War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.

The latest technical foul caught by cameras in Iraq is all over the news. Nasty business; a Marine appears to have shot a wounded enemy. And there are pictures of dismembered toddlers, accounts of starvation and disease, descriptions of the use of dreadful weapons. If you’re a person of any empathy these things make you choke. Here’s the odd part. The news media covers these as shocking aberrations. My politically liberal anti-war friends cite all of these as evidence of the brutal inhumanity of the current administration and the wickedness of the current war.

What did any of you think a war was like? Have you ever even read a good book about one? The strangest ones are the people who back the war but say “we have to do this by the book” or “these abuses can’t go on”. Well of course they can go on. That’s what a war is. The “rules” are a polite Victorian fiction.

Real wars consist of the following: pants-filling terror, rage, uncontrollable killing rampages, rape, the slaughter of prisoners, the deliberate burning to death of other humans, torture, dead babies, useless mass death, the destruction of every useful thing within reach, theft, and insanity. When you agree to send soldiers into battle you sign off on all of the above and more.

Every time this foolishness comes up I’m reminded of the first Gulf War and the attempt by that sad madman Ramsey Clark to prove that the U.S. forces were war criminals for using combat bulldozers against earthworks, thereby burying enemy soldiers alive. One general’s response was basically: “It is indeed horrible. Most of what happens here is horrible. You might think from watching war movies that dying from a gunshot or a grenade blast is a relatively quick and clean death; I can assure you otherwise.”

The “boys” over there shooting dying prisoners or mortaring infants are doing exactly what you asked them to. Just admit it already.

9 thoughts on “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.

  1. Indeed, some of us knew this was going to happen, and that is exactly why we object to the gung-ho militarism that’s so common in the US. And that is also why we made it clear to *our* government that it should not become involved in Iraq.
    I remember sitting in a small-town legion hall one time with a half dozen or so veterans, one of whom had only half a jaw (Korea). We chatted and argued and, when the conversation inevitably turned to war and peace, I trotted out some Age of Aquarius aphorism. The jawless man looked at me for a long time and said, “Kid, I wish you knew what you’re talking about.”
    It came out after several other conversations that what he hated most about war was what it made him. A cripple, a killer, unloved and loveless.
    I hate that too, and it’s why I cry out when I see it.

    1. My Uncle Dick has not yet recovered from the 1943 invasion of Sicily but he’s doing a lot better in his eighties. Unlike movies, lives go on long after the climax of the action.

  2. What angers me are the people who judge the actions of these soldiers from the comfort of their own home, not realizing that these men are there to do a job – whether they believe in the cause or not – so that civilians like us don’t have to. Don’t blame these men for what they are forced to do, blame the government that forces them.

    1. We’re all responsible for what our soldiers do, every single last one of us. We paid for it, trained them to do it, and sent them to do it.
      It’s a shameful lie to punish a few low-ranking guys who get caught freaking out and being brutal when the whole wretched business is just that bad and we’re all part of it.

  3. Gwar
    I always understood this notion of “War Is Not Actually Hell” as an outgrowth of the “let’s not do THAT again” response to WWI+II. Along with “let’s not use chemical/biological weapons” and “let’s not use nuclear weapons”, there was the whole grand renaming of “Department of War” and “Ministry of War” to “Department of Defense” and “Ministry of Defense”, since we weren’t really going to have REAL wars again, just little bits of turmoil in scruffy places.
    And there was the short-lived hope that sending UN troops to Korea would be a “police action” (the term used), which practically asserts that the people with guns are just jokey NY Irish street cops, not rampaging killbots.
    But that was all thrown out in the global quest to make the world a big Tom Clancey novel. Killbots ahoy!
    I don’t know, I almost want the DoD to rename itself back to “Department of War”, or even start over with “Department of Massacre”, which could serve as a starting point for justifications that the massacres should ideally be selective at best, not too genocidal, and so on.

    1. Re: Gwar
      I always understood this notion of “War Is Not Actually Hell” as an outgrowth of the “let’s not do THAT again” response to WWI+II.
      Interesting idea. I was thinking about the difference between Armistice Day and Memorial Day, myself— one being very much “let’s not do THAT again”, the other being “h

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