June 18 • 11:08 PM

Radio show guest sheds light on war

July 04, 2007
Whatever else anybody may tell you there is no such thing as a good war. There may be just wars but all wars, as General Sherman once said, are hell. That includes the so called good war, World War II, where there was a clearly defined enemy and a genuine sense of national commitment.

Growing up in the 1940's I learned to believe that World War II was necessary although as I got older and studied the history of the period I understood that some historians felt the war, like the one "to end all wars," before it might have been avoided.

As a kid my view of World War II was literally in black and white and the choices between good and evil were clearly defined by the likes of John Wayne in 'Sands Of Iwo Jima,' or Gregory Peck in '12 O'Clock High.' Vietnam and Iraq have muddied the waters considerably.

After Vietnam the bitterness which many in the country felt about the war caused a lot of collateral damage, most of which seemed to be taken out on the returning veterans. I think we've learned from that mistake. Whatever crimes and follies history determines our policy makers have made in Iraq, those who served in America's name deserve our respect and support.

These thoughts came to mind last Memorial Day after I heard Chaplain Major John Morris on the NPR program 'Speaking Of Faith.' I'd like to share a few of his ideas with you.

The focus of Major Morris' concern is addressing the particular spiritual challenges of the 80,000 plus National Guard and Reserve personnel, who, unlike their active duty counterparts are offered little in the way of re-orientation and support when they resume their civilian lives

"We take a citizen off the street…and we turn them into a warrior, a person who, upon demand, without a split-second hesitation, will point a weapon at another human being and shoot them until they don't get up again. It takes six months to get a person ready to do that. Then we put them in combat for 12 months. Then in 300 hours we can have them from their last mission back on the street in their civilian clothes. There's a problem there."

In the 'Speaking of Faith' broadcast, host Krista Tippett spoke with Morris about "the soul of war," and she asked him to comment on the "religious dimension" of the war on terror in Iraq.

"In this fight, which we call the global war on terrorism, we say that we understand that the people we're fighting are motivated by an ideology that's rooted in an aberrant view of religion. It's a great line. But I've often had to really be forceful with commanders, 'You don't understand. These people are tapping into something in a spiritual realm. And if you take it seriously, it doesn't matter how long we fight them…We're in a war,'" Morris said. "But this is a war where you can't kill enough people to win because this has a spiritual motivation to it. You've got to have more tools than (the) kinetic energy…of a weapon system."

A complicated war indeed, somehow I don't recall The Duke talking about kinetic energy and the "soul of war" in the movies. Back then everything seemed clearly defined. Not so today, which is why we must all answer a question Chaplin Morris posed on the broadcast, "how does the community accept its moral obligation to reintegrate veterans and their families," he asked.

"And I'm treading lightly here because I don't want to be perceived as laying guilt on people, but what we learned from the Vietnam conflict is, if the community shames and shuns, it has a disastrous public health effect that ends up affecting all of us…because there is no end in sight to veterans returning, and how we help them reconnect sets us up for a successful, healthy future or for lingering problems and wounds from this war."

There will be time enough to critique our foreign policy choices later but for now it is well for us to remember there may well be no good wars but there are always good men and women called upon to fight them.

Castle Creek
06 - 18 - 19
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