When my brother came back from the first Gulf War, he slept with his eyes open. And you did not sneak up on him, under any circumstance. He had been on the front line, first troop into Kuwait, with a few "kills" under his belt. Though he had never seen the faces of those that he had killed, shooting them in the dark from a good distance, he had killed. And when he came back, he was a little different. More religious. More hard. And very cautious.
I know (gods willing and the creek don’t rise) that I will (probably) never have to kill a man, but if I do, I know that I wouldn’t want to see his face while I do it. I am not humanly evolved enough to lay down my life without a fight, and not medically informed enough to just wound a man instead of going for the kill shot. And that is the nature of war. My brother never saw the faces of the men he killed, but imagine if he had. What dreams would he have then? What if he had killed an innocent in the line of fire? Would he think it an acceptable loss?
We, the civilians, cannot possibly understand the horrors of war or even the brainwashing involved when the new recruits go through boot camp. They are reduced to cogs, called maggots and dirt, not even good enough to die for their country. Then they are built back up, made honorable by duty and medals and hardship and brotherhood. Then they are good enough to die. They are never told that they are good enough to live. The Armed Forces of the United States is a factory devoted to making killing machines, and a killing machine must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. By the time a soldier gets to the frontline, he is not the same little boy that had gone into the military straight out of high school in order to get the scholarship for college. He is a tool, a deadly weapon, a bomb.
They are told that they are killing for their country, and they are dying for an ideal.
I could write a poem about the atrocities of war, and before I was done I would have used every image I could think of to describe suffering and pain. I would run out of words for blood and flesh. I would run out of ways to describe the screams of mothers and babies. And when I was done, I would have nightmares. Terrible nightmares, but they would be tame compared to the reality of being in a kill or be killed scenario.
There are atrocities in the world that I will never experience. Terrible mutilations and sacrifices in the name of war that I will never have to bear witness to. No one should. Life is sacred. On the individual level, we must be willing to die, to be killed, rather than kill, but that is not in our programming. We are wired for survival. And this is the string that the generals and presidents pull to have an army.
As a nation, it is easy to go to war. The body of the machine is made of men, just millions of cells ready to die, programmed to find death glorious, death from above or death at the hands of a voracious enemy. The thousands of white gravestones at the military cemeteries are supposed to provide comfort to the family. Your son or daughter was one of many to die for their country, the silent stones say. What is one cell in a great body? That we have war at all is the fault of the brain.
Our current government heads are myopic and dim-witted. The president does not know the meaning of his own words. Take for instance the word necessary, which means required and needed. This would mean no other option, but War is not Necessary. War is Obsolete. However, the brain of the machine is rusted and rotten. It keeps forgetting. It will not listen. How do we relate this terror to someone who will not listen? To an entire government that refuses to listen?