreign power to militarily conquer and rule Afghanistan was the forces of Alexander the Great.
Not long ago, after invading Afghanistan to shore up its Soviet-friendly government, the Army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics just gave up and just marched out. The Taliban, then an anti-Soviet guerrilla force, inherited the government. Their interregnum ended when the USA, under the command of President George W. Bush, invaded Afghanistan.
I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War era. Though DC is my hometown -- I was drafted in DC -- I've never visited Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial. There are about 58,000 US military names carved on it. I don't want to see any names of guys I knew.
John Singer Sargent was a Boston painter of beautiful aristocratic women, but was invited to France by the British to paint the war. "Gassed," maybe the most famous of all war paintings, now hangs in London's Imperial War Museum. Blinded by mustard or chlorine gas, the string of blind soldiers guides itself toward the aid station (tent ropes at right).
Stanley Spencer's "Travoys" is a scene of wounded British soldiers being taken on mule-drawn stretchers to the medical station in Macedonia. It's also at the IWM in London.
The Veterans of Stupid Wars is the veterans society I founded around 1980. It was a lot funnier, more mirthful when it referred to my Vietnam War, which eventually ended. (We lost.)
Our current President Trump, the Draft-Dodger-in-Chief (he got medical deferments for bone spurs, but can no longer recall which foot), has added a flavor to American War Stew we haven't tasted for decades -- he has pretty clearly suggested that he may settle matters with North Korea with nuclear weapons.
The generation of veterans who were always selling (actually seeking donations) poppies at stores and markets have largely disappeared, so today I'll drive to Northampton, to the American Legion Hall, where there's a big jar of poppies on the bar. I don't belong to the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. But they seem to have mellowed since my day; the WW2 and Korea vets have faded away to make room for the much mellower young guys from Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Veterans of Stupid Wars, and Vleeptron, would like to thank US Army Colonel Jeffery Nance of Fort Bragg, North Caroloina (where I took Basic Training) for sentencing Bowe Berghdal to no time in prison -- and then saying not one word more about the reasons for this wholly unexpected and wildly controversial sentence. (Bergdahl had pleaded guilty to charges that carried a prison life sentence.)
But these are our wars which, apparently, will never end. It's not funny anymore. It's not even absurd anymore. We are killing and maiming our children by the thousands and will never have the political wisdom to stop.