Thursday, May 20, 2010

Honor and Lies

The sad, strange and silly saga of Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, has prompted a lot of commentary. It seems that Blumenthal has claimed, falsely, that he served in the American military in Vietnam.
It's not the first time and probably not the last that someone who did not serve in that war has claimed to have done so.
In this morning's Post, former editor and reporter and Vietnam vet Henry Allen decided to answer the question of "why they lie about Vietnam."
Allen puts it this way: "The fact is that regardless of whether a war was moral, justified, won or meaningful, having served in one -- particularly in combat -- confers prestige."
I suspect that he is correct, but in a limited way.
Chris Hedges, in his brilliant War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, writes, "the rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug."
I doubt that Allen would put much stock in Hedges' opinions because Hedges only covered wars and never fought in one. After all, in this morning's piece, Allen also writes,
"Once I listened to a former war-zone correspondent who was eager to demonstrate that his time under fire was the same as a soldier's. He said, I'd get up in the morning and face the decision of whether I should head out where it was really dangerous.
But soldiers don't get to decide. They don't have choices. That's part of the hell of war."
Allen would likely have more respect for the observations of Tim O'Brien, whose towering work, The Things They Carried, includes this observation:
"A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil."
One wonders why participating in an addiction to obscenity and evil continues to confer prestige. That it does strikes me as incredibly sad. It's like the old drinking stories of recovering alcoholics -- they know that the drink could have, and maybe should have killed them, just as it did so many of their buddies, but they cannot let go of the irresistible feeling that the drink gave them.
There have been 6,492 coalition casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq as of May 20, including 37 this month in Afghanistan.
The prestige toll continues to rise every day.
As to Vietnam, well, I was 15 years old in April of 1975, when the last Americans left Vietnam. I organized and participated in my first protest against American militarism on Armed Forces Day in 1978.


Peace At Any Price said...

You are quite correct, Pastor.

All those people who died in the Civil War -- in order to end the terrible scourge of slavery -- were people engaged in an obscene and evil endeavor.

It would have been far better (correct me if I am wrong here) for the Civil War never to have been fought. President Lincoln should simply have adopted a "we'll live without slaves, but you can have slaves" with regard to the states that seceded from the Union.

The alternative to war (slavery, in the case of the American Civil War) is always preferable to war.

And the people who actually fought and died in the American Civil War -- people who fought and died to end slavery -- those people were in no way "moral" people.

Their stories of "heroism" deserve no honor at all. They were simply mindless agents of President Lincoln's militaristism.

Do I have this correct, Pastor?

Christian Wright said...

"Military glory--that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood--that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy..."
Since you brought up Lincoln, a man who clearly understood that war was evil even when necessary and never something to be glorified.

cledster said...

Anonymous! welcome back! at least you're claiming a name now, though still essentially hiding your identity.

cledster said...

but clearly recognizable, anon, by your unique approach to logic...perhaps this will be of interest to you:

Peace At Any Price said...

Lincoln really said that?

Really truly?

Are you serious about Lincoln? The part about him being "a man who clearly understood that war was evil even when necessary and never something to be glorified", I mean?

Lincoln "clearly understood" that war could be "necessary"?!

And to think that we have built monuments to such a militaristic monster!

War is NEVER necessary. We only engage in war because we choose to engage in war.

And war is only the result of evil militaristic urges -- the sort of things you protested against in 1978 and today.

Do I have this right, Pastor?

Peace At Any Price

cledster said...

say it louder and slower, Pastor, and maybe you can get through to anon