"What a smug [contemptible person] you must be, letting soldiers die for your
freedom, then spitting on their graves."
"Your article…has to be the most tasteless piece of literature I have ever
"…obviously [written by] a liberal (or perhaps that MAY even be an insult to
The preceding are examples of the response to last week’s column ("They All
Died in Vain"), which espoused two arguments - that the glorification of war is
a primary factor in the perpetuation of war; and that soldiers who die in
unnecessary wars (like Iraq and Vietnam) are dying pointlessly.
A number of readers objected to these ideas - specifically, as they applied
to Iraq - and wrote to say so. Within those objections one can discern the
emotional fuel that propels the American war machine.
"I suppose sanctions and pressure are what you believe would put an end to
Saddam’s cruelty and torture of his people…"
Well, no; sanctions and pressure had little or no impact on Saddam Hussein’s
mistreatment of his fellow citizens. Unfortunately, this fact has nothing to do
with the present war. The relevant point is that sanctions and pressure
(including United Nations inspectors) were managing to contain Hussein’s
WMD aspirations, and these weapons were the stated reason for the war -
before the war.
This rewriting of history - that the war was launched for humanitarian
purposes - has been energetically sold by Bush & Co. and has been bought by
many Americans. (If you can’t be a heroic protector of the homeland, you might
as well be a heroic liberator of the oppressed.) Another reader hews to this
line: "What happened in Iraq to the Iraqi people is no different from what
happened in Europe during the Holocaust…Let us pray there will always be people
brave enough to lay their lives on the line for others."
In a similar (though more expansive) display of illogical bundling: "You
serve as a grim reminder of why our country has come to its current state of
affairs…I think it is time you listen to a survivor of the concentration
camps…and the victims of 9/11…who wear their badges of courage as a milestone.
Suggest to them that they sacrificed their limbs, lives, and efforts to
vanity…The world came to our doorstep and delivered death."
Where to start? Again we confront the suggestion that the war in Iraq somehow
equates with World War II. And note that, for this reader, the glorification of
battle extends beyond soldiers to concentration camp prisoners and those in the
path of the 9/11 attacks. Granted, there were individual acts of heroism in both
circumstances; but can’t we resist the emotional impulse to confer nobility on
each and every participant merely for "being there?" This is cheap
sentimentality and has no rational substance.
Simply put, it takes no courage to be a victim.
But the best evidence of a flawed thought process is in the line, "The world
came to our doorstep and delivered death." The world? Nineteen individuals,
connected to Osama bin Laden’s organization. It must be asked again - what does
this have to do with the war in Iraq? When the Ku Klux Klan firebombed a church
in Mississippi, should we have responded with a full-scale military attack on
"Anyone who dies while protecting someone else should be honored. To dishonor
such a selfless sacrifice is the epitome of selfishness…If you have one, check
your moral compass."
Morality, as we know, is a very subjective matter, so advising one to check
their "moral compass" can be a dangerous thing - there is no magnetic north to
predetermine one’s direction. For instance, if a bodyguard were to jump in front
of an Adolf Hitler (or even a Saddam Hussein) to save him from an assassin’s
bullet, should the dead man be "honored?" Obviously, it’s a "selfless
sacrifice," however one may judge the particular circumstance.
But let’s take the risk and turn the tables: For those who support the
present war in Iraq - for those who feel our fallen soldiers have died for a
noble cause - let’s check your moral compass.
The pre-war rationale was national self-defense. Saddam Hussein, according to
George W.Bush, was actively working to develop nuclear weapons; had a vast
stockpile of chemical and biological weapons; and had long-standing, on-going
ties to al-Queda.
Not only have these claims not been substantiated, it’s clear that the Bush
administration was willing to both exaggerate and lie in order to sell their
If you bought into Mr. Bush’s baseless self-defense argument, why would you
still support the war? Indeed, why wouldn’t you be calling for Mr. Bush’s
When the first rationale withered, the war was retroactively declared a
benevolent mission, triggered by compassion. We freed the Iraqi people from the
grip of a brutal tyrant, we’re instilling democratic values, we’re staking the
flag of liberty…you’ve heard the rhetoric. If all this is true, why did we wait
until after 9/11? What did the September attacks have to do with instigating a
military policy of moral intervention? If George W. Bush is indeed a great
humanitarian, why did he oppose the NATO effort to combat Slobodan Milosivic’s
crimes against humanity? Why hasn’t he committed troops to stop the slaughter in
Sudan? (Where, it should be pointed out, an estimated 70,000 people have died in
a situation the U.S. has called "genocide." The Bush administration’s response?
Lobbying for U. N. sanctions.)
If you’ve bought into Mr. Bush’s post-invasion rationale, you must ask
yourself: Why is the vote of an Iraqi more important than the life of a
And: Should we now use our bombs to liberate the people of North Korea? Of
Pakistan? Of Saudi Arabia?
It’s time to define your values.