The Cost Beyond Dollars

The extensive coverage honoring our veterans was admirable. Commendable as well were the stories illustrating how not all those who return from war zones are better off for their experience. Aside from physical war wounds, we read of suicides, domestic violence and addiction. Many veterans languish for years forgotten in VA hospitals, scarred in mind and body. In the glare of bright uniforms, waving flags and martial music, one can easily forget the brutality and dehumanization that accompanies warfare.

One Green Beret was recently charged with "cowardly conduct" as a result of fear, later downgraded to "dereliction of duty," because he had a panic attack upon seeing an Iraqi cut in half by a machine gun. While some soldiers were laughing as the corpse of the dead Iraqi was dragged past him, this Beret threw up and shook for hours with a pounding headache and chest pains; from his waistline to his head most everything of the Iraqi's body was missing.

I would suggest that this American soldier's only crime was that of being all too human. Erasmus (1517 AD) said it well: "War is like a vast ocean of all the evils combined; under its influence sprouting buds wither, plants shrivel up, the frail collapse, the strong perish, and sweet things turn sour. It wipes out all traces of piety and religion. You cannot conceivably address a credible prayer to the Father of all when you have just driven a sword into your brother's bowels."

In war young men are called upon to kill other young men whom they don't know. They are ordered to do so by old men sitting in their war room who know, but do not fight, the old men on the opposing side. It brings to mind the photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking Saddam Hussein's hand when he was our ally. Erasmus put it succinctly: "Nowadays princes declare war in perfect safety, and the generals get fat on it.; but the heaviest burden falls on the peasants and poor artisans who stand to gain nothing from it and had nothing whatever to do with declaring it." The leaders are not the bleeders.

Today more and more of our youth, born weaponless and now in their early twenties, trained to be soldiers and not police officers, are being served up as cannon fodder. They perish every day, I submit that the moral guilt of those who sanctioned this senseless war is mounting. The powers behind this tragedy make sure we never see any body bags, nor the returning coffins, nor the funerals that the president never attends. So our dead heroes are buried in obscurity and the general public is shielded from a wake-up call.

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