September 11, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
In Germany, where the two world wars largely of that nation’s doing are old history to the present generation, there is still reminder of sadness in the town platz memorials to the dead and in the rebuilt cities. Yet there is also the deliberate mindset, “die vergessenen,” rationalization that there must be the forgotten.
It is explained that remembering the fallen, say on a national Memorial Day, would mean getting into the confusion of determining who fought for Hitler (or Kaiser Wilhelm) and who went off to war for family. Instead of such a day, the once-militaristic Germans largely focus on their present belief that war is a terrible thing, and both world conflicts buried too many — countrymen, enemies, blind followers of evil. It is a lesson learned through terrible moments and the obliteration of those in the Holocaust and those on the battlefield and those who suffocated at home in the allied bombing fires of Dresden and other cities when the full might of the war industry was brought to bear.
All nations — there are no exceptions — have pushed the “wrong wars,” as if there could be “right” ones, though the Allies’ response, 1939-1945, was necessary, even allowing that joint-nation action in the 1920s and 1930s might have stopped Hitler, Japan, Italy.
After tragedy — world war, the utter waste of young, even heroic life and the snuffing of promise in such needless battle as in Vietnam and now the conflicts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria — the thought is “never again.” Yet the keepers of that memorial flame are usually politicians, “leaders” who too often are misdirected by special interest or jingoism. Many offer patriotic salute on patriotic days, but it’s back to work in 24 hours, and unlike the heavy blanket of remorse and regret and guilt that is now the fate of a country like Germany, too many politicians in too many countries are ready to war again.
There are always reasons offered — “justification” — for such re-energizing of the war machine, even in nations that contend they are the peacekeepers.
On this day in America, the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001, there are no forgotten individuals. Every victim of the terrible tragedies must be mourned forever, be they ordinary citizens or firefighters, police, volunteers. Every one who died that day or after through developed illness is a heroic victim of inhumanity. Unlike those wrong individuals who sided with the Nazis, these people must not be forgotten. But the Germans, the non-Nazi Wehrmacht forced into war, must no longer be die vergessenen. Nor must the Viet Cong fighting for their nation. Nor must any person who became a victim of the leaders’ evil that is inherent in war.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower, the great war general but also the great peace-keeper of the 1950s said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
After war, after a terrorist attack, the horrible ones should not be given the dignity of being recalled. But those who suffered should never become the forgotten. Honoring them means to truly believe in “never again” by helping those who are in great need. To fail to do so is to bring more terrorism, more war.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org This essay may be reproduced.