GOP silent on purging the battlefields


“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” — George Orwell, “1984”

I HAD THE IMPRESSION during my time on Capitol Hill, a supposed center of representative government, that there was much that went on of which only one or two people were aware — and I mean important things meant to change the historical record.

One experience always comes to mind. It was a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (Joe Biden was there, not much more cogent than he is now.) A couple of farmers from El Salvador were testifying in Spanish supposedly in favor of a bill to withhold aid until Communist demands there were met.

A policy aide at the hearing who spoke Spanish whispered that the farmers weren’t saying what they were supposed to say. They were saying instead that they wanted the aid to continue so they could plant that year’s crop.

Later, the entry in the Congressional Record was checked and the testimony had been changed to support the bill — an official lie. My friend pointed this out to Richard Lugar who said in effect, forget it. The Democrats would merely bring in more El Salvadorian farmers at taxpayer expense to deliver the “correct” testimony. At that point it became an official, bipartisan lie.

That’s the deal in Washington. It’s why Republicans always lose. Democrats believe in their issues and are unabashedly willing to push them through no matter what, and as often as it takes. Republicans give up on the first roll call and retire to a self-satisfied happy hour at the Capitol Grille.

That is not fair to individual congressmen but it is the impression.

Another example crossed my desk last week. The U.S. House passed one of those omnibus monsters, this one ostensibly to fund the Department of State for the coming year but also foreign operations, agriculture, rural development, interior, environment, military construction and veterans affairs. Buried near the bottom was this sentence:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law or policy to the contrary, within 180 days of enactment of this Act, the National Park Service shall remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques.”

To my knowledge, no member of Indiana’s congressional delegation warned us about this, perhaps for fear of being labeled, although absurdly, a Confederate sympathizer. Or maybe they are just counting on the Senate to quietly clean things up. In any case, nobody has been forced to defend that sentence or even admit authorship.

So we’ll have to tell you what it means.

A visit to any of the nation’s Civil War battlefields will be rendered nonsensical. There will be no indication of Confederate movements and deployment. You won’t be able to imagine Stonewall Jackson under heavy Union assault on Henry House Hill or his maneuver during the Valley Campaign. You will be looking at simple fields, fence rows and tree lines — nothing more.

Who thinks that’s a good idea? The same people who adulterate testimony taken under oath, people determined to subvert honest democratic discussion to dictate policy and morality to the rest of us.

But who thinks it’s a bad idea? Nobody knows. Again, there have been no Republican objections to this section, although it is assumed all voted against passage of the larger Democrat-inflated appropriations.

The voice of sanity on this issue comes oddly enough from the New York Times. Elliott Ackerman, a combat veteran now a columnist for the Times, recently wrote: “An area of our complex past that should be left untouched are battlefields. Blood consecrates a battlefield, and it is never the blood of only one side.”

But nothing in Washington is so sacred it can’t be touched by someone, usually someone nameless.

Craig Ladwig is editor of the quarterly Indiana Policy Review. Send comments to awoods@

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