"War (Huh, yeah)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing (Uh-huh, yeah)"
"War," Edwin Starr;
War and Peace, 1970
In this holiday season where millions of Christians celebrate the birth of the "Prince of Peace," I can think of no more pertinent subject to discuss than war. Or rather, the ramifications of war.
There is a parable attributed to Confucius that one day China's great sage was asked by one of his followers that if Confucius were made Emperor, what would be his first act? Confucius thought for a moment and answered, "First, I would rectify the language."
I believe that Confucius has a point, particularly regarding the use and misuse of the language of war over the last fifty years.
Our soldiers are no longer wounded; they are injured. We are no longer escalating our involvement in a war; we are surging. We are no longer bombing the enemy back to the Stone Age; we are engaging in shock and awe. There are no civilian casualties, only collateral damage.
The overuse and misuse of the word "war" has made it far less powerful than it once was. We have wars on poverty, against drugs, and against terror. The list goes on endlessly, taking the sharpness and power from the very word "war."
Worse still, our government insists on calling every soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who comes back from Iraq or Afghanistan a hero. Understand--I am not in any way disparaging their service to our nation. But if you ever hear a Medal of Honor winner speak, he'll shake his head if you call him a hero. For him or her, all of the heroes are buried here or overseas in cemeteries reserved for the men who gave their lives in the line of duty. By automatically calling everyone who serves in Iraq or Afghanistan heroes, we diminish the value in the long term of that word, until its meaning is cheapened and meaningless. It is a contrived propaganda tool to call them all heroes, one which Joseph Goebbels used to the Nazis' advantage during World War II.
Every one of the men and women who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq deserves to be honored for their service. But the honor they deserve is not the strained and vapid one of calling them all "hero," or being awarded some shiny medal or obscure decoration which will do nothing to house, feed, and clothe them or their families. Only once in our nation's history have we come any where close to repaying the men and women who served their nation in a time of war. That was after the Second World War, with the G.I. Bill and its associated benefits. Our returning veterans don't want to be called "heroes;" they want to be treated as if they actually mattered to their country after their service--no more and no less.
"War, I despise
Cause it means destruction of innocent lives;
War means tears in thousands of mothers' eyes,
When their sons go out to fight
And lose their lives."
"War," Edwin Starr
War and Peace, 1970
Worse still is when our country uses deception to involve us in a war that we shouldn't be involved in, period. I am speaking of deceptions by the military and the President. This includes the "false flag" attacks on the destroyers U.S.S. Maddox and Turner Joy , which led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, as well as the WMD scare that allowed the Busheviks to invade Iraq. The conquest of Iraq has cost us the lives of more than 4000 American military personnel and approximately one trillion dollars. It has also pulled Bush43 Vice President Cheney's former employer Halliburton from the precipice of insolvency to prosperity on the strength of unregulated, "no bid" contracts.
Such malfeasance makes the sacrifice of our military men and women next to worthless. I fear that, like the boy who cried wolf, our country may discover that the next time we truly need our young men and women to answer their nation's call, they may not respond in a timely fashion.
I believe that our experiment with a volunteer military is a failure in many respects. As Jefferson realized, a purely professional military is a bane to a democratic republic. You eventually end up with the rich starting the wars for their own interests, which the middle class pay for out of a sense of patriotism, and the working class and poor fight out of pure economic necessity. I believe universal conscription--whether in the military or some other form of public service--is needed to help instill feelings of belonging and egalitarianism, as well as respect for our nation's institutions, by mutual association with Americans of every color, creed, and national origin.