It seems of late that every morning we wake to news that a number between one and ten is the latest daily casualty total of U.S. troops in Iraq. Those ones through tens have added up to a number around six-hundred military personal dead while serving in a war that is said will bring freedom to the Iraqi people.
While an undergrad studying Political Science, I was indoctrinated by so-called experts who would use Balance of Power, Game Theory, and other political theory techniques to explain why nations went to war. I am able to recall that such explanations seemed at the time to be clean, too precise, and emotionally detached when it comes to human beings killing each other in the name of some cause. I still agree with what I thought then.
We recently viewed, or not, pictures of charred U.S. citizens gruesomely hanging from a bridge. Without any question, the images were deeply disturbing.
What miffs me is that for those of us that saw the images, many reacted with disbelief, anger, and/or shock, among other ways we may react when we acknowledge human kind’s inhumanity to ourselves. I use the word “miffs” because I am unable to hone in on what my fellow citizens had imagined war to be.
You do not have to serve in a war to know that it is horrible, grotesque, violent, bloody, and evil. We, as human beings, are able to empathize without experiencing.
It is this exact human quality–empathy–that requires us to be most respectful to those who have served in war, anywhere. While we may not agree with the politics behind the war, we cannot place responsibility for the decisions of an elite ruling class on the vast majority of lower and middle class-background soldiers that comprise our armed forces. Further, empathy demands us to care for our brothers and sisters when they return. It is a national shame that one of the highest rates of homeless and suicidal groups of people living on our streets today are Vietnam veterans. We cannot allow for this to occur post-“terrorism” war, whenever, if ever, that arrives.
Those considered to be of educated backgrounds have posited the notion that only six-hundred dead is not that many when considering the length of time we’ve been in Iraq, or when compared to other wars in our nation’s history.
Again, harking back to my days in academia, I recall learning something about the body count technique and how more dead bodies surely must mean that one side is winning the war over the other. Or, that maybe using the body count technique is not really a useful measure of success (think Vietnam). Both arguments were provided and neither sounding more plausible than the other, leaving me with the lesson that not only were they not useful in determing war’s success, they also were more than just dead bodies as political instruments.
Dead bodies are lives. Dead bodies are loved ones. Dead bodies are living, breathing, endless possibilities given a cruel exit from a world equally cruel, the cruelty used to described the exit and the world resulting from exactly the same source: the lack of understanding due to the lack of love.
Tomorrow we will wake and, more than likely, we will hear of more dead U.S. troops. We will likely here more the next day, next week, and so on. Keeping this in mind, and checking in with your emotions, whatever they may be, ask yourself if those emotions could be similar to those felt by the people of Iraq, Chechnya, Colombia, or Sudan when they learn of their dead ones.
Ask yourself, what exactly is it that we are fighting for anyway?
(18 April 2004)