This Is What War Looks Like

“… a burned infant trying to nurse from its dead mother’s breast …”

When we think of war, I think a lot of us imagine U.S. soldiers in khaki uniforms advancing upon enemy troops on a battlefield or moving like cats among shattered urban buildings. But it’s important to recall the true wages of war, that it falls most heavily on women and children.

The Memory Hole, operated by journalist Russ Kick presents, “This is War,” a horrific look into how bad it really is. This line from reporter Richard Boyle in Vietnam, haunts me: “I could watch a burned infant trying to nurse from its dead mother’s breast, see young men with their faces blown away, witness a boy deliberately gutted … and never protest.”

I’m shocked at what we’re capable of doing. Do we blame the imperialist war machine? The government? Ourselves? Are we complicit by virtue of being U.S. citizens for war crimes committed by our troops? What can be done to evolve beyond this brutality?

A prayer for mercy is all I can offer.

— Stephen Carter-Novotni

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4 Comments on “This Is What War Looks Like”

  1. Luke Says:

    I’d make an argument that the Vietnam War has been muddied by history; since there is no Conventional Wisdom, nor an Agreed History, there are no universal lessons to be learned.

    WWI taught a universal lesson, that the line-up-and-start-killing method of warfare dominant throughout history had been rendered absurd by advances in technology. Too many poor people died in WWI for poor people to fall for the same territorial bullshit that dominated war since the Hellenic era.

    WWII was a bit of a hiccup along those lines, showing the need for international normatives preventing one nation from mounting terrific armed forces–if one does it, all others must as well. It reinforced the notion that warfare involving bombs and machine guns results in too many people dying, but also that some nations may not agree.

    What COULD have been learned from Vietnam is that America is one of those nations that doesn’t agree, and shouldn’t be allowed to play with guns; or that an outside force can set up democracy OR capitalism, but usually not both; or that the enlightenment concept of Nationalism had, by the 60s, pervaded former colonies, and those peoples would never again accept anything that didn’t resemble sovereignty.

    Unfortunately, the Vietnam War hasn’t been historicised; that is, there’s no universal consensus as to why/when/how it started, why/how it continued, or why/when/how it ended. Furthermore, since many of the responsible parties continued to govern long after its end, there’s been no reflexivity in American government, only a desire to whitewash.

    In short, it’s imperative that we don’t elect anybody who supported the invasion of Iraq, or we’ll never fix this apparent hitch in our nation. Well, and also because their judgment is obviously impaired.

  2. Natasha Says:

    Luke wrote: “…Unfortunately, the Vietnam War hasn’t been historicised; that is, there’s no universal consensus as to why/when/how it started, why/how it continued, or why/when/how it ended. ”

    Luke the reason there is no universal consensus is most likely because reasons to go to war were fraught with lies, much like our current situation in Iraq. There’s wisdom in the old adage: ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive’.

  3. mc Says:

    We are to be held responsible for what any entity does in our name. If we refuse to hold our leaders accountable and we refuse to see the facts for fear of seeing the truth, we are complicit.

    When we steadfastly deny reality and call fear and irrational behavior “patriotic” responses, we are to blame. We are still allowing this carnage and watching deaths mount. We are lying to ourselves and to each other. More troops and the draft can’t fix this.

    If we admit the truth about this outrage, we have to admit that we bought into the lies of a corrupt administration. In order to justify our errors, more have to go on dying. There is no logic and no sense. How many dead make this right? Is there a number of dead we have to reach in order for all of us to act?

    As far as I can tell, we are a nation of people acting out in fear and looking for more scapegoats. We have refused to see the facts until tens of thousands died. We have decided that our soldiers’ lives are less valuable than our own and as such, may be used at whim by a president operating outside the law. What I see happening is nothing less than mass insanity. What happened to common sense?

    We want to hide behind terminology and jingoism and lies. We know better and we let this happen anyway. No one should have died for this administration and the safe and secure patriots who urge more war for others to go fight for them. We have come up a day late and a dollar short and we still sit and talk. We know better than this and all the lies in the world don’t make a bit of difference. The entire thing was a shell game. It has to end.

    It is not about Saddam, the troops, “patriotism”, flag burning, bad foreigners, gay marriage, talk radio’s blithering idiots, Fox News or a thousand other ways we have of deflecting the truth. It is all on us and what we allowed to be done by a group of elitist, Ivy Leaguers acting under delusions of grandeur in Washington DC. They didn’t start this alone. We all agreed to it and attacked those of us who opposed the war. We refused to hear anyone who tried to get the truth out. We are afraid to think for ourselves and ask questions. We don’t want the answers.

    We willingly went down the garden path since we can’t be wrong. Patriots are never wrong. Everyone else is. We are always right since that is our justification for anything we do. (Remember, “They don’t value life like we do”? That was always the justification for killing everyone else. “They” have no appreciation for life.)

    We have internal and external payback coming and it will be a lot worse than this. Until and unless we begin to operate in good faith and with acknowledgment of what was real and what was false, we won’t recover. We believe in the ideals of this country or we don’t. Lies and macho posturing don’t change that.

  4. Westside John Says:

    Please enlighten me on how we fix it. What do we do as a nation?

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