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July 2005, Volume 12 Nr. 25, Issue 160

War and the Prejudice of Our Side.  
The Universal Soldier Must Say, "No!"

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

On July 7, 2005, the day after the multiple (four) bombings in London the newspaper headlines screamed, "Brutality".  It was.  On the day after the (300 - 400 cruise missile) bombing of Iraq began the newspaper headlines bragged, "Shock and Awe".  It was.  The website described shock and awe as, "today's military, no punches pulled".  So then, how do the perpetrators of the London bombings describe themselves?  Do they view themselves in similar fashion, i.e., no punches pulled? 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that addressing the underlying causes of terrorism was crucial in stopping it.  He listed lack of democracy, poverty and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.  In a repeat of the aftermath of 911, posters of the missing and dead were put up.  UK newspapers published pictures of the  missing.  But, what of the 100,000 plus civilians killed in Iraq?  Where are their pictures posted?  How many newspaper issues would it take to publish the pictures of the Iraqi missing?  

The disparity on how the human casualties of war are reported and treated is part and parcel of the prejudice of our side.  It matters not who our side is as it is the function of war to dehumanize the other side and ignore their suffering and pain.  The United States went to war (crusade) with Iraq because they attacked us on 911 though not one of the Twin Towers attackers were Iraqi.  George W. Bush has stated that there is no connection between Iraq and 911.  We are told the terrorists go to war (jihad) with us because we attacked Iraq, and, we attacked Iraq because Saudi Arabian terrorists attacked us.  So goes the continuous vicious cycle of war.  Continued war requires that prejudice continue on both sides.  In war, we self-servingly see ourselves as different from the enemy.  The enemy self-servingly sees itself as different from us.  Both sides promulgate the mythology of human separateness.  This pathological separation fuels more brutality, more shock and awe, more death.  War is insane and stupid.  The U.S. Marine Corps has a saying which vividly expresses the insanity and stupidity of war: "Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity." 

Our prejudices create the world we see.  Through war-enabling eyes programmed by the preachers of war we "see" justifications for war.  We excuse the carnage.  And so, World War I becomes "the war to end all wars."  World War II becomes the "Good War."  The preventive war of choice on Iraq becomes, "Operation: Iraqi Freedom", etc.  Human history is replete with feel-good sounding names and clichés for the brutality we perpetrate upon ourselves.  As long as humans give value, valor and honor to those fighting in war, or for "the cause", we will continue to spin what war is, lie about its consequences and give medals to murderers.  We will lie about our personal involvement with war.  We will make excuses for the killing and for our eagerness to kill and be killed.  

There is no value in murdering other human beings.  There is no valor in blowing people up whether through exploding buses in crowded cities, or in dropping high yield bombs from 50,000 feet.  There is no honor in suicide bombing, nor is there any in creating red mist out humans through the use of 50 caliber weaponry.  There is no redemption in flying passenger airliners into skyscrapers, neither is there any in dropping atomic bombs on civilian Japanese cities.  In war, our side, regardless of who our side is, must manufacture the value, the valor, the honor and the redemption.  The war makers recognize that without such manufacture the eagerness to kill may subside and fade away.  Thus, in war, there is always some great cause to be served.  God is almost always involved.  When the religious leaders profess that our God says we must go to war, we obligingly go.  We, mortals are duped by those who profit most from war into killing believing that our God requires it.  The enemy believes likewise.  But, our cause has the real God on our side.  The other side has a false God.  Our holy book is the real word of God.  The other side's holy book is that of the infidel.  Our side is the greatest nation in the history of mankind.  The other is something less.  Our culture is one of values.  The other side has none.  Our side values life.  The other side is dirty and life is a cheap commodity.  Our side suffers pain and death in time of war.  The other side is collateral damage.  Our side is humane.  The other side is barbaric.  Our side must defend and protect our way of life that the other side hates.  Ernest Hemmingway said,

They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.  But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

War requires that we keep inventing all sorts of "good reasons" to go to war.  The think tanks, religious and educational institutions expend considerable time and energy marketing the "good reasons".  Schools teach the vetted history of the nation-state as they program young minds to accept the "good reasons" for war.  Sign up and protect your way of life.  Fight for God and country.  Kill them over there before they kill you here at home.  Be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Without questioning accept the "good reasons," and die for the lie.  And what of the dead?  Gandhi said, 

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

I served as the volunteer webmaster of the Veterans For Peace national website from 2000 - 2004.  Early on, I had posted a link to the Buffy Sainte-Marie song, "Universal Soldier".  The song points out that as long as human beings agree to be the soldiers, as long as they participate in extreme prejudice against fellow human beings, war will continue.  It has never been otherwise.  Violence begets violence.  The song "Universal Soldier" emphatically states that throughout history those willing to kill bear the responsibility for doing the killing.  The universal soldier is every one of us who take up arms.  The carnage that results is ours for which to take the blame.  

Buffy Sainte-Marie says that her song "Universal Soldier" is "about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all."  I was asked to remove the hyperlink to "Universal Soldier" from the national Veterans For Peace webpage as some veterans for peace found it objectionable.  They said that it once again, "blames the soldier who is the victim".  This passes the buck and too easily dismisses individual culpability.  The objection to Buffy's "Universal Soldier" comes from the inability or refusal in coming to terms with our war-making and our making war possible.  The combatant, whether in uniform or not, too conveniently passes blame onto someone else, whether the war-maker, the government, the commanders, the preachers for their having to kill in war.  The soldier is just a tool not responsible for what they have to do.  They are just following orders, the argument goes.  I disagree.  Murderers are as much to blame for murder as those who order the murderers to kill.  As long as soldiers or combatants, or whatever you want to call them, refuse to accept that they are the ones responsible for the killing, the killing will continue.  As long as we excuse the killers we too, are culpable.  Those enlightened enough to understand the insanity and futility of war cannot give a reprieve to those who kill.  Doing so gives credence to murder.  The fact that someone commands us to go to war and to murder other human beings does not take away our responsibility.  Refusal is an option.  

I grudgingly removed the link to "Universal Soldier" being disappointed that "anti-war veterans" could not entertain the admittingly provocative notion that without those willing to kill there would be no killing.  Without those willing to be sent to war there would be no war.  Albert Einstein said,

He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.

It is the soldiers' and the veteran's aversion to coming to terms with the murderer within that makes war acceptable and possible.  There is hope, however, as the universal soldier who makes war can help in ending it, "for without him the killing can't go on."  John F. Kennedy said, "War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."  The universal soldier must  become the universal conscientious objector for war to end.  The future of our species depends upon it.  Donovan's version of "Universal Soldier" can be heard HERE*. 

Universal Soldier
©1966 Buffy Sainte-Marie

He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls

But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.


© 2005 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski
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