USS Clueless - The horrors of war

Stardate 20021008.1729

(Captain's log): It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that anyone who staunchly opposes the war we face will try to characterize those who advocate war as somehow being entranced by the concept of war, of looking forward to it, of thinking it is fun. The idea is war as grand football game, the ultimate contest where we can all sit in the stadium cheering for our team as it proceeds to kill the other team right before our eyes, and we get to see it all on the evening news! Blood! Gore! Yee-Haw! Where's my beer, and my flag I can wave?

It's too easy of an ad hominem; it amounts to an obvious cheap shot. It also isn't true, but I consider the source.

More troubling is when I receive mail from people who actually, sincerely think I feel at least somewhat that way. I'm not sure if Josh did, but his recent letter along these lines got me thinking. He wrote:

I'm having a hard time finding anyone in real life that's for the war. Maybe it's because I just don't move in the right circles. Maybe it's because I live in New York City. In any event, I'm turning to the net to find people who don't see things my way and will engage in a dialogue on the subject.

You seem quite staunchly pro-war. I really want to understand your reasoning. You seem like an intelligent person. Why do you support the idea of a war with Iraq? How do you think it will turn out?

The first part of my response was:

Nobody sane is pro-war.

I'm anti-passivity. I'm anti-let-them-kill-us-with-impunity. I'm anti-American-city-being-nuked.

I hate the idea of war, but I think that not doing it would have even worse results. We're in a situation now where there are no good choices and we have to select the least bad one, and in my opinion that means war.

Cato the Youngest just wrote this:

We Americans are not exactly thrilled to send our young men and women in harm's way, either. It may come as a surprise to Germany, and the rest of Europe, but we love our children, too, and are not eager to see them come home in GI coffins. We understand that even those who survive the war without so much as a scratch, are likely to see things that no decent human being would want to see.

Part of why I had insomnia last night is that my thoughts were full of the ways in which wars had changed men, good men, our men, who had gone to fight for us.

I'm Viet Nam generation, or just on the young end of it. Men one year older than I am served in that war, but my year missed the fun, and we were very glad. My year of eligibility for the draft was the first year after they stopped drafting people. (But my draft lottery number was 346, so I knew I wouldn't go anyway.)

I knew a lot of men slightly older than I was who did have to go. I spent many beery/grassy evenings hanging out, and sometimes they'd tell me stories. I met a guy who was an MP for the Air Force, which in practice meant that he was infantry holding a defensible perimeter around an air base in South Vietnam to prevent hostiles from getting near enough to the valuable stuff (jets and bombs and fuel) so that they could fire mortars as them. He saw combat more than once; he was under mortar attack.

I met a guy who was a scout. He talked about seeing a hill which had enemy on it, and after warning a Marine platoon about it, watching them advance up it anyway, losing one killed.

I went to college with a guy who had been on an aircraft carrier. He never fired a shot; he spent his time in theater repairing teletypes. But he did seem to think more than a bit about the Forrestal disaster, apparently in a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God kind of way.

I worked with a guy after I got out of college. He was good looking, friendly, maybe a bit quiet, a loving father and good husband, and a good engineer. Someone else told me that he'd enlisted in the Marines and had been in a firebase, which is nobody's idea of a good time. I was told that he had nightmares, and kept waking up in the middle of the night screaming.

When I was young, I went to YMCA summer camp for the first and last time. (I hated it.) My counselor was named Gerd Selig, a German immigrant. A couple of years later my mom showed me a newspaper article, in the back pages, where he was listed as killed in action in a routine article which listed the casualties that week during the war. I was about 12.

My brother is four years older than I am. I remember how he enlisted in the National Guard in order to avoid the draft. I remember how much he hated it.

I've read books, I've watched film of interviews. During the Battle of Britain, there were British women assigned to listen to the radio frequencies used by the Luftwaffe to communicate with their fighters, in hopes of learning things which might be helpful in saving Britain. Sometimes when a German fighter would be hit, the pilot would have his microphone on as he died. Sometimes they would scream; that was worst when the cockpit was full of flames. They would cry, if wounded, and call to their mothers. And though they were the enemy, and though Britain could only survive if they were shot down, the British women listening would find themselves saying, "Get out! Get OUT!" and hope they'd hit their parachutes.

The German advance during the Battle of the Bulge only lasted a few d

Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004