War , What Is It Good For ?

We present and encourage progressive Caribbean views of Caribbean and world affairs.

by Michael Headley
History shows that some wars have been perpetrated through half truths  and outright lies so that the provocateurs of war could continue to satisfy their insatiable appetites for power, resources and wealth, the Military-Industrial complex being the greatest benefactor.  As far back as 1778, in order to get the British to go to war with Spain, the British Captain Robert Jenkins, Master of the brig Rebecca, claimed that a Spanish soldier had cut off his ear while searching his brig.  It was rumored that a pickled sow's ear was sent to the British subcommittee, investigating the claim, as proof of Jenkins' injury.  And modern research is doubtful if Jenkins even appeared before the committee.   However, the British attacked Spain in  1739.   
As some United States officials flirted with the idea of bombing Syria, the British World War 1 era poet, Wilfred Owen's sarcastic poem, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country) comes to mind.  Owen referred to this statement as the old lie because it was used to justify sending young men to war.  In his poem, Owen graphically depicted the horrors of war as soldiers, during battle were, "...bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed coughing like hags ....".  And in most cases they never knew what they were fighting for.     
War, what is it good for?  "Absolutely nothing".  The writer, Norman Whitfield rhetorically asked this question, in his protest song to the Vietnam war, sung by Edwin Starr, in 1970. A tragedy of the Vietnam war was the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968, in which about 504 unarmed civilians, in South Vietnam were slaughtered by United States soldiers because Captain Ernest Medina had incorrectly told his men that the village would be empty of all women, children and noncombatants so his soldiers were free to make an offensive on the 'Viet Cong'.  Robert (Bob) Marley, in his song War, simply said 'everywhere is war, it is a war'.     Still etched in our minds is the February 05, 2003 impassioned  presentation that the then US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, made to the United Nations Security Council, in which the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was accused of stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.  The invasion of Iraq followed, on March 19, 2003 and no WMDs were found, but the estimated toll of the Iraq war was 4,500 U S troops killed, 32,000 US troops wounded, 120,000 Iraqis killed, and billions of dollars squandered. 
War, whether it is couched as a pretext to save lives; rescue medical students; to implement regime change;to unseat a perceived dictator; find weapons of mass destruction; prevent ethnic cleansing; free citizens from religious persecution;enlighten the so-called heathen;  keep open the channels for oil transport; prevent a threat to national security or to help an ally; should be a last resort because of the human tragedy that follows.    The relentless and indiscriminate dropping of bombs kills and maims the guilty and the innocent, destroys the infrastructure and spreads poisons into the atmosphere.  War may initially boost the aggressor's economy but conversely it destabilizes the one attacked, disrupts families, and leads to the widespread rape of women and children.  It also  displaces millions of people which creates mammoth refuge problems.  And it is a colossal waste of money because scarce funds, that could be used for building schools, hospitals, medical research, affordable housing etc., are diverted to the war effort.  Even legitimate wars have their share of innocent casualties.  
Apparently, for now, the eminent threat of bombing Syria has been averted and the warmongers have not been successful in using gun-boat diplomacy.  Syria' s leader, Bashar Assad, is in  the process of formalizing an agreement to hand over Syria's Chemical weapons to the international authorities for eventual destruction.  Ironically the proposed destroyers of Syria's Chemical weapons still have theirs.  The using of Chemical weapons in Damascus, was a despicable act but let's wait and see which group the United Nations inspectors charge with responsibility.  Maybe the day will come when nations will see the futility of war and, as recorded in Isaiah 2:4 ,' they will beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks'. I hope that for the sake of the human race this is not utopian thinking.

Michael Headley is a  commentator on Caribbean and World affairs. 

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