Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed several pieces of bipartisan legislation concerning one of the most important demographics in our country: veterans. Among them was H.R. 873, The Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), both former Marines and Iraq War veterans, are its original cosponsors. The bill, which passed the House by voice vote, is summarized below:
This bill allows the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation to establish the National Global War on Terrorism Memorial as a commemorative work on federal land in the District of Columbia to commemorate and honor the members of the Armed Forces who served on active duty in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
Every red-blooded American loves visiting our nation’s capital, walking down the national mall on a sunny day, and honoring our veterans by walking through the memorials of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s a sobering experience, but one that all freedom loving people should take part in, because the memory of men and women who gave their lives to protect our nation must be preserved and honored forever.
That being said, I am perplexed by the hastiness of the introduction and passage of H.R. 873. It shows a lack of respect for active service members who are still fighting the war this bill seeks to memorialize. Last I checked, the Global War on Terror is not over.
There are still U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the number of which reportedly might increase in the near future. There is an ongoing fight against The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to which our military is contributing significant resources. And most importantly, the transnational threat of Radical Islamist Terrorism is constantly looming, if not intensifying.
So why is Congress already taking steps to add this war to the national memory when America’s fight against terrorism is the very antithesis of a memory? There will come a time when a towering monument dedicated in remembrance of this conflict will absolutely be necessary, but it is not in 2017. Nor will it be in 2018, 2019, or 2020. This is a generational battle between ideas rather than nation states and it will likely endure through most of our lifetimes. It is an insult to those who have served or are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq to symbolically proclaim the mission accomplished. The job is not yet done.
More appropriate measures for Congress to implement would be 1) an official declaration of war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Taliban, al-Shabaab, and any other terrorist network that seeks to dismantle the pillars of Western civilization; and 2) meaningful steps to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs so our wounded warriors, the ones who have served in the line of duty to dismantle those evil terrorist groups, can get the treatment they deserve.
We owe it to all of our veterans, past and present, to actually win the Global War on Terror before we memorialize it on the national mall. When that day comes—and it will come—I vow to be among the first to visit.
Image courtesy of The Trust for the National Mall