Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Chris Hedges brings tears to my eyes

This essay is a distillation of many of the thoughts behind War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, as they apply to the war in Iraq.
The most powerful antiwar testaments, of war and what war does to us, are those that eschew images of combat. It is the suffering of the veteran whose body and mind are changed forever because he or she served a nation that sacrificed them, the suffering of families and children caught up in the unforgiving maw of war, which begin to tell the story of war. But we are not allowed to see dead bodies, at least of our own soldiers, nor do we see the wounds that forever mark a life, the wounds that leave faces and bodies horribly disfigured by burns or shrapnel. We never watch the agony of the dying. War is made palatable. It is sanitized. We are allowed to taste war's perverse thrill, but spared from seeing war's consequences. The wounded and the dead are swiftly carted offstage. And for this I blame the press, which willingly hides from us the effects of bullets, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, which sat at the feet of those who lied to make this war possible and dutifully reported these lies and called it journalism.

War is always about this betrayal. It is about the betrayal of the young by the old, idealists by cynics and finally soldiers by politicians. Those who pay the price, those who are maimed forever by war, however, are crumpled up and thrown away. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they bring is too painful for us to hear. We prefer the myth of war, the myth of glory, honor, patriotism and heroism, words that in the terror and brutality of combat are empty, meaningless and obscene.

We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront the lies and hubris told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, we will not so much defeat dictators such as Saddam Hussein as become them.



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