December 23, 2005
War is Hell
War is hell. So General Sherman said to the graduates of Michigan Military Academy in 1879. And, our politicians tell us, we are at war; that a time of war is a time of sacrifice. Over two thousand have sacrificed. Now there must be more sacrifice.
We cannot, as a country and a people, benefit from this war for it to be just. We cannot get their oil. We cannot get their money. We can only give to the Iraqi people for this war to be just.
We gave them tons of bombs for many years. We gave them economic sanctions for many years. Whatever the truths behind the impetus for our going to war, those two truths we must never forget. The Iraqi's certainly will not.
We owe the Iraqi people more sacrifice. We owe ourselves more sacrifice too. For we have lessons to learn.
For war is hell. A dastardly thing, men killing fellow men, bullets and bombs not discriminating between those who according to the laws of war should be killed and those too who should be spared but happen to be in harm's way. Perhaps a tiny bit of our own souls die with each death in this war.
There are those here at home who want to stop the war. Those who want that cannot be considered un-patriotic. Indeed, those who speak against the war are using their freedom as it is meant to be used, for the very reason why we are told that we went to war.
Just as there are in war those who are up front with guns, there are in war those who are in supply rooms, communication rooms, and kitchens. We cannot all be up front with guns in our hands.
As there are those who must be up front so too there must be those many more who stay at home to carry on their -- our -- normal lives. And so too there must be those that try to stop war. All these there must be for a country to call itself free.
History will tell us whether or not there should have been more of those who tried to prevent the war.
Three thousand of our own we say died because of our freedom. Two thousand more we say died for their freedom. Americans, we say, do not forget our own. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis we forget died from years of bombs and sanctions. Should the Iraqis forget their dead?
Are those who so vocally espouse their support for the continuation of war more patriotic than those who are up front? No.
Are those who so vocally espouse their support for the continuation of war more patriotic than those who oppose the war? So too the answer must be for a country that wants to be a beacon of freedom. No.
If any at all are to be called un-patriotic it should be those who shout loudest for war; those who shout loudest of fear; those who sacrifice nothing while asking others to sacrifice.
Now that this war has been shown to not be so easily won as was said by those of us that started this war -- and we did start this war -- there must be more sacrifice. More Americans must die. The "must" is not to show that men must die for freedom. The "must" is that we must know the cost of our actions. More of those up front must die. We must endure the cost of war.
As many Americans over this Christmas season grieve of hurricanes past, and mall sales present, many Iraqis grieve of hardships past, present and future that no American seems willing to endure. We must now endure some humility.
For this war to be justified, and the reasons for it to be true, those Americans that die, die not for America, but for Iraq. For us to be fighting to give Iraq freedom, we must give selflessly. For us to win, not the fighting in the streets but the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people -- and of the world -- we must not benefit from this war. For the American people's sacrifice -- and the Iraqi's -- to not be in vain we must set our attention not on a foreign policy based on the economy of oil, but on a foreign policy based on the economy of ideas. Only with humility can we win hearts and minds. A free Iraq, free from American control, must be the only benefit. We owe it to ourselves as well as to Iraq.
Lest anyone forget the horror that is war, let me supply General Sherman's quote in more context. "You don't know the horrible aspects of war," he said to the cadets. "I've been through two wars and I know. I've seen cities and homes in ashes. I've seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!"
We have all seen many Iraqi dead faces looking up at the skies.1 For our sacrifices not to be in vain, their deaths must not have been in vain.
1. Actually, no, we have not. Americans have by and large ignored Iraqi deaths.