Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 7, No. 4, 2008
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Robert Rotondo
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
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
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




The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
Dylan Thomas

I’ve 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.

Where 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.

Take 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.

If 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.

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. 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.

There 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.

In 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.

And 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Those 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.

Postscript: 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.

Reader Feedback HERE


 = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting
Couleur JAZZ 91.9
2007 Millennium Summit, Montreal, Nov. 8-9, info =  1.866.515.5009
Care + Net Computer Services
E-Tango: Web Design and lowest rates for web hosting
Armand Vaillancourt: sculptor
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis