Sunday, May 23, 2004

War is Heck

I was cruising Yahoo! News tonight and came across two bits from Iraq that compelled me to write this very un-Homespun rant.

The first was an AP story headlined "Morgue Records Show 5,500 Iraqis Killed". The AP, it seems, felt compelled to investigate and report upon the number of Iraqi civilians since G.I. Joe came to town ... while we're still on the ground trying to un-cluster that most-clustered little bit of desert.

The fact that the story mentions how Iraq is not necessarily a worse-off place now - what with Saddam having killed about 300,000 - 500,000 people and all - just underscores how this story serves to do nothing but make us look like "bad guys" despite the fact that all-in-all the Iraqis are doing a lot better now.

The second bit was a slideshow of photos from the wedding U.S. planes supposedly hit the other day, killing 45 people. Hey look, here's the keyboard player:

And he's dead now! Damn you, George Bush!!

See, here's the thing: War is ugly. In war, people die. That's pretty much the goal of war. Typically, the people who die are soliders, but often they are civilians.

It's unlikely the U.S. meant to kill innocent people at a wedding in Iraq. Maybe we targeted the wedding thinking it was something else. Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe we did set out to bomb that wedding.

War is ugly.

Anybody remember August 6, 1945? A town called Hiroshima? We killed about 80,000 civilians - on purpose - in a matter of seconds. Three days later, we went back and killed another 50,000 or so civilians at Nagasaki. Again, on purpose.

Elsewhere in World War II, we killed about 100,000 civilians in Tokyo, 40,000 civilians in Dresden, and tens of thousands of others along the way to victory.

In case anybody is not clear on this point yet, let me make it crystal:

The United States has killed hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of civilians in our 228 years of existence, from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan. And we're the good guys.

In war, you kill people. Sometimes you kill civilians - whether on purpose or by accident. It's just how war works. Always has, always will.

But there was no Yahoo! News in 1945. The AP couldn't get their hands on photos of a wedding that had just taken place in Hiroshima. The media wouldn't have been able to get access to the morgue in Dresden to count the bodies there.

You'll no doubt hear anti-war types talking about the 5,500 dead Iraqis in the coming days, and the Iraqi wedding photos will also get a lot of play.

The question in my mind is whether we - fat, lazy Americans - still have the stomach for war.

Somehow, I get the feeling we don't.


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