One of my friends has a son who volunteered to go to war. The son’s father, a democrat, and, of course, no fan of the president, has been a decided critic of the war. In talking with him the other day, he told me that, like any other father, he loves his son very much, but believes that his son made a terrible mistake by choosing to go to war. He informed me that he had done absolutely everything in his power to dissuade his son from joining the military, but no matter what he said, his son felt that he had a patriotic duty to serve his country. As of this moment, his son is stationed in Iraq.
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I have no doubt that my friend loves his son just as much as I would love my own son if he had been the one to have chosen to go to war. However, even though he prays that his son will not be injured or killed in Iraq, he in no way supports that which his son has set out to do. As far as the father is concerned, his son’s decision to carry out his orders to kill others is likely no better than if he had decided to join the Mafia in order to be a hit man!
On the other hand, for those who believe that George Walker Bush is a good Christian, no doubt a true man of God, one inspired (by God) to send troops into Iraq, it only makes sense that they would want to support the troops in Iraq. Such folks might even be inclined, through spiritual obligation, to encourage that of their own children to join up and serve the military. I mean, what more could one expect of such parents than to encourage their own children to kill in the name of God!
However, for those who do not approve of the president’s war (like that of the father alluded to earlier who believes that George Walker Bush lied to congress in order to obtain approval to send American troops into Iraq), there would be no reason for such to support the troops in Iraq. Really now, how could one support (much less respect) an arrangement in which unscrupulous military recruiters inveigle their way into high schools in order to convince high school seniors that it would be in their best interest to swap their souls for an “up front” payoff, you know what I mean, the enlistment bonus….. the “thirty pieces of silver” offered by recruiters to induce economically deprived young men and women to join the military for nothing more than a feckless opportunity to be a “stand-in trigger man” for the President of the United States, an abject mercenary grunt serving a commander in chief unwilling to send that of his own daughters into combat! No matter how you look at it, such an arrangement is a bargain with The Devil, a compact created in Hell. The military recruits the kids, and the kids allow themselves to become trained assassins assimilated into a ravaged culture of death!
Now, for just a moment, if you would, let’s suppose there was a company that, for whatever reason, engaged in an illicit activity, one that ended up harming, perhaps even killing people. Let’s also assume that more or less everyone in the organization…… from that of the CEO, the vice presidents, those in research and development, marketing and advertising, the sales staff, the accountants, all the way down to those of the office workers in the company, were reasonably aware that such activity was likely to harm, perhaps even kill, people. Let’s also assume that such led to a criminal investigation the purpose of which was to figure out who to hold responsible for such crimes; those at the very top of the organization, those in the middle, and/or those at the very bottom, the fusiliers, those directly involved in the day-to-day operations of death?
Well, as it turns out, we, the American people, the citizens of the United States, are “that company,” and as sure as George Walker Bush is our president, we, like those above, are the very people who have chosen to participate in such an illicit activity (that of having chosen to invade the country of Iraq).
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that I ask who, in fact, should be held responsible for the ongoing destruction of a such a substantial portion of the infrastructure of Iraq, the death of half a million children during an earlier embargo, the killing of as many as 100,000 innocent Iraqis, the deaths of 2,500 American soldiers, and the horrible injury of at least 25,000. Just those at the very top (George Walker Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condelessa Rice, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States Congress)? Those in the middle (the under secretaries, the two star generals, the commandants, the colonels, even those of the voting public)? And what about those at the bottom of the barrel, those charged with the responsibility of pulling the trigger, you know, the grunts…… the privates, the corporals, the sergeants, the platoon leaders; the men and women on the ground who each and every day make deliberate decisions to shoot and kill people?
Ward Churchill in his most controversial book, On The Justice Of Roosting Chickens: Consequences of American Conquest and Carnage, made it rather clear that each of us, as human beings, to the extent that we have chosen to become “Little [Adolf] Eichmanns,” to the extent that we have chosen to become involved in the activities of war, should be held responsible for that of our own actions. Clearly, as mandated by that of the Nuremberg Trials, no one can ignore the immense responsibility, the immense crimes committed by those in charge; George Walker Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. And, of course, let’s not forget those of us in the middle, the 50.7 percent who, like sheep being led to the slaughter, made their way into voting booths around the country giving George Walker Bush the ill-considered opportunity to govern our country.
But then, and certainly more to the point, what about those of our own children, our kids who have been charged with the dreadful responsibility of carrying out “the day-to-day activity” of the president? You know what I mean, the men and women in uniform, the soldiers, the grunts out there on the killing fields of Iraq choosing to shoot and kill the enemy. What about them, those of our own children, the great American patriots having been freed to lay waist to the enemy? Should they be given a “free pass?” Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that we praise that of our own children when they kill the enemy? However, when the enemy does the same to us, we cry out for their death. How absolutely absurd for us to claim that our children kill in the name of God, while those of the enemy, fighting to protect what they hold to be dear, are evil doers having lost their right to live.
Jesus taught that those who love not only God and their neighbor, but as well that of their enemy have demonstrated the right to be called peacemakers, the true seekers of peace, without a doubt, the authentically genuine Children of God. Incredibly however, the very folks who seem to flatter themselves as being the “true followers” of Christ, are those most inclined to send their children off to war. How can it be that those who have apparently been taught how terribly wrong it is to kill, are the very ones so likely to ignore the egregious nature of what their own children have been called upon to do…… that of killing the enemy?
In order to justify such behavior, Americans (especially fundamentalist Christians) have found it increasingly necessary to con themselves into believing that our children are, for whatever reason, more precious than that of our enemy’s children, that we love our children more than they do, that the death of one of our children is a much greater tragedy than it would be for them to lose a child. Conceivably such reasoning (convoluted as it is) is that which has enabled us to kill their sons and daughters with such a great deal of ease. Although no doubt a rather difficult thing to do, it would be good for us to realize (regardless of what we have been told) that their children are not sand niggers, nor are they or their parents camel jockeys! Just like that of our own children, they are human beings, and in the long run it makes no difference who is killing whom…… if we are killing them, or if they are killing us, since as it turns out killing is killing, and as such it is wrong!
Being a psychologist, I am rather amazed that people fail to understand how very similar each of us, as human beings, are. We live with the pretense that we are somehow different, when in fact we are not. In reality, the only thing that stands between “us” (as Americans) and “them” (as Arabs) is the mere accident of one’s birth. Nothing more and nothing less. Believe me, if we had been born somewhere in the Middle East, we would have ended up being “the Arabs” wanting nothing more than to kill Americans. On the other hand, if they (the so-called enemy) had been born in the United States, they would have been “the Americans” wanting to kill Arabs. The point being that every single one of us has been conditioned, socialized, even brainwashed. Regardless of where we have been raised (the United States, Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan), we will end up becoming who we have been trained (essentially brainwashed) to be. One can gloat that he is an Arab while another might boast that he is an American. But regardless of our nationality, each is exactly the same in that we have each been brainwashed to the utter core of our being! As such we need to realize just how malleably servile we, as human beings, are, just how very easy it has been for each of us to have been duped into believing that “our god” (God, Allah, or Yahweh) is the “right god,” that the proverbial CEO of the universe has given us the exclusive right to determine who it is that shall live and who shall die. And all of such to no avail other than “puffing ourselves up” in order that we might believe that we, as Americans, have become the harbingers of good news, standard-bearers of the cross, emissaries from God having been sent out to save the world!
What an absolutely insane world in which we live, one that may not survive for long, unless we, as a species, regain that which we have seemingly lost, the capacity to realize that which we have in common, that which we have always shared…… the fact of our humanity.
Perhaps the day will come (but by then it may well be too late) when the world finally realizes that killing in the name of God is, and for that matter, has always been, wrong, that the future of the world, from the very beginning of time until that of the present moment, has been contingent upon a mom and dad’s rather simple willingness to remind their own children that they have but one, and only one, mandate in life….. that of following the voice of their own conscience which, has always, without exception, demanded that they, as human beings, say yes to life, and, with no apology whatsoever, no to war.
G. Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.