This stupid foot surgery kept me out of the loop on ANOTHER scandal. Apparently, some pictures surfaced of US (and Afghan) Soldiers posing with enemy corpses. Not too long ago we saw video of Marines’ urinating on enemy corpses.
Another story came out which was much more positive. Former Corporal Megan Leavey was reunited with her war dog, former Marine Sergeant Rex. This is a truly inspiring story which I don’t want to cover here because this post is not about fun, but you should read it when you need a boost.
But even that positive story carries a dark undertone. Rex spent 10 years on active duty, inspired a book, and would have been killed upon retirement if he could not have been “untrained” as a war dog. Even then, without congressional interference, he would have been killed.
You’ll note I don’t say put down. This post is not about euphemism.
Above I am referencing two ugly sides of war, but they stem from two seperate root causes.
We, as a nation, maintain an offensive military force. We are prepared to(and frequently do) use this force. It is arguably the most precise killing force history has ever known. For a large part of our military, their job is no more tangibly bloody than a video game. But in order to prepare, we must shape warriors, and give them the tools to do their job.
One of those tools is the war dog. They are very effective, and can positively change the face of the battlefield. But in order to shape war dogs, we often take away their ability to be pets. Therefore, when they can no longer do their job, we kill them.
You have two choices at this point. Be a pacifist, or own it. Unless you are willing to completely abandon an offensive military capability, the fate of war dogs, and an array of other morally questionable issues, come with that decision.
Stay with me, combat preparedness is just the first root cause of our moral pain.
Using our offensive force is the second root cause. Above, I referenced the precise nature of our fighting force. All that is true, but, using that famous chess reference, infantry is the queen of the battlefield. This means, without boots (boots filled with young Americans) on the ground, you can have no victory.
Fortunately for most of us, we will never know the terror of sustained combat, or the malaise of low intensity conflict, but our fellow Americans will. They will kill. They will watch their friends die. They will see friends get maimed. They will see the horror of war.
Take a moment, and consider what that does to a person. Then consider the hundreds of thousands of troops that have served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These scandals, and Abu Grhaib, and civilian deaths, and continued strife. These are the effluviums of war. These, we all own. You, reader, own one three hundred millionth of each of them. It is easy to avoid thinking about that, with everything you have going on, but unless you were born a pacifist (Any Amish reading this?) and pacifism informs your political participation, you, as a citizen, need to own it.
That’s a function of the the Constitution, folks. It guarantees us all sorts of rights, but only in the context of “We the People.” The president may be the head of state, but we provide that title. It may not feel like it, but it is so. Even if your guy lost, and the other guy is the one in charge.
So own it. Even if for just a minute while you read this, own it.
I’m not telling you to be a pacifist, or to celebrate death and war. You just need to understand that, whether you exercise your franchise or not, war is hell and it has massive and horrible costs. If you pay your taxes, you are already doing your part. If you want to do more to help alleviate the suffering, there are plenty of ways to help.
One of the most important things you can do is understand the cost of war and let it inform your actions.