Editorial: War: Make it, or...
LC Van Savage
Make it or Go to it. Let's Not.
The recent remarks offered by Lt. General James N. Mattis in San Diego about the “fun” he experiences shooting some people while in combat were imprudent at the least and horrifying at the most. This man, by his own admission, loves a good brawl, and as a Lieutenant General in the Marines in Fallujah, Iraq, he’s clearly and apparently happily found himself squarely in the middle of the Promised Land. After all, there are lots and lots of people to shoot there.
But why are we so shocked and upset about this man’s “joking around” about this issue, if in fact he was joking, and really, I don’t think he was. This is allegedly a war he’s in, right? And while I do not assume all military men and women in any way derive great pleasure from slaughtering human beings, enemy or not, I am surprised at the national outcry about this guy’s statements. Come on. Let’s be realistic. Some people in a war enjoy killing. Some don’t. Some people in a war enjoy war. Some don’t. He does. Both. And by golly, he’s not ashamed to say so. I think the great, the proud General Douglas MacArthur, perhaps one of Mattis’s heroes, had those thoughts too.
While we’re on the subject of war, I must confess that I have apparently all my life misunderstood its definition. Let me clarify; I think I’ve pretty much always thought I understood the differences in the phrases “make war on” and “go to war against.” For some, those statements may be subtly different, but not to me. The latter phrase, I think, means a bunch of other guys are preparing to go to war against our guys, while our guys are preparing to go to war against them. That I think is the definition of war; 2 factions prepare to slaughter each other, each knowing the other’s intent.
“Making war on” someone or some country, at least to me, means that we’re not invited, we’re not expected, they can’t prepare, and yet off we go to someone’s turf, bomb and shoot the crap out of them and emerge victorious. I guess I think that’s really not war. That, I think, is blindside bullying, and winning unfairly. Or are you thinking that there is no fairness in war? You might be right.
So the questions I have are these; are we currently at war in a country that was clearly threatening us and preparing to do battle against us, or are we making war on them? Are we assigning the term “enemy” to a people who perhaps never were? After all, who of us can resist the feeling of self-righteousness rightness when we are advised by leaders we trust that the people we have made war on are in fact truly “the enemy”? Their being labeled “the enemy” maybe eases our collective consciences when we read of families on both sides of the line in the sand being ripped to pieces, their kids dead or hideously wounded, their lives scarred and shredded forever. I’m confused, unclear and very troubled by these questions. And I’m not alone.
And while we sit here in America pondering these questions, people on both sides of this confusing and blurry cause are continuing to die. Some horribly. All finally. I wish I could speak with General Mattis about this. I don’t really think he’s all that alone with these sentiments about which he so carelessly, insensitively and cavalierly shot his mouth off. I wonder what punishment he’ll get for doing that. I suspect none. But you know, quite frankly I guess I don’t find anything frightening about the General’s saying he enjoys killing “those people.” I mean come on, to do a job well, a man should definitely enjoy his work. After all, if not, why do it? Isn’t war a helluva lot more fun if you like making it?
As an author with several books published, LC Van Savage still finds time for air time and an active community service life.
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