In a recent documentary on one of the major military conflicts of the 1950’s, it was stated that ‘….war is truly the unkindest of endeavors.’ This seems an understatement given the conditions we face globally today and the current state and method of modern warfare.
Yet, we see that this is not a deterrent to the actions of those who would propagate such insanity and perpetuate the greatest error in human history. In fact, there are some who relish the thought of these campaigns and who actively promote the senselessness that accompanies them.
But where, a few weeks ago, as we had just acknowledged one peaceful warrior, and this last week, where we recognized the heritages of our forefathers, we would like now to take note of a recent news item which covered certain particular actions by certain military men upon what appear to be the inert corpses of their enemy combatants.
It seems that the press, the military and the establishment in general are in a state of consternation as to this alleged incident and are even angered and appalled. Shocked is a term that had been bantered about repeatedly. It seems that this type of action is in violation of the rules of engagement, the rules of war, as they are referred to, these conventions and treaties, and the protocol expected of members of the military. Officers of high military rank and others in government have openly expressed their disgust and dismay at seeing video footage of this alleged incident on worldwide television. Reporters who presented this coverage, despite their attempts at and their policies of remaining neutral in reporting, and fair or balanced, even had difficulty in not judging or criticizing this alleged conduct, as well.
Now, while we do not care to comment on, approve of, condone, object to, judge or in any way enter into a discussion on the propriety or lack thereof concerning these supposed acts here, we would, however, like to pose a serious dichotomy, instead, which is perplexing and confusing, even, in light of this apparently unilateral and quite passionate debate.
It seems that these soldiers have been and are taught and trained to maim, to wound, to annihilate human beings whom they do not even know – and by the very establishment which is now attacking them for these particular alleged acts – yet, they are not permitted, in the fog of war, or perhaps in the aftermath of a firefight or a battle, to relieve themselves physically upon or near the remains of those they were given permission to kill.
They are allowed to insert holes in the bodies of other human beings whom a state deems to be their enemies, and to destroy their right and ability to live; to deprive their families of their loved ones and of their existence in the process, but if they should so act as alleged here, they face reprisal, prosecution and possible sentencing for this supposed moral and legal transgression.
It is reminiscent of the narrative by Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, where he describes the ‘enemy’ as human beings, with feelings and with families, too, just like those who would attempt to eliminate them. He asserts that there is to be no judgment of them, as there can likewise be no judgment of the other. He is confounded by a similar paradox which purports to ascribe right to one side and wrong to another. He struggles deeply with the concept of good and evil.
And it is in this very heart of darkness where some would now invoke those purported rules of war to maintain that what has occurred here is unacceptable or repulsive. It is being said now that this conduct does not reflect the standard or values of troops such as these, and that it does great damage to the image of a nation which these individuals represent. This incident is being described as hideous, disgusting and egregious.
Moreover, this is being described as a desecration of the dead and there are promises of investigation and punitive sanctions. It is being condemned as a violation of the international laws of war and of military regulations, and even called immoral, as a failure to adhere to the high standards expected of such personnel.
But how can we reconcile this apparent dilemma, then, when we ask these innocent beings to destroy the life force in other humans, to fill them full of metal projectiles, to scar, disable or mortally wound them, physically and psychologically; to aim, sometimes at protracted distances, at their vital organs, with high powered rifles, and yet expect them to act, then, as unfeeling automatons and to not have any reaction in expressing their dissatisfaction or frustration, perhaps upon surviving these engagements with their ‘enemy,’ by such conduct as described here?
Is this rational, acceptable, credible, intelligent or even real, and how are we to understand the motivation which would cause one who solicited the killing of other human beings to criticize, judge, vilify and punish another who would act in such a way on a battle ground, in a foreign territory and under such grave and inhuman circumstances to begin with? Is this hypocrisy, denial, a double standard, moral integrity or merely par for the course? Are we to just accept this thinking without question and conform emotionally by expressing no reaction to this, or may we state rather that this condemnation itself is egregious and that it cannot be tolerated?
For it can also be proposed that the very act of arming, training, teaching and approving of the attacking with firearms, bombs, explosive devices, etc., of other human beings, is tantamount to what is described and decried here as impermissible.
Or, one can argue that the treatment by these supposed enemies of other innocents, who may not be soldiers or military personnel, in eviscerating them, or in exploding them to pieces in the course of their own suicides is, in and of itself, more inhumane than the acts complained of here, which may even have been carried out, perhaps subliminally, in retribution for the former.
Where then, are the rules of war when these suicidal actions should occur? And where, more appropriately, are the rules of peace, which no one seems to care to address here in this context, or otherwise, it appears?
Have we lost perspective totally, or are we grasping at straws here? When will we, as a race, learn that this thing called war is the problem, the issue, the factor to be investigated, prosecuted, condemned, criticized and eliminated, and not the symptoms and effects which are being magnified and dissected here. Is it idealistic or even preposterous to suggest that we call for a moratorium on war, itself, so that we then would not have to deal with acts such as those being scrutinized here, nor with the overall outrageous demands and hideous circumstances that arise in the course of such conflicts instead?
We think not, and yet the point here is not made to be unpatriotic or unsupportive of those who are put in harm’s way. There is no intent here to judge or to criticize, but merely to emphasize the notion that war is hell and has destroyed the sanctity of mankind and must be stopped at any cost. When we think of Dresden or Hiroshima or the Holocaust, the Crusades, Viet Nam or any other modern or ancient ‘theatre’ which man has engaged in, for instance, it is appalling to view the results and the devastation to life and to property and to the planet, the earth, on which we live, simply because people disagree, have fear and choose to hate.
And then, in the end, when one faction destroys more of the other and thus cripples their ability to defend themselves, treaties are made and reparations are paid, rebuilding occurs and peace arrives. But the damage is irrevocably done by then, and man has wounded and scarred itself, again, when it had the opportunity to not so engage to start with, or to make the peace initially. So why go through all of those machinations, just to end up in the same place, but with such horrendous consequences inflicted in the process and with such reckless abandon? Has history taught us nothing? Have we not yet learned that this is not the answer?
It seems that war, then, is truly the unkindest of endeavors.