Respectful Insolence

Vileness staining Memorial Day

This is not free speech; it’s vandalism:

ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. — Vandals burned dozens of small American flags that decorated veterans’ graves for Memorial Day and replaced many of them with hand-drawn swastikas, authorities said Monday.

Forty-six flag standards were found empty and another 33 flags were in charred tatters Sunday in the cemetery, authorities said. Swastikas drawn on paper appeared where 14 of the flags had been.

Members of the American Legion on this island off Washington’s northwest coast replaced the burned flags with new ones Sunday afternoon.

The vandals struck again on Memorial Day after a guard left at dawn, the San Juan County sheriff’s office said. This time, the vandals left 33 of the hand-drawn swastikas.

In my book, what these vandals did was little different from Reverend Fred Phelps and his crew. Actually, it’s arguably worse in at least one aspect in that it involved wanton destruction of property.

Whatever these idiots’ opinion of the war in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy, or war in general are, they would do well to remember that the veterans buried in these cemeteries, whether they were killed in action or died of old age after having served their time, they did answer their country’s call, bore the burden, and were the ones who came home in body bags or missing limbs. They do not deserve to have their graves desecrated to make a political point.

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    May 29, 2007

    Appalling.
    Non sequiter: I had to read the first line 3 times before I stopped reading it as ‘Orac’s Island’ …

  2. #2 JS
    May 29, 2007

    Just curious: What makes you think these guys were war protesters rather than neo-nazis? Scale?

    – JS

  3. #3 Ahistoricality
    May 29, 2007

    JS: I think the inference is reasonable (I’m not Orac, though, he can speak for himself) mostly because most neo-nazis in this country are hyper-patriots. There’s no tradition that I know of in neo-nazi circles involving flag desecration, but the equation of US patriotism with Naziism is something of a staple on the hard left.

    I suppose there’s always the “false flag” possibility — that it’s an act done by someone trying to get people ticked off at anti-war activists.

    There seems to be a veritable epidemic of this going on, too. I’m with Orac on this: it’s vandalism and it’s disturbing.

  4. #4 Julie Stahlhut
    May 29, 2007

    I doubt very much they were either. Sounds more like the work of a bunch of the same kind of drunken, ignorant arseholes who regularly vandalize cemeteries and other public places because their tiny little brains think it’s fun. Sad to say, there are jerks around who wouldn’t know a Nazi from a plastic flamingo but still think swastikas are a laugh riot.

  5. #5 Brock Tice
    May 29, 2007

    JS: What motivation would there be for Neo-Nazis to do this? They can put out swastika flags any time. Why put them on the graves of veterans on Memorial day? I must admit that at first I thought it was an act of Neo-Nazis, but then when I pondered on it I couldn’t figure out why they’d do it there and at that time. It was only then that I (too) concluded it was a war protest.

    I especially wonder why this was done on Orcas Island. It’s a big island, but not huge, with a small population. I’ve been there probably 10 times. Maybe for the benefit of memorial day vacationers?

  6. #6 Gray Lensman
    May 29, 2007

    I would bet it was teen-aged boys.

  7. #7 Coin
    May 29, 2007

    Given that some level of investigation seems to still be ongoing here I don’t think it’s a good idea to start jumping to conclusions about who did this or what their motivations were.

    Even without knowing those details of the incident though I think everyone can agree that it’s disgusting…

  8. #8 Snark7
    May 30, 2007

    While I resent the deed and the obvious indifference with which it was done, I also have a problem with part of Orac’s criticism.

    “…after having served their time, they did answer their country’s call, bore the burden”…

    This is simply not relevant. Relevant is: Did they committ a crime when following their “countries call” and could they have known it?
    “Just following orders” is simply not good enough an excuse and “right or wrong, my country” neither.

  9. #9 Snark7
    May 30, 2007

    While I resent the deed and the obvious indifference with which it was done, I also have a problem with part of Orac’s criticism.

    “…after having served their time, they did answer their country’s call, bore the burden”…

    This is simply not relevant. Relevant is: Did they committ a crime when following their “countries call” and could they have known it?
    “Just following orders” is simply not good enough an excuse and “right or wrong, my country” neither.

  10. #10 Snark7
    May 30, 2007

    While I resent the deed and the obvious indifference with which it was done, I also have a problem with part of Orac’s criticism.

    “…after having served their time, they did answer their country’s call, bore the burden”…

    This is simply not relevant. Relevant is: Did they committ a crime when following their “countries call” and could they have known it?
    “Just following orders” is simply not good enough an excuse and “right or wrong, my country” neither.

  11. #11 Snark7
    May 30, 2007

    Sorry about the triple-post above!

  12. #12 Skeptyk
    May 30, 2007

    I’m with Julie and Gray. Not likely to be an anti-war protest, just nasty vandalism.

    And it is more underhanded than Fred and Shirley and the rest of the Phelps Phamily cult, because Fred and the Phelps whelps are quite open, proudly public in their mean behavior. These grave-defilers are just jerks and cowards.

    Snark7 is right to point out that soldiers are morally responsible agents so the “just following orders” defense is no defense. Yet Orac is a careful writer, and in this post he was not making assumptions about whether the dead vets who are buried at Orcas Is. are or are not war criminals in any individual cases. Neither Orac or I, and probably not the vandals, know much of anything about those inviduals.

    (And patriotism is not a moral good, IMO.)

  13. #13 HCN
    May 30, 2007

    Also, since Orcas Island has several vacation rental properties and it was a long weekend… More than likely it was done by stupid teenagers who do not live on the island, and were probably “bored”.

  14. #14 spartanrider
    May 30, 2007

    Snark7
    A soldiers responsibilty is to determine if a direct order is either legal or illegal.An illegal direct order does not have to be obeyed.When the people through their government direct a soldier to go to war it is not the soldiers job to second guess the will of the people.If during a conflict they follow an illegal order they may be held responsible for their actions.We no longer slaughter the remnants of defeated armies.The United States has never held the position that the ordinary soldier of an enemy was in anyway responsible for the actions of his government.Not following legal direct orders during a conflict is the best way I know of losing your life and the lives of your fellow soldiers.At no time in history would the army of any nation ever win a battle,let alone a war following your prescription.Idealism has its place,but its not during the middle of a firefight.

  15. #15 4dbirds
    May 30, 2007

    I too question the assumption that this was done by war protesters. This whole bullcrap notion that those of us against the war are anti-soldier has to be put to rest. I’m against this war for many reason yet am a veteran, the wife of a veteran and the mother of two veterans. I smell “stupid boy trick” written all over this particular episode of vandalism.

  16. #16 Snark7
    May 31, 2007

    @spartanrider:
    This is not entirely true. If “the people” aka the government order a soldier to go to war and the war as such is illegal, according to international law, every order is by default illegal.

  17. #17 Jeff
    May 31, 2007

    Anyone who has lived in the San Juan islands knows that going to Orcas Island or Friday Harbor you will usually see a few anti-war protestors. I have never heard of any of them being violent before however.

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