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28 May 2007

How To End This War

Today is Memorial Day.
My mind could never grasp what my father went through as he experienced combat up close in the European Theater 1940's. All I saw and grew up with was the war's after effects. My father, who saw friends die before his eyes, who felt the dread of snipers, infiltrators, and bombs, died at a young age of 46. By the time he reached that age, he was already a man far older than his years.
I never got to fight in combat as my father did, nor would I have wanted to. No matter the nightmares he lived with for the rest of his days, no matter ALL the shattered limbs and minds, WW 2, as wars go, has to be one of the most popular.
As if any act of sanctioned murder can be labeled popular.
At least in THAT war, we knew who the bad guys were.
Yet, as popular as the Second World War was, it still murdered millions and ruined countless survivor's lives. That war that irreparably damaged my father has once again been summoned up in the wake of 11 September and is now compared with the war on terror and the war with Iraq. Certainly we were attacked, but which country is responsible? Who are the bad guys??
We are told that the world changed after 11 September. Take it from me. The world was always messed up. There has never been an end to our capacity to inflict punishment on each other. War, whether cold or hot, is still with us all the time, filling a void where peace and harmony should be.
I am reminded of a favorite book I've read called "1984" by British author George Orwell. Published in 1948, the book's depiction of a totalitarian superstate is something I will never forget. One aspect that makes Orwell's opus prophetic is its depiction of a society subjected to a continuous state of war. The ruling party's slogan, "War is Peace", is significant. Without a continuous state of war, the ruling class would collapse and the middle and lower classes would revolt.
Our continuous war, on the other hand, the war on terror and the war in Iraq, would not last if all of us had to live in a constant state of near starvation and oppression as graphically depicted in "1984". This is why we are encouraged to consume. The war, as we know it, is something we see on TV or read about in the tabloids. Otherwise, we are inundated with reports on Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith (loved her legs), and Lindsey Lohan.
The coffins, on the other hand, are hidden.
The bloodshed is as far away as we want it to be.
It all depends on how we use our remote.
Orwell's chilling dystopia can teach us valuable lessons, as a tool, a handbook on how we can end this and maybe all wars.
Citizens of today do not have a commitment to ending the so-called war on terror, of which Iraq is one of the victims. Unlike the Vietnam War and WW 2, the war that most would like to compare it to, the war on terror and the war in Iraq are being fought by an all volunteer armed service. Those of us old enough to remember realize that most wars fought by this country were fought by those who were drafted.
Imagine if this war had a draft. Hundreds if not thousands of people would suddenly be affected, and then maybe there would be some kind of wider outrage. But as long as we have Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, Rosie O'Donnell to entertain us. As long as the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards show up at their appointed times, and as long as our leaders assure us that we can still go out and shop, the war will go on forever and ever, that is if we decide to try something else, and here is where I draw from the great writer, Mr. Orwell.
First, you reinstate the draft. Human beings fighting our wars experience a kind of reality that goes beyond any nightmares. When you are in combat, you live from day to day with imminent death. The sacrifice these young people are making in the name of the war dujour needs a commitment from those not fighting it. How can we enjoy a day at the beach while our neighbor's child is risking his/her life? Total commitment to the war on terror means that ALL of our children are subject to the draft.
Imagine the tens of thousands of new recruits you would have. I hear that recruitment into the armed services is down. If this keeps up, who is going go over and save the world for democracy? Without a draft, there is no commitment.
Second, and this is dedicated to those who love to compare this war with the second world one, we should have rationing. War means everyone must sacrifice. As in Orwell's nightmare vision, citizens at war should experience shortages, including toilet paper, cigarettes, coffee, tea, gasoline, electricity, chocolate, razor blades. No one should be allowed to get gas whenever they want to. As in the second world war, each household, during the war on terror, is assigned a letter A, B, or C. It is only on days your letter is called can you go out and get gas.
Why should anyone mind this? After all, there are young people out there right now on the front lines getting their brains blown out. Is it too much to ask the citizens at home to make some kind of sacrifice in their behalf?
Third, the picture, above, depicts actor John Hurt (left) as Winston Smith in the second film version of "1984". On the right is the infamous telescreen, the TV that watches you. If we are to end this war, we need to watch everyone for our own good. After all, in a time of war, there are always traitors and saboteurs. You never know where they may be hiding. Thus, for our protection, there should no longer be privacy. Government eavesdropping and wire taping should be mandated. A secret police akin to Orwell's Thought Police should have full authority. Those accused of espionage should be arrested and tortured. As long as the terrorist threat looms on the horizon, each citizen should be glad to give up all his freedoms in order to feel safe.
Now if all the above are unpleasant enough, the fourth one will really get you.
The media has done its part to promote the war. But it hasn't done enough. For the duration of this war, there should only be war news. That's right! Similar to New York's WINS Radio with "All news all the time", we should have war news ALL THE TIME. This means that we block all the entertainment in the media and concentrate ONLY on one thing. Imagine the newspapers with nothing about Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Tom Cruise. I can, instead, picture at the bottom of every news page a bold red time line depicting the casualties of the day. This would appear daily and never would the numbers get smaller. No matter what page you turned to, it would all be about the war. There would be no Super Bowl, no Academy Awards, no Grammys, Tonys. There would only be the constant reminder of the daily carnage. If someone tries to tune into a premium cable channel to get away from the war's harsh reality, he will find only a blank screen.
Celebrities will get a nice long break. True, they are needed to entertain us, to help us forget what is happening to us, but war is something we do on our own. It is our choice whether or not to engage. As long as the media is allowed to entertain us while war death happens elsewhere, we can disconnect ourselves from the battle field and allow ourselves to be deluded into believing that we live normal lives. Dalton Trumbo in his introduction to his anti-war novel "Johnny Got His Gun", wonders how anyone could read the daily news at breakfast without vomiting.
The measures above could never be implemented. People would rebel. They may even decide to end the war once and for all. My chiropractor has an even better idea. We should have a constitutional amendment. Whenever a congressperson authorizes a war, he should be the first to send his children to the front lines.
The key theme, commitment, informs all the measures above. It forces people, behind the lines, people with bumper stickers and slogans, people who voted for this president, to experience the war on a more real and visceral level.
Today is Memorial day. People died. And those who survived would never be the same. The carnage continues and the cemeteries get bigger.
For what? So that a few can profit from it? So we can continue to perpetrate misery for all time? So we can make the world safe for democracy? So we can save American Womanhood? Or Manhood?
Sure we were attacked on 9/11. I live in that city. I will never forget it, but I will also never forget that instead of going after the criminals, we called it a war and then went after the wrong people. The Keystone Kops could have played this war better. Over four years and thousands of lives later, the meat grinder is still running, and the media is still entertaining, and the politicians are still lying.
What about those who are still dying?
We could always implement the above measures and see what happens.

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