The Conduct of War
I spent an enjoyable and enlightening few days knitting and listening to Tony Hillerman's reflection on his life Seldom Disappointed a few weeks ago. Like most memoirs, it focused on his early life and in his case, on his formative experiences as a soldier in WWII. He described a lot of hurry up and wait, a lot of inefficient management, a lot of pain, a lot of discomfort, a lot of hard work, and several of the images of the horror of war that still haunt his dreams. What he didn't describe was anything like this, which comes from last week's Newsweek and describes an aspect of military life in Iraq.
'The Marines know how to get psyched up for a big fight. In November 2004, before the Battle of Fallujah, the Third Battalion, First Marines, better known as the "3/1" or "Thundering Third," held a chariot race. Horses had been confiscated from suspected insurgents, and charioteers were urged to go all-out. The men of Kilo Company-honored to be first into the city on the day of the battle-wore togas and cardboard helmets, and hoisted a shield emblazoned with a large K. As speakers blasted a heavy-metal song, "Cum On Feel the Noize," the warriors of Kilo Company carried a homemade mace, and a ball-and-chain studded with M-16 bullets. A company captain intoned a line from a scene in the movie "Gladiator," in which the Romans prepare to slaughter the barbarians: "What you do here echoes in eternity."'
That there were some atrocities and dehumanization of the enemy during WWII I have no doubt. You can't have a war and the pressures of war without them. But this is what the military thinks it has to do to get soldiers to fight in Iraq.
So let's just say this out loud.
This is not war. This is sick. It's not what you have to do to psych people up to do what needs to be done. It is what you have to do to psych people up kill without cause in a war without justification which has no discernible end.
I am so ashamed to be an American today.