Here are the remarks given by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D–Hawaii, at the Makawao Veterans Cemetery on Memorial Day. A major in the Hawaii Army National Guard and Iraq War veteran, Gabbard spoke of the uselessness of of a nation that promises to “support the troops” while sending them off to fight in stupid, imperialist wars. They’re a wise counterpoint to the imperial power projection that has long made up American foreign policy.
The remarks are reprinted below the link to a video clip of Gabbard’s speech:
Aloha. Thank you for being here at this very special place to honor the 150th observance of Memorial Day. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be with you today.
Memorial Day is a day where we as a nation mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. Courageous heroes who sacrificed all in the service of our country.
Memorial Day reminds us of the cost of war; that when we go to battle, not everyone comes home.
58,220 Americans died in Vietnam. 4,491 Americans died in the Iraq War. 2,345 Americans died in Afghanistan. More lives lost in Libya, Syria, and other parts of the world. Millions came home with wounds both seen and unseen.
Those numbers are not just statistics—behind those numbers are the names and faces of our friends, our family. They are our heroes, who showed courage, strength, and selfless service, putting service before self and paying the ultimate price.
Today, we honor them. We remember our friends. We think about the time we spent with them, laughed with them. But it is not enough to honor their sacrifice once a year, for a few hours, on Memorial Day. We must honor them and their sacrifice every day.
How do we do this? By making sure that current and future generations are not sent into harm’s way unnecessarily. By making sure the missions they are sent on are worthy of their great sacrifice. By ensuring our nation’s leaders do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
As veterans and service members, we know that sometimes our military must be deployed to defeat those who seek to do us harm, like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Our nation’s sons and daughters stand ready to serve, at a moment’s notice, to courageously carry out those missions.
Yet, talk to any veteran, and you will recognize that not one appreciates peace more than those who have seen war firsthand.
Our nation and its leaders have a responsibility to honor the courage of our troops by exercising courage of their own.
It takes courage to exercise leadership and good judgment. It takes courage for our nation’s leaders to make the decision about when and where our military power may be necessary to keep the American people safe, and just as importantly, when not to use that military power. It takes courage to choose peace over war.
I was doing grocery shopping the other day, when I was approached by a Vietnam veteran and his wife. As I thanked them for their service, and wished them well this weekend, the veteran told me he doesn’t go to Memorial Day ceremonies anymore because he’s sick and tired of hearing empty words from politicians, who say we must honor our fallen heroes, and in their next breath, call for more counterproductive regime change wars which are not in our nation’s best interest.
Sadly, he’s right.
We owe it to our fallen comrades, our fellow veterans, and our nation to be wise about how we use our military power. It is not wise to use our military might to be the policeman of the world, attempting to overthrow secular dictators.
As we speak, there are some in our country who are calling for an escalation of the counterproductive regime change war in Syria by implementing a so-called no-fly zone, an action that President Obama and the Pentagon strongly oppose. They oppose it because it would cost billions of dollars, require tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of ground troops, and a massive U.S. air presence. The first action to implement a no-fly zone would be to bomb Russian and Syrian anti-aircraft defense systems, leading us into a direct, violent confrontation between the world’s two nuclear powers—the United States and Russia.
We have lost too many of our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in these counterproductive interventionist wars. We owe it to those we’ve lost, and those who have followed in their footsteps, to learn from the mistakes of the past, and not repeat them in the future.
Let us remember our friends, our family, our nation’s heroes, by being grateful for all that we have, honoring their memory, and by taking action. Forging ahead, making them proud, making sure that their sacrifice was not in vain. Let us be inspired by their example, and show through our actions, every day, that they will never be forgotten.
Photo and video courtesy Rep. Gabbard’s office