On 19 August 2021 an Associated Press headline reporting the results of a U.S. poll read as follows: “Afghanistan War Unpopular Amid Chaotic Pullout.”
I’m shocked! War unpopular? I would have thought the popularity of frenzied killing of thousands upon thousands would rank right up there with going to church and pledging allegiance to the flag.
In case you didn’t notice, I’m being facetious. But here’s today’s Public Service Announcement: There’s nothing facetious about war. Permit me to elucidate.
- You cannot authoritatively make comments about war unless you’ve been there . . . unless you’ve actually experienced combat. Listening to veterans and reading books or seeing movies can give you a hint. But only a hint. Anyone who has suffered the horror of war and judges it “popular” is in serious need of psychiatric help. In a scene from the movie “Patton,” the general looks out over the tattered, bloody remains of a tank battle and says, “God forgive me, but I love it.” If he really said that – and many reliable Patton quotes reinforce his relish for killing – the man was a true psychopath.
- War dehumanizes. Absolutely. To force young people – and it’s always the young who do the bulk of the fighting – to kill each other as if swatting mosquitoes (although with much more blood) transforms a sensitive human being into an unthinking golem.
- War corrupts the soul. Call it what you will, one’s soul, one’s inner being, one’s spirit is damaged by seeing and doing what happens in combat. Nobody, nobody is the same after participating in war. For some the result is permanent damage; others receive help and go forward with positive results. Corruption of one’s inner being can be righted . . . but, to be sure, war inflicts the damage.
- In war, everyone loses. Of course, one party ends up claiming victory by killing more of the other side. But both sides lose thousands upon thousands of lives, including those who experience the ongoing debilitating effects of having participated in such a travesty of what living together in harmony on our planet should be.
I hate to admit that I’m not a 100% abolitionist with respect to war. There are times when to not use force to contain evil (Nazi Germany, for instance) is the option that does more harm. But the historical problem is that resorting to guns and bombs is the chosen course of action long before all other avenues of reconciliation are exhausted. This consummate evil should dictate that if a nation resorts to war, it should be the last, the absolutely last, action taken after other options have been tried, tried, and tried again.