THE GENOCIDE GENE
ROBERT J. LEWIS
force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished
unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
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, ideally whose
passion it is to kill, 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 is not allowed to get the job done, for if he does,
it is at the risk of being either stripped of his rank or
If I were this soldier,
not particularly beholding to someone who only seconds ago
wanted to kill me, I would be wondering whose directives 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 rules
of the game, 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 extravagant notions of honour and probity, what
the tidy conventions of war demand of the soldier boggle the
mind in the context of lethal conflict. Show me the justice
and integrity of the man, who, bursting with ambition, thinks
nothing of risking the lives of thousands of soldiers to secure
a territory that will add to his global ranking and prestige
and make him more attractive to a woman who isn’t sure
There once was a time when wars
were fought honestly, that is out of grim necessity, in the
absence of ulterior motive. 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 those 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
If my Prime Minister
requires of me to put my life on the line in combat for the
sake of his, at worst, unwholesome ambition, 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 me dead? And beyond that, the extended
family who will have been taught to hate me to the death?
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 the first of your three Sunday football games while
my gluteals are out there in the line of fire, but if a job
well done translates into the unthinkable, so be it; and if
torture translates into reduced personal or national risk,
again, so be it. No apologies. And if you are revolted by
these frightfully easy conclusions and consequences, especially
as they concern civilians and collateral damage, may the ugly
and horrific truth of all wars provide the incentive to interdict
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.
you, and you know who you are in your unholy ambition, who have
imposed the tidy conventions of war on your propagandized proxies,
if there is 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.
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
to the drumbeat of of the heart, 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.