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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/25/14

Bad Wars and the Voice of Disillusion

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Of course, this sort of discreet agreement would be considered subversive the more you go up the ranks. It's like the famous Christmas truce between the trench lines in World War One. Once the brass learned of it, the peace sentiment was crushed so the killing could continue.

Thus war has been with us and will likely be with for some time.

In his book From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, Pankaj Mishra writes about "the revenge of the East." This is what we're living through right now. The rise of anti-US sentiment in elements like ISIS in Iraq are one extremely angry and violent instances of this. As Mishra puts it, "the spell of western power has finally been broken." The aging Senator McCain, a man who suffered at the hands of the Vietnamese he bombed, may rattle his saber and decry the weakness of the current president, but what McCain is really upset about is that, after being squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan, the spell of US power has lost a lot of its shock and awe.

Fear is real in America; everyone feels it. They know, with the economy weak, the nation can't afford to keep hosing out trillions (that's with a T!) in resources to keep the image of the US strong and absolute in a military sense. People know in their hearts it can't go on. What about the infrastructural, educational, environmental and economic crises all approaching disaster levels on the homefront? If you look at it from the correct angle, it's a classic tragedy unfolding: A nation so full of its own top-down, narcissistic glory that it can't find the humility to do what it must to re-structure itself as a modestly downsized, healthy nation facing the future and "the rise of the rest." With more humility and more of a cooperative international spirit, the USA would become much less of an international target.

In one of his recorded messages, Osama bin Laden said his goal was to make the United States so crazy it would bankrupt itself chasing him around. This sounds like what Ronald Reagan is credited with doing vis--vis the Soviet Union. Of course, the boogie-man bin Laden got his comeuppance from a seal team hit. But US war architects, state terrorists like Dick Cheney and his ilk still walk among us and people listen to them. Nothing counters these warmakers like the voices of those who experienced disillusion serving in "the trenches" in our wars.

Two good examples. There's a fine group called Warrior Writers that works this field. They have published several anthologies. The Yellow Birds was Philadelphia's annual One Book, One Philadelphia entry this year. It was read all over the city and discussed in countless libraries and other venues.

Yellow Birds author Kevin Powers calls his novel "the cartography of one man's consciousness." It's the story of two young soldiers in Iraq trying to make sense of the experience on the ground and later back home. One of them suffers a harsh disillusion, even loses his mental bearings to the point he crosses the wire to wander naked among mystified Iraqis. Power's first-person narrator and the other characters are all complex human beings before they are heroes or warriors. We would benefit as a culture by hearing more complex voices like these. To counter all the pro-war madness, we need to hear men and women tell their stories of disillusion with war. It's part of a long and honorable American tradition. Here's one of my favorite poems of disillusion from Vietnam by W.D. Ehrhart. It's called "Making the Children Behave."

Do they think of me now
in those Asian villages
where nothing ever seemed
quite human
but myself
and my few grim friends
moving through them
hunched
in lines?

When they tell stories to their children
of the evil
that awaits misbehavior,
is it me they conjure?


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I'm a 72-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and political (more...)
 

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