Tuesday, December 14, 2004

This is War

I'm often dumbfounded by folks who are pro-war. That is, pro any war. It seems very obvious to me that they've bought into the myth.

I would consider going to war in order to stop genocides and the like, but it would be a tough moral decision. Is it my right to sacrifice U.S. soldiers' lives for the greater good of the Sudanese people, for instance? No. But is it right to stand by and watch as hundreds of thousands of people are raped and murdered? No.

How would I deal with the situation in Sudan, for instance - yet another genocide occurring on America's watch, while the American people and the American government pretend to care about such things? I would intensely pressure the world to collectively threaten the leaders of the Sudanese government. I would send an unambiguous message to those leaders that they will be held to account for their crimes, that the world is watching, and that the U.S. would take the lead in bringing justice to those leaders, by any means necessary. We will work tirelessly, around the clock, to bring them to justice, and we will not stop - ever, until they are brought to justice. We have the resources and the determination. Trust us, I'd say, we will bring you to justice.

My guess is that those leaders would stop raping and killing immediately. If they did not stop, which is probably not even realistic considering America's potential moral and fighting power under valid, courageous leadership, I would move immediately to get the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for the leadership of Sudan. Once issued, I would demand the leadership turn themselves in. If they did not turn themselves in I would, only then, consider using airstrikes, or other military/para-military forces to arrest and/or kill those leaders responsible for the crimes. That is legitimacy - that is the correct way to enforce humanity - should we decide to do such a thing.

But the point of this post is that war is not pretty, as U.S. television depicts it. It is sadistic and brutal, and the decision to enter into war should not be taken lightly - as so many Americans seem to have done with this Iraq War. My diatribe, most-often internalized when I read yet another brutal war story, goes something like this:

War is not just killing. That's the easy part. War is rape, murder, brutality, torture, inhumanity, severe mental anguish, families being torn apart. It's the most morally disgusting thing that the human race could ever aspire to.

War is not just killing. Killing is easy. It's clean. You fire a couple of bullets and it's over. But that's only one tiny part of the story. The other part of the story is what happens if the gunshot victim doesn't die right away. What if he suffers intensely, for days, before he expires? Is that human? Is that fair? What if he's a 19-year old private from Kansas - a low-level grunt in an old, white guy's war? Does that teenager deserve to suffer intensely for days on end because his country sent him to war?

And what happens to the soldier who did the killing when he steps out of the war zone and realizes he's taken a human life? He, too, will suffer intense pain - this time, though, it's emotional. He'll most likely suffer from PTSD - for months or years, get denied care by his government - the U.S. government. He might lose his wife and kids. He might lose his mind. He might kill his wife and kids. He might kill himself.

And what happens when some place has no security force? What happens to the women of the town? They're raped. Brutally. Especially young girls. Especially women and girls whose male family members have been killed and therefore are unable to defend the women of their family. The women may be enslaved - sex slaves - for a small group or an entire battallion of soldiers. The women may be killed for failing to submit to their new duty. And what happens if the war eventually ends and the women are allowed to go free? Where will they go? What will they do? What culture would have a Muslim woman whose been raped hundreds or thousands of times, who may or may not have children by one or more of the hundreds of men she's been forced to have sex with?

And what of the children in a war? Do you think they'll somehow just magically be taken care of in the mêlée? How many will be left to fend for themselves? How many will beg for food? How many will be homeless? How many will just be shot to be gotten rid of? How many will be raped? How many will be forced into slave labor - possibly sexual slave labor - both boys and girls?

And how many people will starve to death? How many people will be terrorized in the lawlessness that is a part of a war zone, whether or not you see it on American television, whether or not it's glorious, whether or not you choose to believe it's patriotic to believe that 'messy things' happen during war?

That is war. Rape, murder, mayhem, inhumanity. The anti-God. Everything that is corrupt and despicable and horrific. If you vote for war on patriotic grounds, as was the Iraq War, you are a moral coward - at least - possibly a moral criminal. War is not clean killing and body counts - that's just the part they talk about. The ugly part of war is out there, and it's more true and more horrific and more pervasive than you could ever imagine - you just have to open your eyes to it.

That is what I think of when I read a story like this. I contemplate the naiveté and cowardice of those who promote war on patriotic or nationalistic or idiotic or inhuman grounds. A story like this works to break the stranglehold 'the myth' has on those moral cowards who are enamored of war:

Williams was stationed with a team on a rooftop nearby, overlooking the same road. Both heard the combat radio crackle with a report that a dump truck was depositing bombs along the road. When a dump truck appeared, the order came to fire on it.

After a withering barrage, a man emerged from the truck and ran toward the Americans. Some soldiers on the rooftop testified that he appeared to be waving something white. Someone shouted for the man to stop and he obeyed.

"He was trying to inform us that we were shooting a truck full of children," said Pfc. Gary Romriell. "He was unarmed. I didn't take him as hostile."

Moments later, the rooftop took gunfire from the opposite direction. Another squad member testified that the color of the tracer rounds indicated the shooting may have been coming from other U.S. troops. Williams ordered his team to resume firing on the truck.

"What should we do with this guy?" Spec. Tulafono Young testified that he asked Williams, referring to the man standing in the street.

"Light him up," Williams replied, according to Young and others. That order led to one of the three murder charges Williams faces.

"Mister, no more, no more," implored another passenger of the truck who was unscathed.

"My gut instinct was . . . the wrong vehicle got shot," Horne, who described having a sinking feeling as he approached the truck, said during un-sworn testimony to a sentencing panel.

He saw "a bunch" of Iraqis on the ground, two of whom were dead. He pulled one young survivor from the burning truck, then reached into the flames toward a teenager still breathing despite wounds so horrible his insides spilled out as Horne turned him over, he said. The Los Angeles Times identified him as Hassan, 16.

"There was nothing I could do for him," Horne said.

Minutes later, as fellow soldiers tended to less seriously wounded civilians, Staff Sgt. Cardenas Alban of Carson, Calif., shot Hassan, according to testimony. Horne acknowledged he fired a moment later. The boy's rattled breathing stopped. Alban is awaiting a hearing on a murder charge. Horne, whom an Army investigator praised as candid and forthcoming, was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday.

Of course, the victims here are many. My diatribe didn't mention that young soldiers go to jail, have felony convictions slapped against them, and are dishonorably discharged from the military when the military actually decides to prosecute a few lackeys to keep the heat off the higher-ups, like Rumsfeld.

The innocent kid who was killed? Yeah - his guts really did fall out of his body when he was rolled-over. Ever seen someone's guts fall out? Yeah, me neither, but I've seen some pictures, and it ain't pretty. I imagine seeing something like that would haunt one for the rest of one's life. But that's just me.

My diatribe didn't mention spilled guts and criminal convictions, but it's all a part of war, and it's what you vote for when you vote for war. And I didn't mention those soldiers who have a 'crisis of conscience' and actually report war crimes their fellow troops have committed. They are bound by duty and law to report, yet they are bound by a sense of loyalty to remain silent. Should they finally come forward and report, which they should, they may be threatened or even killed - even after they've come back stateside. Some of this happened in this story - but it happens, more often than you ever thought possible.

No comments: