Friday, March 28, 2008


The war in Iraq is now five years old, despite the fact that our President declared victory four years, and more than 4000 American lives and who-knows-how-many-Iraqi-lives ago. I would love for us to simply pull out all of our troops, build a fence around the Middle East and let them all kill each other off. We can't do that because (a) we need to figure out a way to get our people out without getting too many of them killed in the process and (b) we still need the oil. (Do NOT get me started on that subject.)

War is such a hard subject for me to even contemplate.

I have wanted to be a pacifist since the Vietnam war, but I can't quite get there. My problem is that I just quite simply do believe there are some things worth fighting for. Among those things are family and home.

As a child I admired the conscientious objectors who refused to go to Vietnam. Most of the people I knew (who consisted almost entirely of the VFW crowd my parents hung around with, with its preponderance of gonzo WWII Marines, of which my dad was one) thought the conscientious objectors and anti-war demonstrators were cowards, at best, or traitors, at worst.

I thought they were, when sincere [Q-How can one tell? A-I don't know] courageous. They were brave enough to be willing to forgo violence even in the face of personal threats to their persons or their families. I think that's the most totally right and moral position to take in the face of violence. It is the biblical "turn the other cheek" position. I have to confess: I'm just not that evolved.

Perhaps it was because of the way I was raised, but I think I would have supported both WWI and WWII. Aggression needs to be stopped. It seems to me that it would be immoral NOT to oppose the megalomania and genocide as practiced by the Nazis.

The Korean War has always been something of a mystery to me. I am not sure whether I would have supported it or not because it has never been very clear to me exactly what we were attempting to accomplish. Whatever it was did not go so well in view of the fact that more than a half century later we still have American troops in Korea. I fail to see how that place was a threat in the early 1950's... although I do now understand how it is a threat what with the potential nuclear threat from North Korea. Maybe we should have listened to General MacArthur. I don't know enough about that situation to have an opinion.

I was in the first or second grade when the America sent the first "advisers" to Vietnam. I became aware of the war watching Walter Cronkite on TV every night after dinner. I was in Junior High during the Tet offensive. I was a sophomore in college when Saigon fell. My first heroes in life were the anti-war protesters. I would have loved to have joined them but my father gave me a word of warning about protesters that has stuck with me until today. He said I should consider very carefully whether or not I wanted to join those crowds and potentially have my picture taken with people whom I did not know. He said he thought they were there for a lot of different reasons, not all of them as pure as mine. He cautioned me about associating publicly with people whose motives and purposes I did not know or understand. Who knew my dad was such a prophet?? For once in my life, I listened to him and stayed on the sidelines, while rooting for the anti-war faction. (Besides, I did not have a car to get myself to demonstrations and virtually all of the people in my world supported the war so I was not likely to be able to hitch a ride with someone.)

I opposed the war, but, by God, I supported the troops. The boys I knew who went to Vietnam were scared but they went in obedience to the law. They went because they believed they had a duty to go where their government sent them. They were boys from a small town where they felt they had no future. "Join the Navy and see the world" sounded like a good thing to them. Once they were enlisted, they did the best they could, under appalling circumstances. I opposed the war, but honored the veterans. America's treatment of the Vietnam veterans has been and continues to be inexcusable.

One of my most vivid memories of the entire war was sitting on the floor in my dorm room watching the television coverage of the evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon in April 1975. Those Marine helicopter crews were amazing! I cried and felt sick over the entire situation, but I was so proud of the Marines who must have been the most terrified people on the planet that day. They did what they had to do. As awful as it was to have to push people away, they made it possible for the choppers to evacuate hundreds of people. The Marines acted like professional soldiers in a chaotic situation. They were inspiring. That was such a horrible end to a decade-long nightmare. America has largely forgotten the heroism of the American Marines that day, if it really noticed at the time.

Granada barely qualified as a "war". It was the first time to my knowledge America behaved as an Aggressor Nation. It was a small, but inexcusable, blip in our history.

I watched the beginning of the Gulf War on CNN like many people in America. The next morning, I went to meet with my minister out of sheer frustration. I cried and swore and fumed about how wrong it was. My daughter was a baby who slept in her pumpkin seat next to me while I lamented and, on the other side of the world, bombs were destroying one of the most ancient and historically important cities on Earth. I was determined she would not grow up in a world at war like I did. Sadly, she has grown up listening to the the drums of many wars.

Afghanistan. I would have preferred for our political leaders to have handled aftermath of the Attack on 9/11/2001 differently, but I could understand the initial impetus to go into Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden. I thought there could have been a better way, but I said nothing because I could understand the perceived need to attack. Where that conflict went off the rails was when America reneged on its promise to rebuild Afghanistan because we got distracted and decided we had to charge off and invade....

Iraq. Five years ago the purpose behind the war with Iraq was a mystery to me. Today it makes no more sense than it did then. True, Saddam Hussein was a wicked person who all but destroyed his own country for his own twisted purposes. He routinely violated the Iraqi's' most basic human rights and tortured his own people. He was apparently an evil man. I am not sure that gave America the right to invade his country. For one thing, I am not so sure that, had we had looked carefully around the world at the time, we would have found that he was the worst leader on the world stage. Saddam Hussein just happened to be one really bad world leader who was also openly anti-American and (most importantly) sitting on huge oil reserves at a time when America had an oil-man in the White House. There were a lot of factors, but they all came down to the apparent bottom line that President Bush was determined to finish what his father started. By hook or by crook. Some way. Some how. He was determined to finish off Saddam Hussein when his father had failed to do so. [We'll not go into the Oedipal aspects of that.] Osama Bin Laden just gave him a convenient excuse to do what he apparently intended to do anyway.

Since Granada, America has found herself in the position of an Aggressor Nation, attacking smaller less powerful, ill-equipped countries.

For what? I don't know.

I want to be a pacifist more than ever. But, I still can't quite make it. There are some battles worth fighting. None of the "wars" America has waged recently qualify, in my opinion.

Iraq certainly doesn't.

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