always been mystified – well, if the truth be told, discombobulated
-- by the conventions of war, the almost elegant rules of the
game that pretend to put a humane face on what is an incorrigibly
savage, dehumanizing enterprise.
every war produces soldiers who routinely rape, abuse drugs
and alcohol and go AWOL, I’ve often wondered what kind
of soldier I’d make, and conclude unofficially the best,
officially the worst. Here’s why.
the soldier who has been trained to kill, whose duty it is to
kill, and ideally whose passion it is, but finds himself in
a combat situation where he fails in his primary task -- he
only wounds the enemy. If the rules of the game weren't choking
his trigger finger and the coast were clear, this ‘good
soldier’ would matter-of-factly approach the wounded combatant
and without blinking an eye finish him off and return to his
work. But he’s not allowed to get the job done, for if
he does, it’s at the risk of being court-martialed and
stripped of his rank.
I were this soldier, not particularly beholding to someone who
only seconds ago wanted to kill me, I would be wondering whose
conventions are these anyway? Why should I not be permitted
to complete the task for which I have been trained: kill the
enemy who would just as soon kill me? Instead, at the behest
of the protocols of war, I am first of all asked to back off
from my mission, and then provide the wounded soldier medical
assistance until his rehabilitation is complete. If a truce
is signed, the enemy soldier will be returned home where, now
healthy, he can rejoin his unit and live to fight another day,
and perhaps even kill me -- this same soldier whom I could have
killed right then and there.
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. Show me the honour and dignity of the man, who, bursting
with ambition, thinks nothing of deploying thousands of troops
to secure a territory that will add to his rank and prestige
and make him more attractive to a woman who isn’t sure
about him? “We all have the strength to endure the misfortunes
of others,” observes Rochefoucault.
once was a time when wars were fought honestly, that is out
of grim necessity and without pretension. In fighting over the
necessities of life, one tribe would attempt to eliminate the
other by whatever means or cunning could be summoned, including
the surprise attack in the dead of night where as many men,
women and children as possible were killed. If we could time-travel
a contemporary journalist to these battlegrounds of yore, it
would be impossible to describe the above without reference
to genocide, holocaust or pogrom.
the modern era, even though necessity is only rarely a provocation
to war, man, hostage to his innate bellicosity, continues to
act upon his lust for territory and prestige, but he's now obliged
to dress up his naked ambition since he has signed on to a world
order that values the appearance of civility more than it abhors
the slaughter and carnage that characterize every war. To persuade
his proxies and nervous neighbours that he is a more civilized,
kinder and gentler species than his barbaric antecedents, he
evolves and enshrines in legislation the conventions of war
to the effect that the savage that still remains is now dressed-up
in a pin-striped suit and tie and listens to Beethoven while
studying maps of the various regions under his conflagration.
I, the good soldier, am expected to march to the drumbeat of
those ennobling lies and deceits? If my prime minister requires
me to put my life on the line in combat for the sake of his,
at worst, unwholesome ambitions, at best, a noble cause, the
one rule that I’ll be beholding to is: all is fair in
war. If I’m in Kandahar, on a house to house search and
destroy mission, do you think for one second I’m going
to spare the wife of the soldier who is loading the gun of her
man who wants to kill me? And beyond that, their children who
will have been taught to hate and kill me? Besides having an
interest in preserving my one and only life – every soldier’s
forbidden conceit -- don't I, a pawn in a game I don’t’
really understand, surely owe it to myself to annihilate the
enemy by any means necessary? Feel free to call it by whatever
term that pleases as you tune into your third soccer game of
the day while my ass is out there in the line of fire, but if
a job well done translates into genocide, so be it, and if torture
translates into reduced personal risk, again, so be it. No apologies.
And if you are revolted by these frightfully easy conclusions
and consequences, especially as they concern women and children,
may the ugly, brutal and savage truth of war provide the incentive
to interdict it forever.
the heart and imagination of every soldier lies the total capitulation
of the enemy by any means necessary so he can finally return
home to family, friends and fishing rod. This is the truth of
war where truth is beauty and beauty is truth
and are words-worth living and dying for.
time has come to speak what remains unspoken in every war, that
there isn’t a soldier alive who wants to save the life
of an enemy who wants him dead.
of you, and you know who you are in your brute ambition -- who
have imposed the conventions of war on your propagandized proxies
-- as ruthless, hypocritical, Untermenschen murderers
deserving of the severest punishment, if there’s a rung
of hell for which you are fit, it is found in the tortured schizophrenic
mind of every soldier who wasn’t allowed to finish the
task for which he was trained, and died as a consequence. May
these soldiers’ survivors track you down and tear you
apart and feed your remains to the dogs of war.
On June 14, 2008, 400 Taliban soldiers escaped from Sarposa
Prison in Kandahar. If the ugly, degrading, dehumanizing enterprise
of war were recognized for what it is, and fought honestly and
unpretentiously, there would be no need for prisons of war,
just as there would be fewer funerals for Canadian soldiers,
fewer widows, fewer fatherless children, fewer grieving parents.