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Memorial Day 2016 reflections on war

Memorial Day 2016 reflections on war

I’m watching all of the media coverage of Memorial Day parades and thinking about how superficial and simplistic it all is. War is never good, but is occasionally necessary (the Civil War, World War II); but most wars are unnecessary (the Hundred Years’ War, Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea, the Thirty Years’ War, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Vietnam War, the Iraq war, etc., etc.). Soldiers do good things and terrible things in war; some are genuine heroes while others commit horrific war crimes; many are traumatized by war; some are courageous even fighting for a bad cause; war almost always causes massive human suffering, esp. among civilians. War is possibly the most expensive as well as the most destructive human invention of all time, but human beings aren’t unique in making war; chimpanzees make war, too, as Jane Goodall discovered, so humans aren’t unique in expressing animal aggression; we’re only unique in the destructive capacity of our war-making, which now has the possibility of actually destroying the planet we live on. I’m indirectly the product of two wars; my father served in World War II and helped liberate three Nazi concentration camps; I was born several years after the end of the Korean War, which devastated the land of my birth and profoundly shaped the circumstances that would lead to my adoption & relocation to the United States; I was also only a few years short of being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Unlike Hillary Clinton, I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and predicted it would be a disaster, which it has been. The Israeli war of genocide in Gaza in 2014 is perhaps the most cynically manipulative war of modern times. George W. Bush and Barack Obama have gotten Americans used to permanent endless war and unlimited expenditure on it, at the cost of everything else; Bush and Obama have used drones ostensibly to kill terrorists but have in fact killed far more innocent civilians; drone war is the most cowardly form of war because the loss of life is entirely absent from the war maker’s calculus. War is always bad, but it’s important to avoid binary oppositions that are false dichotomies when thinking about war. We need more effective mechanisms to hold governments and leaders accountable for war crimes. We also need a more nuanced & sophisticated perspective on war. We need to take the opportunity to remember heroes, villains and victims alike…

 

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