War is War and Hell is Hell

This image from the AP shows smoke rising over an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Far better minds than mine have wrestled with the ongoing violence in the Middle East for lifetimes, so I’m not really qualified to make pronouncements as a political pundit. That said, a comment I saw over at reddit resonated loudly with me:

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

This conversation from M*A*S*H was probably contrived by a scriptwriter, but I’ve quoted Alan Alda before and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had come up with it himself or at least had input.

Gaza is home to 1.7 million people, living in ghetto-like conditions that are difficult to comprehend for anyone not living in a war zone. 

Without any cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy, one can be completely in favor of Israel’s existence and security but still believe that the campaign of Palestinian suppression, ongoing settlement building in the West Bank, and the rejection of a two-state solution in the Middle East on the part of the Israeli government is inhuman and wrong. Sadly, voicing such an opinion almost always results in accusations of anti-semitism, but that can’t be helped.

Bibi Netanyahu has said:

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”


I think that’s completely accurate, but I also think that what is being perpetrated on the Palestinian people rises to the level of crimes against humanity, and somehow it has to stop.

In the name of all that’s holy, it has to stop.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Soldiers fight wars. Politicians declare them.

I’ve written about war before. I make no bones about the fact that I don’t see it as a productive human enterprise. This quote from Herbert Hoover below echoes the spirit of words from Chaucer that I have mentioned in the two essays linked above:

War

Recently on Facebook I posted this image, that I came across somewhere else:

524094_10150994280278851_1780206896_n

As a result, I got some pushback from people who, like me, are opposed to wars but who see the men and women who fight them as less than deserving of honor. Things like:

  • “Depends on what he’s doing – and to whom.”
  • “Don’t extol the instrument.”
  • “The uniformed kid carrying a rifle is a paid gun. I honor people willing to die protecting their country, but our troops haven’t done that in a long time.”

Well, the comments are not wrong – in a certain sense. But as I wrote elsewhere, these are two concepts that I can successfully juggle simultaneously.

I hate the idea of war, and the military-industrial complex. I hate the concept of politico-economic terrorism, backed up by the might of armies and navies. I hate wasting endless resources of our nation on futile, internecine foreign conflicts.

Yes, there are the relatively few Abu Ghreib perverts and My Lai killers and Afghanistan rogues, and these deserve opprobrium and punishment, but they also deserve pity – because they are the product of a system that is designed to obliterate humanity and foster robotic obedience. I weep for them and their families as much as I do the victims, once justice has been served.

But… for the overwhelmingly greater part, the boys and girls, men and women who wear the colors – some because they had to during the draft, some because they marched off believing that their cause was just and noble, some who signed up because it was that or jail, some who simply wandered in to the recruiting office because they had no idea what else to do… the ones who marched off and came back in pieces, or missing pieces, or damaged emotionally beyond all salvation, or who came back functional but hiding the deep scars of conflict forever, or who served as filing clerks far from the front because that’s what they were told to do – these people I honor above almost all politicians and bureaucrats and war-makers.

And as for those “noble causes,” note that I said “*believing* that their cause was just and noble,” not necessarily that it is. Hired gun or no, cannon fodder or no, noble cause or miserable one, I honor all who serve, and always shall.

In the meantime, I will do what I can with voice, votes, and any other means to build a world where their service is no longer needed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The People Here *still* Don’t Want a War.

Newser, one of my favorite aggregators, recently published a summary of an article by Stephen Peter Rosen at Wall Street Journal entitled

We Need to Sell Young People on War

Even though the body of the article is behind a paywall, if Newser’s summary is any indication this entire premise is pure kack. Never forget that Congress and the President make war, but it’s our soldiers who fight them; to the latter, honor and respect – to the former, my disdain. If every congressperson who voted to waste noble American blood and resources on futile and inhumane causes were given a weapon and shipped to the front lines, the votes would quickly be different. As Chaucer spake, moste witerliche:

“Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven hym audience. “Lordynges,” quod he, “ther is ful many a man that crieth ‘Werre! Werre!’ that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes, what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse. And therfore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacion.”

For those not comfortable with Middle English, this is what Chaucer wrote:

“And up rose an old man, and with his hand he made signs that men should be silent and listen to him. “My lords,” he said, there is many a man who cries ‘War! War!’ who knows little of what war means. War, at its beginning, has such a great and large commencement that any poor yutz [my translation] can jump in and find war; but it is certain that it is not easy to say what the end will bring. For of a truth, when that war has once begun, there is many an unborn child who shall die young because of this war, or else live in sorrow and die in wretchedness. And therefore, before any war begins, men must have great counsel and deliberation.”

The only reason war is justified – in my poor and simple view, is to “support our lands, and our houses, and our wives, and our children, that we might preserve them from the hands of our enemies; and also that we might preserve our rights and our privileges, and our liberty.”  [1] Insane conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, waged to preserve what we consider to be our oil, our power, and our influence do not now fall under this head, and never shall.

Take note: I believe in a strong defense against all enemies foreign and domestic. I do not believe in disbanding the military. But I do believe that a vast percentage of our nation’s resources are being squandered on inhuman and inhumane causes. Have a look at the OMB’s chart showing the president’s 2014 recommendations for discretionary spending:

spending_-_discretionary_pie_2014_big

With so many people in this country out of work, with so many children going to bed hungry every night, with so many roads and bridges crumbling to the point of catastrophe, with funding for education and science being cut year by year, a military budget that size is unconscionable and obscene. This is not building a world that works for everyone, but a travesty of global proportions.

With apologies to Bobby Darin, the people here *still* don’t want a war.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

—————-

[1] Paraphrased from The Book of Mormon, Alma 43:9

 

Having fun nuking the enemy.

Two of the most sobering media presentations regarding the insanity of nuclear war were the final scene from “War Games”

and the 1983 production, “The Day After.”

And, as primitive as it was, the old Macintosh game “Missile Command” put the fear of God into me as those incoming warheads began to MIRV, and I saw that no matter how many you took out, your cities would still be reduced to smoking ash.

missile
Thanks to Mark Pazolli for the image.

The effects of nuclear damage are horrifying. Eyewitness accounts, footage and images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki should have been enough to convince humanity that these weapons of mass destruction have no place anywhere on the planet, but unfortunately this was not the path we took. In fact, some people actually capitalized on the fun of using atomic bombs on your enemies.

6188061516_e7c3177761_o

Atom Bomber Toy, above and below.

Bomber

Then there was the next level: Mutoscope’s Atomic Bomber arcade game.

6a00d83542d51e69e201a5101e6056970c

6a00d83542d51e69e2019b03fb3fc8970d

6a00d83542d51e69e201a3fb6eb734970b

6a00d83542d51e69e201a5101e8580970c

Images found at Pinrepair.com

Remember, the “Atomic Bomber is built for profits and pleasure.” Never mind the charred ruins of two cities and hundreds of thousands of lives ruined or shattered.

What the hqiz is wrong with people? One would think we as a species would have learned from the past, but it’s chilling to remember that there are certain factions and certain governments who would gleefully launch nuclear attacks on their enemies if they only had viable technology: North Korea and Islamic terror groups come quickly to mind. And sadly, it’s only the threat of massive retaliation that has kept our nuclear arsenals locked up.

My voice is only a small one, but the more people who call for peace and the abolishment of such engines of horror, the sooner we will live in a world worthy of being called human. For the sake of us all, I pray that it may happen sooner than later.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Veteran’s Day, 2013

This post is dedicated to the memory of my maternal uncle, Courtney Rogers Draper, who lost his life on one of the Japanese “Hell Ships” in December of 1944.

Courtney Rogers Draper Obituary

Obituary from the Salt Lake Tribune of July 25, 1945. Courtney’s parents received the telegram the previous day.

EnouraMaru

Strike photo showing the sinking of the Enoura Maru in Takao Harbor (now Kaohsiung, Taiwan). The allies were unaware that the ship was packed to the gills with allied prisoners, as the Japanese ships were unmarked.

Ebara Maru (Enoura Maru Class)

Painting of the Ebara Maru, a ship of the same class as the Enoura Maru. The Ebara was not used as a Hell Ship.

IMGP3858

Monument in Memory Grove, Salt Lake City.

Courtney Purple Heart

A photo of Lt. Draper in the Philippines before his capture, along with his purple heart ribbon.

The official POW record reads as follows:

World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946
Name: Courtney R Draper 
Race: White
Residence State: Utah

Report Date: 7 May 1942
Latest Report Date: Jan 1945

Grade: First Lieutenant or Chief nurse or Head dietitian or Head physical therapy aides
Grade Notes: First Lieutenant or Lt. Jr. Grade
Service Branch: Army
Arm or Service: Air Corps
Arm or Service Code: Air Corps
Area Served: Southwest Pacific Theatre: Philippine Islands
Detaining Country: Japan
Camp: 502
STATUS: Executed, Died in Ship’s Sinking or Result of Ship Sinking, Shot While Attempting Escape
Notes: Enoura Maru
POW Transport Ship: December Sinkings: See code in previous field (REP). (B)DS=Brazil Maru; (E)DS=Enoura Maru; (O)DS=Oryoka Maru; (X) Died during transportation from Olongapo to San Fernando, PI.
Report Source: Individual has been reported through sources considered official.

CEM46861262_117290105524

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, also known as Fort William McKinley Cemetery, honors the American and allied servicemen who died fighting the Japanese in World War II. The Cemetery offers repose to soldiers who died in the Pacific theatre, which included the Philippines, New Guinea, and the Pacific islands. Courtney’s last official status is “missing,” his remains “unrecoverable.”

Courtney was a promising and rising young attorney in his father’s practice before his death; his siblings, including my mother, always told me what an outstanding person he was. I’m saddened that I never knew him, but I honor his memory, as I do that of all the honored dead. May they rest in peace.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Rhett! Rhett!

3lfY660

 

The ruins of Richmond, Virginia, 1865

“Where shall I go? What shall I do?”

It was a cruel conflict, with real casualties. It’s almost the sesquicentennial of Appomattox, and it seems we still haven’t learned our lessons. Perhaps in another 150 years humanity will have risen above eternal bickering and internicene  wars.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

With great counsel and great deliberation.

Over at Reality Sandwich, Charles Eisenstein takes on the question of “Bombs, Badguys, and the Brink of Peace.” In his excellent article, he examines why the American public is so unenthusiastic about getting involved in Syria; he answers his own question with “Perhaps what we are weary of is the whole concept of war, the mindset of war, and the worldview underlying the waging of war.”

It would only be about time.

Think about it – our nation was founded in 1776, and since then, only a handful of years – 21, to be precise – have passed that we have not been involved in some bloody conflict or other.

war1

War2

That’s a pretty disgraceful showing for a nation that claims to love peace and freedom.

It can be argued that some of these conflicts were about peace and freedom, and there may even have been long-term historical justification for our involvement in some of them. But there have been far too many that didn’t involve us at all, those for which the only justification seemed to be the desire for lucre on the part of war profiteers.

It’s time we took a good hard look, as a nation, at who is calling to unleash the dogs of war, and why. Frankly, I am tired of seeing our country’s precious resources thrown away on the science of death and destruction, in the name of causes which seem to make no sense to people struggling to find work, to educate their children in substandard schools, or to get decent healthcare.

Geoffrey Chaucer, who lived from 1342 – 1400, wrote some powerful words in his “Tale of Melibee:”

Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven hym audience. “Lordynges,” quod he, “ther is ful many a man that crieth ‘Werre! Werre! that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse. And therfore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacion. Up rose then one of these old wise men, and with his hand made a sign that the people should hold themselves still and give him audience. “Lords,” he said, “there are many men who cry ‘War! War!’ who know very little what war amounts to. War at its beginning has so great an entry and so large that every creature may enter when it pleases him, and lightly find war; but surely what end that shall come of it, it is not easy to know. For truly, once that war has begun, there are many children unborn of his mother that shall die young because of this war, or else live in sorrow and die in wretchedness. And therefore, before any war might begin, people must have great counsel and great deliberation.”

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, “The Tale of Melibee,” §17.

Those who call for war may prate noble ideals and national interests and safety and security, but in the back of their mind they are thinking continued employment, campaign contributions from arms makers and materiel suppliers, advancement of political careers, or direct profits from the sale of implements of destruction. Nobody at this level seems to care about the human cost: the death of innocents, the destruction of property and infrastructure, the oppression of populations, genocides, refugees, pestilences, and the waste of precious resources. All of this is swept under the rug, ignored in the beating of drums and the rattling of sabers and dreams of glory, honor, and riches.

♫ Come and sing a simple song of freedom
Sing it like you’ve never sung before
Let it fill the air
Tell the people everywhere
We, the people here, don’t want a war. ♫

The word of Bobby Darin’s song have never been more appropriate than they are today. American involvement in Syria is overwhelmingly unpopular, with 50% opposed outright to any involvement, and 80% convinced that the president needs congressional approval before moving forward with any entanglement, according to a recent Reuters poll. Yet despite these numbers, the American populace is being systematically ignored by its leadership. How can the people of our country support an executive branch that is so out of tune with their wishes? Well, the simple truth is that they can’t; President Obama’s approval ratings are in freefall.

The people of our nation – the ones living now, and the ones yet to be born – deserve much better than we are offering them. Our economy is a shambles, our healthcare – whose quality is among the best in the world – is essentially unaffordable, and our education system is rotten to its very foundation [1]. Yes, all things are relative: this is not Somalia or Egypt or Albania or Congo, where life is a hell of a lot more difficult and frightening and dangerous, but the fact remains that we have the resources to do a lot better… and we’re not doing it.

I know I speak for a majority of my fellow Americans when I confirm that we are tired of war. We want peace, we want prosperity, we want jobs, we want secure retirements, we want clean water, we want secure mortgages, we want bridges and roads and schools and hospitals and doctors that don’t bankrupt you for a single illness. That’s what we want, and I feel as though our nation is plunging headlong toward a major tipping point. To use a cinematic metaphor, this isn’t as good as it’s going to get, and something’s gotta give.

If our leaders don’t start listening, they will fall. The people still have a vote. But it’s getting dicier than that. Elections only happen on schedule, and the people are getting more and more impatient. I sincerely wonder how long our leaders can keep throwing hot coals upon the heads of the American people before they start a fire that they are unable to put out.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] I’m not counting the army of diligent and hopeful teachers who continue to soldier on in the most adverse of conditions, because they love teaching and love their classes and want to make a difference in their lives; I’m talking about the administrative morass through which they are being asked to slog, starting with the government and oozing down through school boards and school administrations and teachers’ unions who are more concerned with protecting their fiefdoms than they are about really educating kids.