[I received David Swanson’s War Is a Lie, 2nd ed. and began reading it immediately. The published word is best written and best received when it makes us think. Sure, it’s great to quote from the “masters”; it’s better, though, if those quotes arouse deeper thoughts that were dormant within us. In a word, And so, rather than cite what I expect to find as many truths from this book, I will limit myself to a short citation or two from the various chapters and then explore what these thoughts mean to me … to find my truth. You are invited to do the same.]
Semantics of War Vocabulary
I think that most of us assume that a working definition of war can be reduced to “a battle between good and evil.” Of course if a particular war is fought between us and them then we are always the good guys, the other side evil. It can really be as simple as that. Hitler: bad; Churchill: good. George III: bad; George Washington: good. To simplify even this analogy, make the bad guy singular and the good guy plural, as in, Hitler: bad, Allies: good; George III bad: colonists good; Ho Chi Minh: bad, Americans: good; Saddam Hussein: bad, Americans: good. You get the point.
Beyond that them/us mentality we are prone to marginalize the bad guy’s soldiers by referring to them in derogatory terms. Thus, e.g., Japanese soldiers become Japs, Muslim fighters (pick a country) become ragheads, etc. By extension we depersonalize the entire opposing nation to a foul name. The bombing of Hiroshima bears testimony to just one incidence of how easy it is for a force for good to slip down the slope of ethnic, cultural, and humane ignorance. The unfortunates who were walking along the streets of that doomed city that terrible day were simply nameless, faceless Japs.
No Easy Answers
Referring to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Swanson writes in Chapter 1: “Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil”: “How did Afghans and Iraqis all become demonic when a group of Saudis flew airplanes into buildings in the United States, and how did the Saudi people stay human? Don’t look for logic.” [There is current talk in Congress about floating a bill that would hold Saudis, even Saud royalty, to task for, at minimum, funding the attacks. This blog will follow that thread when more information becomes available.]
How are they, whoever they are, able to convince us, whoever we are, that one target group or another consists of pure evil? By doing so again and again we remain in this loop of continuous war. Former allies become enemies, e.g., Russia was our ally during WWII to defeat Hitler and his Nazis, then Stalin quickly became our Cold War enemy; we chose to support the Iraqis over Iran with beans and bullets, then Saddam devolved into a human rights violating evil dictator. How do these things happen?
They happen because we let them happen. We are loathe to believe government when it comes to matters such as the need for increased taxes for schools and roads, but we blindly follow when political rhetoric on defense spending is doused in fear. We want to believe that government’s prime responsibility is to protect the nation, and so we allow Congress to spend many questionable dollars on military matters so they can “keep us safe.” Few questions. Little transparency.
I think I used to believe that. I must have. I don’t anymore. I don’t trust elected people who … who … well, I just don’t trust them.
Current Studies on PTSD
Our politicians have become complacent as they pontificate from their comfortable seats in Congress. Yes, there are isolated acts of terrorism perpetrated in this country and, yes, there are most likely a covey of sleeper cells holed up in so-called middle class neighborhoods. But I do not believe for a moment that any member of Congress believes there is even a hint of a possibility of an invasion of our mainland. That threat does not exist. War, however, does. In particular, American involvement on battlefields of all sizes around the world is alive and well.
Many of our young people, however, will never return alive, and many more will come home not well, physically and psychologically. Recent studies by the U.S. Navy have investigated two important aspects of the modern warrior. One preliminary conclusion implies, as stated above, that it is easier for a soldier to kill another person if that person has been dehumanized, i.e., the “Jap.” The second is much more troubling even than that.
The Navy is finding that soldiers who have killed, over time, come to realize that the target was a person. The pluralism of the battlefield at the moment morphs for them into a singular premeditated action: target acquired, weapon aimed, trigger pulled.
[War Is a Lie is available at http://www.justworldbooks.com.]