Why doesn’t a nation feel it more? Why does it seem so comfortable and normal at home while the troops are always in harm’s way?
by Charlie Leck
During World War II, people thought about and talked about the war every single day. When you sat down to dinner in the evening, your family said grace and prayed for the boys at war.
I was just a little boy, yet I remember the mood and the atmosphere. Sure, life went on. People had jobs that had to be done. Kids had to go to school. Children had to be cared for and watched over. There were still dances and movies and ballgames. Yet, the war pervaded every moment of every day. On the East Coast, we went through regular air-raid drills and had black-out exercises, when all the lights in the community would go off, and we'd spend time in utter darkness.
Starting in Korea, that seemed to change. I don’t know why. I won’t pretend I do. It just changed. It was that way in Vietnam, too. Maybe it’s because these weren’t real wars. What was it they called the war in Korea, a police action?
Congress didn’t declare war in Korea and it didn't declare war on Vietnam. It didn’t declare war on Iraq or Afghanistan either.
But, folks, there’s a war going on -- two wars actually. Real young men and women are going to those wars. Some are dying. Others are coming home severely damaged. Their lives are being disrupted and, perhaps, that disruption will last forever for them.
Why don’t I feel it? Why don’t I hang near the radio, as my parents did, waiting for some announcement of victory on the battlefield? For some movement up Hill J409? The placement of our flag atop some mountain?
Again, as I said a few paragraphs ago, I’m not going to guess. I don’t know; yet I keep thinking about it and wonder why we don’t understand that it is some perverse entanglement of the Industrial-Military Complex. Remember, President Eisenhower warned us against it? Is it possible that war keeps the economy moving? And now, in this terrible time of unemployment and economic catastrophe for so many people, we pour more billions into the machinery of war.
In a remarkable article in yesterday’s (13 Feb 2010) NY Times, C.J. Chivers takes his readers into an intense battlefield movement by U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: Afghan Attack Gives Marines a Taste of War. It is an extremely well done piece that enables you to feel the war and the fears of the men and women who fight it.
“The Taliban let the Marines walk into an open field and approach a tall stand of dried grass. Then they opened fire in a hasty ambush. The Marines dropped. They fired back, exposed. Gunfire rose to a crescendo.Maybe all of us back home should be forced to read such stuff every day. I don’t want to forget there is a war going on; yet, I need to remind myself that these guys are fighting so we can be free and go on with our lives. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem fair.
"Corporal Drake shouted over the noise to the team in front, 'You got everyone?' He shouted to the team behind him, which was pressed flat in the field. 'Everyone O.K.?'
The Taliban firing subsided. 'We’re moving!' the corporal shouted. The patrol stood and sprinted toward the withdrawing Taliban, and then ran across irrigation dikes and poppy fields and entered the compound that had been struck.”
I keep thinking that we would push the war to an end if we felt the pain more. We should be forced to pay war taxes as long as the boys are away fighting. The war should be paid for in cold, hard cash pulled from every citizen's pocket. We should all do some kind of volunteer work to assist in the war effort. We should gather in a park each month to hear the names of the dead read off to us one by one; and then we should pray God their souls to keep.
It seems so wrong to have American young people off dying and getting seriously mangled and injured while we just go on dining out, going to the theater and playing in the backyard with the dog.
I’ve just finished reading a couple of enormous works about the Civil War. It was the ugliest, costliest and most painful war in our history. More men died there than in all our other wars combined. Yet, while troops were falling in and around Richmond, near Gettysburg and all through the south to Atlanta, Mobile and Vicksburg, life went on peacefully in Minnesota and Illinois and Vermont.
War is perverse! It seems we should be bright enough to figure out ways to avoid it. Yet, human beings are vain, covetous and cruel, and they send young people off to fight old people’s wars. Old people should go fight their own wars and the young should be allowed to grow and mature in a healthy, sane environment.
War is too easy in America. We went to Vietnam too easily. We sprang upon Granada for absurd and scandalous reasons. We created a big lie so we could invade Iraq. Now we are entangled in Afghanistan, trying to stay on mission and putting young people’s lives at risk each and every day.
War is a disease in our land. It is too quickly the answer when there might be other approaches. I’m no peacenik and I’m not a pacifist, but I know there may often be other answers when the wolves are crying “war.”
If you have sympathy for my words, you are likely familiar with the Non-Violent Peace Force; and if you are not, you should be. I’m a member and I like what they do.