McGovern on war and peace

It seems to me that George McGovern would know something about war and peace. He’s seen both and remains a strong advocate for the latter.

I covered McGovern’s speech at the 2010 McGovern Conference Monday afternoon at Dakota Wesleyan University. Although the conference was themed to the topic of alternative energy, the former congressman and senator was in a mood to talk history and the military.

The old World War II bomber pilot said he favored withdrawing our forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and closing most military bases around the world. He also called for a $200 billion reduction in military spending.

McGovern, who celebrated his 88th birthday with a skydive this summer, said he feels the American military presence causes some of the hard feelings and hatred people feel for our country. He compared it with the early American patriots’ dislike for British troops stationed in the colonies.

McGovern also talked about his new autobiography, which he said will be out in the spring. He brought two chapters of it with him and looked at it from time to time during his admittedly “rambling” speech. He said he writes every word of books because he doesn’t trust anyone else to get the words straight.

McGovern did touch on energy at one point and he worked it into his personal story and his thoughts on war. He said a German leader once said he knew they would lose World War II when he saw Nazi tanks so low on fuel that they were being pulled by horses.

And he said the German fuel shortage was a relief for pilots like him, who rarely saw enemy aircraft in the closing months of the war. McGovern said the Allies added to the Nazi’s pain, since they made fuel depots their top target.

My McGovern story is all over newspaper websites in the state and some people have been commenting that they feel McGovern doesn’t support or understand soldiers or war. It seems like he has had a front-row seat to it, so his words are worth hearing.

Here’s the full story from Monday’s speech:

12 thoughts on “McGovern on war and peace

  1. Sorry Tom, the world is a wolf in sheeps clothing trying to get the shepard to lay down his gun. Of course there is animosity and hatred, everyone wants to have power. I put my faith in the USA and its outstanding voluntary troops to keep watch. Would you feel better if Iran became THE super power? Russia? China? The French? Love us or hate us, we are the only country with the hope of the world to do the best job of being even remotely fair.

  2. Further more, I would much rather have our tax dollars go towards one of the most justifiable roles the Feds have in protecting this country. It comes way ahead of feeding us, clothing us, housing us and even educating, transporting etc as none of the later is possible if we are not free and in charge of our own destiny. With all due respect for George who is a true war hero, he needs to let history move forward with all the facts and less rhetoric.

  3. right on George- the conscience of the humanitarian community- say what you want about our military- it is the politicians that put these guys in harms way- any side you are on!!!- Those who have so deserveably served turn out like George, or my uncle- not liking war or trying to justify it either. Some Americans need to step back a bit to get some impartial viewpoints in this discussion- 30% of that national deficit belongs to the military and it is time to cut our losses- and by the way in my book social programs- helping the needy, educating our public comes first not last. So go ahead now you can attack another American and spread your narrow minded political agenda with no substantial basis for support.

  4. We need a strong military defense. No argument. And thanks to our forces, we have that. But to pursue any and all military spending in the name of security, even when there is no evidence that it actually provides security – and worse, even when there is evidence that is endangers our security – is foolishness. It is Cheney et al using us.

    Sometimes, as McGovern could show for world hunger, humanitarian spending benefits our citizens( eg farmers) and the world and creates security through goodwill. Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea, who spoke at SDSU this month, has a book about this – a book the military itself is using.

    Our errant war in Iraq was not only a foolish political stunt and a tragic waste of life, limb and psyche, it had a huge financial cost and contributed directly to the economic crises our country is now mired in. Before we allow gray-haired military contractors and self-serving politicians to send our young people to risk their lives, we should ensure that the value of those lives is fully recognized and that they are not squandered for financial gain gotten by trumped up political causes.

  5. I am as willing to help someone in need as the next guy. Probably more so, however, lets talk of the ‘goodwill’ policy of feeding, clothing, sheltering, and protecting our own people and the people at large. Example 1: the native American reservations. A true experiment in the dependent state. They are fed, they are sheltered, they are offered education, protection, and clothing. They are offered federal jobs and all the potential for independence in the world. How is that working out for them or us as a country. There is a book by William Napier called ‘ATTILA”. It is about the the fall of Rome after 1200 years of ruling the world. It is a novel but clearly based on fact. Page 54 speaks of the civilized world providing for the less fortunate and underpriveledged as a good thing. I believe Americans feel the same, certain things are rights as an American. The young boy in the book states the following: Attila knew that his people, the nation of the Huns, would never be softly seduced and Romanized like other barbarian peoples. To the Huns, as to the boy himself-a Hun, indefatiably, to his soul-such a surrender of oneself as this daly dole, such a pitiful abdication of one’s own pride and self-reliance, would be a source of dishonor and shame unspeakable. Among the Huns, most proud and worlike of peoples, for a man not to be able to provide meat for his family, with the art and labor of his own hand and eye, would have been a humiliation scarcely endurable. In our quest for grace, I feel we are undermining the very escence of quality life and persuit of happiness. Even to the uneducated and barbarous people of western Asia 750 a.d. basic logic ruled the purpose of man. We can argue all we want about rich and poor and who deserves what, but take away a man’s purpose and life loses its honor. People that expect to be provided for and the culture that has come along with it is going to be the downfall of our country as it was the downfall of Rome after 1200 years. Example 2: USSR, social equality cannot be governed. You will always have winners and losers as you have with all animal species. Aknowledge this simple fact and the logic becomes equal. We are not all equal. Life is not fair. Let the churches of all faiths help the downtrodden and unfortunate, that is their role as non-profits. Not the government.

  6. Soldier Boy has a thoughtful and interesting post. But it is marred in my mind by his depiction of dependent Native Americans on the reservations and his belief that out government has no responsibility to these people. I despair at times that anything can change the stereotypical notion of Indians I have heard all my life from otherwise well-meaning people in SD. But maybe he can convince himself. Follow me.

    Native Americans never sought a position of dependency. They do not seek one now. Our government warred against them. What little compensation the government agreed to in treaties was routinely ignored or changed whenever convenient – as in taking back the Black Hills after gold was discovered. Disputed treaties languish in the legal system. Where they had land, projects like Pick-Sloan devastated it. Historian Michael Lawson noted that the Missouri Sioux, “were forced, in violation of their treaty rights and without prior consultation, to relinquish their best land and resources, to evacuate their homes and ranches in the wooded bottomlands along the Missouri River, and to take up new homes on the marginal prairie lands that remained within their reservations. Hence, the disruption of their way of life was more severe than is usually the case with people displaced by public works projects.” (from Dammed Indians.) Today, rights such as HEALTH CARE, guaranteed by treaty, are only partially funded. The Indian Health Care Authorization Act sat before Congress for the last 10 years before being included in the Affordable Care Act. Now we have a Congresswoman who wants to repeal the Act (although she says she would exempt the IHCAA.) Despite an epidemic of complicated diabetes (resulting in part from the free commodity FOOD we gave them) and a youth suicide epidemic, there is no appropriate provision of preventive care and mental health services. SHELTER – too many homes are overcrowded, and have no electricity. Lack of plumbing has resulted in a waiting list of 900 homes in Eagle Butte that cannot be built until there is water service. Only now are projects to bring clean running water to all areas of the reservation being realized. Again, funding for infrastructure we take for granted has not been available for Native Americans. FEDERAL JOBS -the unemployment rate is over 80%. PROTECTION – US Atty Johnson is addressing this; otherwise the usual jurisdictional turf battles ensue and crime victims fall through the cracks. EDUCATION – we started by taking children from their families and sending them to residential schools (run by the churches SB wants to help the downtrodden), where they were isolated from their culture, and frequently beaten and sexually abused. These policies had consequences that affect lives today. The destruction of their way of life, the fabric of their society, and the integrity of their very families has resulted in serious problems which are exacerbated by substance abuse, poverty, isolation, racism, inadequate resources, and general neglect.

    Soldier boy quotes:
    –Among the Huns, most proud and worlike of peoples, for a man not to be able to provide meat for his family, with the art and labor of his own hand and eye, would have been a humiliation scarcely endurable… We can argue all we want about rich and poor and who deserves what, but take away a man’s purpose and life loses its honor. —

    This is exactly what we did to the Native Americans. We have reneged on our treaties and short-changed their compensation agreements. We have deprived them of the resources they need to succeed in overcoming the poverty we created for them. And our failure to remedy this by adequately addressing the problem, not just window dressing it, shames our state and our country.

    And yet there are so many hard-working and dedicated people who are bringing about hope and change. The stories showcased in the recent Argus Leader series are alternately painful and joyous. Recognizing the truth about how these people have been treated, realizing that these problems cannot be simply or quickly solved, and sharing in the struggle to move forward would benefit all of us.

  7. That was then, this is now. Even if you were to come up with a dollar amount of what the Native American people have lost, the point is similar to what we see with people that win the lotery. Meaning the point and purpose to life is not the end results of the work we do rather the work itself. I agree, the indians got a raw deal. That does nothing for their future. I have worked on the res and it is very sad. All people need a purpose and to say that is all the white mans fault may even be 100% true but it was still a hundred years ago. While the argument goes on and on and on, the fact remains that the children born on the reservation today have a poor and difficult struggle ahead of them. So while we argue, their plight worsens with each passing year. How do you get pride back? Do you think a big check is going to suddenly make a people prideful? Look at how other natives have been treated in other countries such as South America. How are the Aztecs and Incas doing? Oh thats right, there are none. That is sad as well. How does Mexico do? Fact is, the subsistence todays American Indian receives could all go away if this country fails. We need the Native People to accept our apology for the acts of our leaders but many of us were peasants in our own countries of origin and came to this country for an oportunity to do better. That same oportunity still exists today for them, they simply need to decide if they want to continue to argue over the past with a chance at winning the lotery in the future or do something for their kids today and move on with gaurunteed success of a better life for future generations. Life is not fair, ask my grandpa, he was kicked out of the house in Holland at age 13 with an 8th grade education. That doesn’t seem fair but his decision to make a better life then has paid off for his kids and grandkids and know his great grandchildren. Just because we are wronged in the past doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility towards our own future.

  8. It has been going on for a lot longer than 100 years. And It is still going on today. See the examples in my post.

    re: Your quote:
    many of us were peasants in our own countries of origin and came to this country for an oportunity to do better. –

    Does it not strike you as ironic that your peasant ancestors were able to come to America and do better in large part by being given free land that had been cheated away from the Native Americans. That statement is exceeded only by your assertion that the Native American people should be somehow grateful to us for not entirely exterminating them.

    I think the answer is to look at the situation objectively, to acknowledge what the government has done, and to go forward with solutions which have to include addressing reparations and then providing opportunities for change.

  9. what a fine mess you have gotten us into in this blog soldier bubba- what benefits have you received because we have a Judeo-Christian humanitarian based philosophy here in America?? Free education- oh well; how about cheap food due to federal farm policies; police and fire protection; reasonable affordable housing; good clothing.

    Maybe I’d be more interested in your credentials if I knew what it is you have exactly done for the less fortunate native or non-native rather than your cheap rants.

    When the budget comes up in this so-called conservative new congress let’s see if they have it- cut the defense budget by 10%, cap the ag-subsidies to a reciepient getting only a max of $250,000- no more big draws; and let’s see if the bankrupt republicans of South Dakota can cut the budget also- you see it’s not limited to just one party either!!

  10. Pasque and soldier boy, Thank you for the best, longest and most reasonable discussion from polar opposite positons without name calling. I agree with various points on both sides and am better educated for it. Ron, please lose the name calling as it is very tedious and defeats any point you try to make.

  11. hennepin- you may be right you little honyocker- seems to me we’ve eudured your tiredes too and name calling- just look at one of your previous posts??

  12. Thanks Hennepin. This is why I am here. And thanks to soldier boy for his comments. I may disagree with him but I appreciate his willingness to engage in a dialogue with me. There is food for thought for me too.

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