I have been ruminating lately, in light of this fantastic bit of editorial cartooning from TomTomorrow, about this war and why I was not only opposed to it, but also the 1st Iraq war and the invasion of Afghanistan. (I am not afraid to say it, btw. I was against the invasion of Afghanistan, as I am against the first resort to force when there is any possibility of a more measured response.) I am not a pacifist, though. There are times when violence is inevitable, but I believe that it should be doled out in no more measure than is absolutely necessary and when there is no other option.
Y’see, it’s not that I wanted it to fail, it’s that I didn’t want it to happen at all.
This is not always an easy position to hold, especially when much of the country, especially in the early days of the Iraq war, held many of us up to ridicule and questioned our commitment to Justice, Patriotism, and All That Is Holy and Good™. Certainly, most of this was like hearing someone else call his dog. Addison and I don’t really care, because it has nothing to do with us and we know it. But some of this sort of noise starts to seep in, and the occasional sleepless night wondering what it’s REALLY all about can be… troubling.
And then, fortunately, today I was pointed to Mark Twain’s essay “The War Prayer,” and I remembered why I hate to hear that the bombers are flying and that the cruise missiles are being launched and that our tanks are crashing through their streets.
When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
We have become dizzy and we have confused ourselves. As I have said before, “We make pious noises about worshipping a Just and Merciful God, while doling out destruction and horror upon the innocent, pausing only to pat ourselves on the back for waging a ‘just’ war.” But, you see, the children are still dead. Full stop.
Any powermad bureaucrat with a hard-on for white phosphorus needs to remember this when he starts beating the “Pre-emptive war” drum.
There was a time, just a few years ago, I remember hearing reports about a house in Minnesota where people who were TORTURED AT THE HANDS OF TYRANTS could come to be safe, heal, and receive therapy. Living in the US, they could be comforted in the knowledge that they had escaped Sierra Leone, Uganda or Malaysia and they were now safe in the United States of America, a country where people were not tortured or indefinitely detained without charges, where the rule of law prevailed and that every person had the right to a fair trial.
I remember thinking, I am so glad to live in a place where these people can come and be safe. I am so grateful that we’re better than that. What happened to that country?
I have heard the justifications of the people who would excuse torture, and their compatriots who endorse the bombing of women and children- “This is a war for the future of civilization!” (Indeed! It would appear that civilization is in great danger. Perhaps not in the way that you mean, however…) and “These people are merciless savages who hate us and want to kill us all!” (killing their children should help their outlook immeasurably!) and finally “They hate us for our freedom!” (well, then let’s do away with as many of them as possible right now!)
Please, all of you pious murderers… keep your god. Try to reel in your hysterical fear and admit your war has failed. We have to find a better way to make the world safer. Murdering thousands of people with liberal applications of high explosives in order to obtain peace is unlikely to achieve any sort of Victory, certainly not a moral one.