Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 7, No. 4, 2008
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


by Robert J. Lewis


from Bernard Dubé
Mr. Lewis. Your prose brings a reader into complicated arguments rather easily. But there are instances of unexpected rancor that detract from your case. For example, you write:

For the sake of some desk-bound general's blasphemous, hypocritical notion of honour and dignity, what the tidy conventions of war demand of the soldier boggle the mind in the context of lethal conflict.

In Word War II, in fact in every war, we must be thankful that we have some sociopaths on our side. I am personally appalled by the capacity of a general to engage in outright, merciless brutality. Remember how the American Forces annihilated the retreating Iraqi army -- I'm sure you saw the news footage of the carnage. I designate that as an example of killing a wounded soldier. But that was the job of the generals. And, I think that despite our repulsion to war, we are nevertheless, though regrettably so, thankful we have such sociopaths. Lets face it, if someone declares war against us, we may discover aspects of our ourselves that terrify.

Here’s another sentence that appears as an outburst in what begins as a reasoned line of argument.

May these soldiers’ survivors track you down and tear you apart and feed your remains to the dogs of war.

One is forced to ask: who is the sociopath here? The sentence is a scary one.

These examples stand out quite unexpectedly. They are out of tune with the general tenor of the piece. The result is that people may decide the writer is some sort of hot head.

The first example states the problem but it casts an accusation in the process concerning generals with whom some people may feel uncomfortable. As I said, we, after all, need our sociopaths in charge of the armed forces and when they win the war for us they are heroes -- they saved us from hell and they saved our lives.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in fact a lot of wounded enemy end up shot just the way you describe. None of us can imagine how minds can be twisted in the inferno of war. But one must also consider the need to capture enemy soldiers. First, for prisoner exchanges, second, for "questioning." And by the way, I have heard that the idea is not to kill the enemy but to wound them severely. This puts a greater strain on the enemy. They have to use up medical supplies and care for somebody who can no longer make a fighting contribution to the war. A wounded soldier also puts the life of his comrades in danger. They are under an obligation to rescue him and in the process, more of his comrades are killed. A wounded soldier slows down a mission and if he cannot be left behind or immediately returned to the rear lines the mission is in jeopardy. Bringing in a helicopter to remove the soldier can betray their position to the enemy and even bring them under fire as the helicopter tries to land. And of course this endangers the helicopter, involves the expenditure of fuel and endangers the highly skilled pilot that cost the government thousands of dollars to train and of which the country has only so many.

So your ‘modest’ proposal that a soldier aught to kill the enemy he has wounded has its logic but there are all these other advantages to letting him live which puts additional strain on his unit or platoon. Imagine the effect on the general military and then the general population to see such wounded people returning from the front lines to live among them. The same psychic strain exists for them as it did for his comrades and the more there are of such wounded the more intense the strain on the population. There is also the cost of long rehabilitation and the financial burden involved in supporting someone whose capacity to earn a living is severely undermined. Imagine that instead of killing a soldier you tell him you are going to blow his legs and his balls off and cut his hands from his arms? But you can see how it compares to finishing the job with a single bullet. It scares the hell out of me just to say such things. The horrible truth is that in the inhuman conditions of war, we can see the logic of it and even accept it as a reasonable course of action.

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