In other Iraq news, an unarmed Iraqi man was killed by US forces in Fallujah Wednesday after throwing his shoe at their convoy. The military says the soldiers opened fire thinking the shoe was a grenade. The shooting came one day after the Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi was released from prison after a nine-month term for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush.
Here’s the thing: if you’re going to have a military, especially one that is sent to fight as many wars as ours is, you need to desensitize soldiers to the value of human life, so that they will kill without hesitation or reflection.
The military must work against something very powerful. There is a very strong, intrinsically human revulsion to killing our fellow humans. You can talk all day about “it’s ok because it’s war” and “it was you or them” or any of the other nonsense Mother Culture tells you about killing in the particular instance of war, but unless you are a sociopath, the reality of what war actually is -- hellish, brutal, murderous, senseless and soul-destroying -- always trumps that, somewhere inside.
Sending young men to commit warfare is a monstrously evil thing to do, when you peel away the rationalizations, legalisms and veneer of nationalist triumphalism.
And then the Greek language comes out with another word; it is the word agape. Now agape is more than romantic love. Agape is more than friendship. Now agape is understanding creative redemptive goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love, which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. And when one rises to love on this level, he is able to love the person who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. And he is able to love those persons that he even finds it difficult to like for he begins to look beneath the surface and he discovers that that individual who may be brutal toward him and who may be prejudiced was taught that way—was a child of his culture.
-Martin Luther King
War and deep, agape love cannot coexist together: you can either do one thing or the other, never both.
There was a saying half a century ago in the protests against Vietnam: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” In other words, if you have the world’s most powerful military, then it will tend to be the card you reach for first: it is your strongest suit.
I don’t ultimately blame the soldier who blew away that civilian: I’m sure he was a frightened kid who reacted instinctively (but tragically) to a perceived threat to his life. I ultimately blame the power structures that put him there; a power structure that uses violence to maintain its power in the world.
I have a hard time with folks who try and wave it off with some explanation like “Well, what is one to do? In a fallen world, war will always be a fact of life...”
War is there because we either support it, at least tacitly, or else we don't do enough to stop it.
So now we see how it is
This fist begets the spear
Weapons of war
Symptoms of madness
Don't let your eyes refuse to see
Don't let your ears refuse to hear
Or you ain't never going to shake this sense of sadness
I could hold you in my arms
I could hold on forever
And I could hold you in my arms
I could hold on forever
Ray Lamontagne, Hold You In My Arms