The celebration of the seventieth anniversary of D-Day on Friday June 6 at Normandy was very interesting and significant. Scores of World War II veterans from the US, Britain, Canada and elsewhere graced the solemn ceremony. We expect a fewer number of WWII veterans will show up at Normandy next June before the whole bunch of these brave heroes leaves this world forever. The seventieth celebration of the ‘Longest Day’ in modern history — which signalled the beginning of the end of Nazism by liberating France — was very interesting and significant this year because the world witnessed some dramatics performed by Presidents Obama, Putin, Hollande and President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. Although Putin’s presence was embarrassing for many, including Putin himself, he had to be there to represent Russia, which played the decisive role in the defeat of Hitler. I am not going to discuss here how embarrassing it could be for President Hollande to host some of his mutually estranged guests at the solemn ceremony of the D-Day celebration. Hollande made Obama and Putin sit at the same table, which eventually made the two estranged leaders informally talk to each other, mostly on Ukraine. The congregation also made Putin and Poroshenko exchange pleasantries with each other, which will possibly make some headway towards a meaningful dialogue between Russia and Ukraine to resolve their differences over Crimea and pro-Russian secessionist movements in southeastern Ukraine. One has, however, no reason to believe that the Obama-Putin chance meeting will lead to any rapprochement between Russia and America. In the backdrop of the growing Russophobia in the US, or which could be a reflection of Washington’s not-so-hidden desire to resuscitate the Cold War, Russia is not going to be readmitted into the G-8 in the foreseeable future.
So far so good! However, what is very disturbing, though not totally surprising to this writer, was Obama’s hyperbolic speech at the D-Day celebration, which was full of exuberant balderdash and signified only one thing, that this recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize is not that different from other US presidents. He had to glorify the US’s military machine, although he is (possibly) not another warmonger like most of his predecessors. Yet, his speech was disappointingly unwarranted, and deceptively an endorsement of what Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld did by their barbaric invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which virtually destroyed those countries and killed more than a million innocent civilians. Obama surprised us all. One has no qualms about his hailing WWII veterans who changed the course of history by storming the beaches, cities, towns and hamlets of Nazi-occupied France and liberated the country from Nazi occupation. However, one wonders if Obama had to compare “this generation of Americans — our men and women of war — [who] have chosen to do their part as well” with the war heroes of WWII. What was most distressing was the way the President compared the WWII veterans with “the new generation of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”. He glorified the American Iraq-Afghan veterans as “the 9/11 Generation”. His balderdash did not end there. He further added: “And someday, future generations, whether 70 or 100 years hence, will gather at places like this to honour them.” In the backdrop of Obama’s track record ever since his opposition to the unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003 in the Senate, unlike many Democrat senators including Hillary Clinton, one may assume that he possibly did not mean what he said at Normandy last Friday. He possibly does not believe those who liberated France from the clutches of the barbaric and brutal Nazi invaders could ever be compared with the brutal and barbaric American soldiers who killed tens of thousands of innocent and unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan — women, the elderly and children — destroyed the infrastructure and superstructure of those countries, and dishonoured people across the board. He definitely knows that what he delivered at Normandy this time was all gibberish. We have reason to believe that Obama knows the world in the coming years is not going to honour the US’s Iraq-Afghan veterans. He knows that while the world holds the WWII veterans in the highest regard as heroes, it does not consider mindless killers and marauders — the so-called “9/11 Generation” — worth-remembering at all.
He possibly knows that we know under what circumstances he has to defend the US’s mighty war machine, which virtually runs the country. In view of this, we can at most pity the president of the most powerful nation on earth, who is again, not the most powerful president in the world. In view of Obama’s volte-face — as a Senator he opposed the Iraq invasion, and soon after his election he promised peace and justice for all — it seems the US’s ‘Military-Industrial Complex’ is still calling the shots; another Cold War is in the offing; and in the coming years, the world is going to be a more dangerous place than today and durable and just peace will remain as elusive as ever. It is, however, heartening that Obama’s so-called “9/11 Generation” (an odd euphemism for jingoistic Americans) is no longer stubbornly supporting the US’s foreign policy, which is mostly about invading countries in the name of defending the vague and open-ended concept of ‘freedom’ at home and abroad. Young and old Americans are taking more interest in the findings of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden than before. They, not the ‘patriotic’ Americans, will eventually call the shots in the coming years. The sooner Obama realises this, the better.
The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee. Sage has published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War beyond Iraq and Afghanistan