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Over There With George M. Cohan

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Posted on Jul 6, 2011
U.S. Navy / MC2 Mark Logico

By Richard Reeves

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.—This prosperous enclave on the cliff overlooking Santa Monica Bay has many virtues, and one of the big ones is a great hometown Fourth of July parade.

For more than three hours, folks sit on the curbs or on lawn chairs and watch America go by. Bands and Boy Scouts, firemen and bagpipers, veterans from half a dozen wars, politicians, beginning with the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, and more flags than you can count, most of them probably made in China. There was even a young man walking the streets passing out "Muslims for Peace" brochures. Sugar Ray Leonard was honorary mayor.

You go away humming and drumming. And then I realized what I was happily humming: the song George M. Cohan wrote in 1917 as American troops headed for the latest and biggest outbreak of world war in Europe:

"Over there, over there,

"Send the word, send the word over there


Square, Site wide
"That the Yanks are coming,

"The Yanks are coming,

"The drums rum-tumming


"So prepare, say a pray’r,

"Send the word, send the word to beware.

"We’ll be over, we’re coming over,

"And we won’t come back till it’s over

"Over there."

Then it occurred to me that it’s never going to be over, over there. We’re never coming back. We have more than 250,000 volunteer soldiers, sailors and airmen scattered (too thin) all over the globe. By numbers, the largest contingent is in Afghanistan, 103,700, and in Iraq, 85,600. In Germany are 52,440; in Japan, 35,000; in Korea, 28,599; in Italy, 9,660; and 9,015 in Great Britain. Another 20,000 or so are at sea.

Then we have almost 3 million active duty troops and reservists at home. It is a lot of power, and our intentions are usually pretty good, if not always very smart. Most of our thinking is based on the idea that all people want to be like us. Actually, they want to be themselves and those hopes were often frustrated by British colonialists who drew lines creating countries filled with people they had never seen. Many of today’s wars are among people trying to break free of those borders and define themselves—usually through civil war or terrorism.

As often as not, hearing the far guns, the Yanks come to help them do it our way. And we get away with it, usually, because we have half the military power and equipment and innovation in the world. Yes, the Chinese are catching on or up, but their rise will take a while. Unfortunately, all that power is generally ineffective over time as the locals duke it out, taking all the American material that’s possible and ignoring the Americans on the ground as much as possible. That is what superpower means. The British tried it in the 19th century, and they were better at it than we are—but in the end, they still lost, and they went home before it was over over there.

Now, over here, much of our national needs, what we call "nation building" overseas, are in great need of help. But money is fungible, and the government is under pressure to reduce spending in what are deeply hard times for many Americans. They could use some of the money being skimmed off by the bandit-leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq and places with lesser problems over there. But we are caught in a familiar modern American dilemma. The country has a liberal Democratic president who, like many of his predecessors, has to prove he’s tough. That’s why he was so hawkish on Afghanistan during the 2008 campaign. Most Republicans, but not all, think like Ronald Reagan, who often said that the federal budget should give the military what it wants—and then start thinking about other things.

Partly because of that, we have reached the point where we may have to give ourselves what we need and then see what else we can do. George M. Cohan was a wonderful patriotic songwriter, but no one ever suggested he should run the country.

© 2011 Universal Uclick

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, July 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

How convenient it is that the majority of our fighting age men and women have been strategically removed from American soil and scattered throughout the globe pursuing these fictitious wars; totally incapable of lending their skills should they be needed to help defend their homes and parents from the army of the globalist bankers; the United Nations ...... meanwhile, we have thousands of foreign troops stationed here under the guise of “training”, who are more than willing to buy into the UN party line and help to quell any potential insurrection to restore our Republic. It all fits so nicely.

Meanwhile, the ball games abound and Dancing with the Stars and American Idol continue to hold Americans’ attention. Another round of Kool-Aid for the audience.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, July 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

Endless war for profit at the sacrifice of the common population.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, July 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment

If Americans didn’t volunteer to be in the Military Welfare Complex….............well then, we wouldn’t be having conversations about the trillions spent killing innocents to justify our “exceptional” empire.

Unfortunately, the wealthy in this country have made life in the military one of the only good jobs programs available. Oh, and we all get to pay for it…........

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By question, July 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

George M. Cohan was a patriotic citizen with a talent for writing great music about ONE war, which was predicted to end all wars.  He wasn’t a sleazy politician charged with crafting foreign policy ostensibly for the security of America thinly disguised when it is actually resource grabbing & profit making for corporate overlords.  “Yankee Doodle” ain’t what it used to be.

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By frecklefever, July 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment


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By James P. Levy, July 8, 2011 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My only real complaint about this article is the perpetuation of the fiction that Obama is a liberal. This is demonstrably nonsense (ask Assange, Manning, the inhabitants of his Bagram hell-hole, or the people he’s executing by executive fiat in half a dozen countries).

If Obama was a liberal, the rich would be paying for their Commodified Debt Obligation and Credit Default Swap speculative shenanigans, and he would have pushed through (or at least tried) single-payer Medicare for All (a system that both Truman and LBJ wanted but never had the juice to get). We would be out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the disengagement from our Empire of Bases would be in full swing.

Obama is a Clinton-style DLC neoliberal, with the same lack of courage and conviction. Unless you want to move the goal posts about 40 yards, and totally redefine the meaning of the word liberal, Obama just isn’t one.

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By Fibonnaci65, July 7, 2011 at 4:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“liberal Democratic President”—LOL!  George M. Cohan IS running the country, merely songs, speeches and slogans make up this White House, not much else.

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Billy Pilgrim's avatar

By Billy Pilgrim, July 7, 2011 at 4:18 am Link to this comment

The best quote from the shrub junta: “We’re an empire

Dishonorable mention from Darth Vader Dick: “Deficits
don’t matter”.

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