The War That Disappeared!



If anyone has seen much coverage of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan recently then they must have been watching a lot more TV or different channels than I have. Is it just me, or has the war, other than the politician’s talk of it, virtually disappeared? If so, is that such a bad thing? I suppose the answer to that question depends upon your perspective and I would assume that it is not a bad thing from President Bush’s point of view. My own point of view may be somewhat different.

First of all, what do the vast majority of us know about war? The answer to this is almost certainly, very little. I served in Vietnam in an administrative position and, other than a few mortar and rocket attacks on the division headquarters at Dong Tam and a few nervous evenings as I traveled to small outlying base camps as part of my duties, I was actually far removed from the realities of the war. Just how far removed I was did not really come through to me until many years later.

Since my job required a good deal of travel throughout the delta in southern Vietnam, most of it by helicopter, I was able to arrange transportation to Saigon by helicopter when I was going on my R&R to Singapore. An unexpected part of that trip was that I rode with a body bag at my feet all the way to Saigon. I was, at the time, able to minimize the effect of that and to look at it as just a body in transport that I could largely ignore. It was only recently that I felt the full impact of that when, for the first time, I recognized that whoever he was, for me he was the body of the Unknown Soldier for Vietnam. The full meaning of the very concept of the Unknown Soldier hit home and, after nearly forty years the tears came because I realized that war represents a loss for all of us whether or not we lose someone close. There is no way that we can even begin to understand war if we are not willing to look at the full reality of the loss that war brings.

All war, whether looked upon as just or not, involves suffering and loss, most of all for those directly involved in combat and those close to them. If we close ourselves off from the realities of war and deny the loss, we cannot even begin to understand the realities of war. As much as our government has sought to obscure the realities of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq we have to come to terms with the incredible human costs for the populations in both. Unfortunately, when we look at the war in Iraq the cost to the people of that country has been tragically high. This is only touched on by the media and it leads one to wonder if President Bush’s insistent on removing the limits to percentage of ownership of the media, despite considerable public opposition, is being rewarded by the limited and very controlled coverage the war is now receiving.

Whatever is presented to us on television or not presented, we must come to understand the destruction and death that war involves. Without understanding the full impact of this war on the people of Iraq we risk not understanding the implications of war itself. The worst statement that I have seen about the war in Iraq was in the Idaho Statesman on June 6, 2007. The simple sentence, with all of its horrific implications was “The U.S. military itself says it doesn’t track civilian casualties.”

To understand the full implication of that sentence we must go back to the initial justifications for that war that were presented by the Bush administration. In spite of this administration’s attempts to make us think otherwise, there has never been any evidence presented that connected 911 or Al Queda with Iraq. The justification for the war centered around Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction which proved to be either an inexcusable miscalculation or an outright lie, although we may never know which. When these reasons proved to be unsustainable the emphasis was shifted to establishing a democracy in Iraq. The question has become, in light of our refusal to track the war’s civilian casualties, how many of their people are not going to be around to enjoy the democracy we are supposedly trying to establish?

All wars involve a degree of misrepresentation or outright lies, but this one may well involve more than most. There are, I believe, two lies that are the most outrageous. The first is that we went into Iraq primarily to help them establish a democracy. The evidence suggests strongly that our real intent was to establish a government friendly to our interests and an economy tailored to suit U.S. business goals. Neither of these would automatically be achieved if Iraq truly achieved a democracy.In fact, it is at least likely that any democratic government elected in Iraq might choose to act counter to what we perceive our interests to be, especially since the majority of the population is Shite and might naturally lean toward a close relationship with Iran.

The current position of the Bush administration is that we have to fight terrorism in Iraq or we will have it within our borders. Even if there is some truth to this we should know by now that there appears to be no truth to the suggestion that Al Queda was involved in Iraq before we invaded. This brings up the strong supposition that we chose Iraq as a battleground by starting the war and drawing Al Queda into it so that we could fight them on another country’s territory other than Afghanistan where we knew that the terrain would make for a very difficult war. This may seem like a cynical view but surely it cannot be more cynical than the disregard shown for the displacement and death of so many Iraqi civilians.

So what position is reasonable in regard to this war other than the continued quest for peace in the world that we should all be involved in? I believe that Thomas Merton, the renowned monk and author put it best when he addressed the issue of war and peace. In one of his essays on the matter he stated: “Prayer and sacrifice must be used as the most effective weapons in the war against war… this implies that we are also willing to sacrifice and restrain our own instinct for violence and aggressiveness in our relations with other people.” This may be the best answer we can find for ourselves as individuals, but, as a nation, much more is needed. As a nation we need to devote far more effort toward achieving peace in the world than we put into making war. Finding the way to do that is one of the most important challenges facing humanity.

Posted by Larry Munden, writer & Catholic Worker

– Original artwork by Kevin Larmee

Boise Catholic Worker is a group of Lay Catholics who study and live the social teachings of the Catholic Church in their daily lives through the guidelines set down by Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day. Catholic Workers give comfort to the homeless and suffering as well as promote social justice through education efforts and action. We welcome all faith based volunteers to Boise Catholic Worker.

Technorati Tags:, , , , ,

Subscribe by e-mail to the Boise Catholic Worker Blog!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

AddThis Feed Button

No Responses Yet to “The War That Disappeared!”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: