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About The North Coast times-eagle. (Wheeler, Oregon) 1971-2007 | View Entire Issue (May 1, 2007)
QUESTION OF WAR A TOUGH ONE
BY TOM MERRICK
DO DEAD SOLDIERS HAVE SOULS?
The war in Iraq is as much about democracy as it
is about oil and empire simply because the soldiers who are
fighting the war anxiously wish to believe it is, however aware
they are of being manipulated and deceived into that belief.
The same can be said of every war.The U S. Civil War
was about slavery because that was the essential reason the
soldiers on both sides fought it, for and against. (The corollary
purpose of the South was to defeat a perceived invader of the
confederacy.) World War 1 was to put an end to war because
the soldiers who endured the worst prolonged hell on earth —
which they also created for themselves — slaughtered each
other by the millions for that fervent hope (which might have
been a not so subjective basis for the fierce obliteration). World
War 2 is eulogized as history's most titanic struggle between
freedom (“democracy") and totalitarianism (“fascism"); each
claimed history on its side — the Germans, however conscripted,
believed in the rightness of a thousand year Reich despite
their gloomy detestation of Nazidom; the Japanese despised
colonial white rule in Asia and viciously supplanted it with their
own arrogantly cruel version.
The wars in Korea and Vietnam were more subjective
than their predecessors, so-called “brushfire wars" to promote
or prevent the spread of Cold War ideologies and to skirt nuclear
obliteration while simultaneously risking it. As a result, both wars
were inconclusive; yet at the heart of each war, the combatants
fought for beliefs latently instilled in them or fiercely demanded
So Iraq. The grunts on the ground most likely cling
to a tenacious faith they have liberated the Iraqi people from
a monstrous dictator and now attempt to protect them from a
brutal resurrection of ancient religious schism. At the very least
they fervently hope their great personal risks are for the exalted
principles that are claimed, that their leaders are literally keeping
faith with them. Yet every day Americans and their faux allies
face an equal, bitter tenacity by a hardcore resistance determin
ed to oust the invaders whom they regard as infidel imperialists
as pernicious as the earlier medieval Crusaders.
Soldiers have been lied to throughout history They have
always been coerced in one manner or another to commit and
suffer humanity's most hideous acts, generally in the names of
its most sanctified beliefs. That has not changed: the Americans
who are fighting and dying (and grotesquely wounded) in Iraq
are as deceived as to the underlying purposes of the war as
were their predecessors of wars immemorial, and the rewards
for such guileless intrepidity are as always unequal and usually
disproportionate to the fervid sacrifice for them.
The only purpose for armies is the destruction of other
human beings. Soldiering is big business, the first order of every
empire since ancient times, but soldiers themselves are little
more than expendable pawns, readily discarded.
Without soldiers there would be no wars. No Caesars,
no Napoleons, no Hitlers. Soldiers kill, rape, pillage, burn, and
if they are unlucky, stupid or badly led, they die.
Support for soldiers at war acts contrarily as a relentless
goad that pushes troops into irreversible horror at the same time
cheering warcries crush any who would conscientiously object.
The soldiers feel compelled to carry out what they perceive as
public mandate, and in the belief that any personal doubts would
be met with disapproval, they do their duty at any cost.
Yet the soldiers we are exhorted to uncritically support
can be turned against us, ordered to suppress dissent as well as
civil rights and liberties; and to round up political activists and put
them in jail. In times like these such repressive use of soldiers
could have wide popular support.
Quite a few people think dissent is improper once a war
is started and refuse to believe it is more necessary than ever —
their point is that dissent succors an enemy and betrays soldiers
on the home side, as well as erodes their morale.
Yet, as realized by the Vietnam War, dissent is the only
way to stop questionable wars. Dissenters are not responsible
for the misuse of the lives of soldiers. The people who start and
profit from wars are.
The war parties always attempt to capture patriotism
as their own, and portray dissent against their wars as sedition
and disloyalty. But dissent is the true act of patriotism and a
more sensible way to support soldiers than dispatching them
History essentially records the lives and affairs of kings,
emperors and generals, and of course their interminable wars.
The hundreds of millions of common people impressed into wars
and whose homes, towns, occupations and lives were decimated
by them have been ignored until only recently — the result of the
rise of mass media that has chronicled global aversion toward
warfare by ordinary folk who suffer it.
May, as National Military Appreciation Month, is low-
scale agitprop that boilerplates the millennial President's militant
ministry to decimate in the name of God other millenarians who
are of different creeds, cultures and races. Its ironic yet fittingly
tragic finale is commemoration of the heaps of dead on Memorial
I didn’t want to write this, it has been a long time coming
to terms with the fact that my son is in harm’s way. In many ways
this experience is like any other trauma one goes through where
a range of emotions come into play. Fear, frustration, helpless
ness, apprehension and love all come together in an emotional
soup to shake up your life.
Back in the 60s and 70s it was easy to rage against the
Vietnam War — it was unjust, killing thousands of American kids
in a country far removed from our own part of the world.We were
wrong to go there, wrong to stay as long as we did, and made
too many mistakes along the way.
Today, it is difficult to rage against this war — it is unjust
and it’s killing thousands of Americans in a country far removed
from our own part of the world. We were wrong to go there,
wrong to stay as long as we have, and have made too many
mistakes along the way.
What is the difference? Today’s military soldiers
volunteered to serve their country. I believe it is because of the
fact that we have not seen thousands protesting in the streets,
demanding we get out of Iraq. Change the rules and remove that
line between an all-volunteer military and interject the possibility
that the only thing between your son and daughter going to Iraq
is a lottery number and you would see a very different response
to this war from most Americans.
As a parent we are all responsible for keeping our
children safe and steering them towards a healthy, happy and
productive life as adults. So you can imagine my immediate
reaction when at 19 my son decided to join the Army. It was an
easy choice for him as he is a natural leader But for me it was
every parent’s nightmare. In the middle of a war with no end
in sight, my son wanted to join in the fight. He completed basic
training, went to medic school, completed airborne, asked for
and was assigned to ranger training and was then assigned to
a ranger battalion at Fort Lewis. Not only was I proud of him for
all his accomplishments, but relieved that all this training was
keeping him stateside and relatively safe. Then the inevitable
happened, his battalion was slated to deploy.
I knew it would happen. The state of denial I’d been
in was shattered in a flash as he said goodbye. Because he is
part of the military’s Special Forces, he could not tell me when
he was leaving, where he was going or exactly when he would
be home. I was given a cryptic APO address and asked to send
mail and packages to him there.
Once he was in Iraq he occasionally had access to a
telephone. From the day he left the house after his last leave
before deploying, until the day he came home last month I kept
my cell phone near my side. All our conversations were very
generic and completely devoid of any details about what he
was doing or, more importantly, how he was doing.
It is difficult to really describe how you feel as a parent
knowing one of your children is in harm's way It is one thing to
know your son or daughter is going to participate in something
risky, like skydive out of an airplane for fun, or even bungee jump
off some bridge for the thrill. It’s a whole other feeling when that
sense of danger is present day after day for months.
Adding to all of this are the headlines and visuals seen
on TV every day. I could not simply tune out the world and
ignore what’s going on. So I watched and listened and worried
each day that my son was not among the dead or injured that
day. It’s not something that engulfs you and keeps you from
your daily activities, but simply adds to the everyday stresses
we all experience.
If we all had been asked to sacrifice for this “noble”
war instead of paying for a huge tax break for the wealthiest
1% of our citizens and the billions our children will pay for this
war, I'd have a much easier time supporting our President.
But he didn’t ask for sacrifices. Instead we were told to just
go about our daily lives like nothing out of the ordinary was
And what of my son and the thousands of sons,
daughters, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands who have
been killed, injured and emotionally scarred by this war, or
simply forced to grow old too quickly? How can we repair the
scars left by an unjust war? I ask each of you reading this
to discuss it with your kids, your spouse or significant other,
or friends, and then ask yourself how you can do one thing,
just one thing, to bring an end to this awful war. Then go do
that one thing.
In this effort we alone cannot bring change, right a
wrong, create justice, or bring peace — we must act together.
Tom Merrick is a Beaverton (Oregon) resident and
past-president of the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce.
His article is reprinted from The Valley Times.
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