Sunday, January 25, 2009

War, huh, yeah. What is it good for?

Last night, Ken and I watched "Windtalkers." It was released way back in 2002, and was one of those movies that we've had for a while but never got around to watching. It's based on the WWII Navajo code talkers and the code based on the Navajo language. The code was never broken, and it is one of the really neat stories of WWII.

It's not a great movie, but it's pretty decent. Some of it was a little cliched, but all in all, I liked it. However, a lot of it was disturbing to watch, because there were some fairly graphic war scenes. Nothing as devastating as "Saving Private Ryan" (I can't watch the opening scene without sobbing and trembling, because it gets to me so much...I've only been able to watch the movie twice.), but still bad. I feel that sometimes it's a good thing to see scenes like that, though, as a reminder of what our military faces in combat situations.

There was a lot of hand-to-hand combat in this movie, as there was in "Ryan," and I made the comment to Ken that it makes me wonder if war has almost become too easy for us. Bear with me while I explain. I was reminded of the "Star Trek" episode (And I do manage to relate many things to "Star Trek." Some truths are universal and timeless.) in which the crew of the Enterprise encounters a planet that is at war with their neighboring planet. ("A Taste of Armageddon," Season One) They speak of the extensive casualties of their war, but Kirk and the others soon find out that in order to avoid the complete devastation of war, the inhabitants are targeted by computers as "dead," and willingly report to antimatter chambers where they are zapped out of existence. Kirk destroys the chambers and explains to the rulers of the planet that in their complacency they have forgotten the horrors of war, and if faced with the reality of it, they will work towards achieving peace through diplomatic solutions.

Our military technology has increased so much that it is a simple thing to kill with a smart bomb, guided by computer systems and launched without seeing the face of the enemy. This doesn't mean that combat doesn't happen up close and personal, too, but thousands are killed without ever seeing who, exactly, is shuffling them off this mortal coil. This is not an indictment or criticism of our military; just the opposite. We have too often put our military personnel into a situation that is so far removed from us and from our sight that we don't understand what they are going through. It is us, back at home, existing happily unaware of what is going on, who are forgetting that war is hell. I also believe that those giving the orders can forget what they are sending their troops into. The men and women who are in the middle of it understand it all too well.

I recently read a column in which the author said that one of the greatest mistakes that President Bush made was sending our troops to war without asking any sacrifice of the American people. I agree with that assessment. We went on with our lives, spending our money, not paying any extra taxes to fund the war, deprived of nothing. We are like the inhabitants of the planets Eminiar and Vendikar: we have forgotten that war is not neat and tidy. It is bloody, gory, messy, and deadly. We have asked our military men and women to sacrifice, sometimes to sacrifice all, while we have been asked to sacrifice nothing.

Do I think that war is a necessary evil? Unfortunately, yes. I'm not so naive to believe that there aren't times when you have to fight back. But I would hope that in the future, it becomes the last resort. I firmly believe in a strong military, but hope and pray that in the years to come, we will be able to better utilize their abilities with peacetime assistance rather than military might.

I remember in high school, we had a debate in our World History class about our use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My position was that it was the right decision at the time, based on the cost of American lives that would have resulted in the planned invasion of Japan. My late Uncle Ted was on his way to Japan for the invasion when the bombs were dropped. He may very well have been one of the thousands that would have died. I was the head of my debate team for this exercise, and my team won. As you can probably imagine, I can be relentless.

I won't go into the pros and cons here of dropping the bomb. Suffice it to say, I was a high school kid, and I saw things in black and white. I realize now that there is much more to it than saying it was the right thing to do, the ONLY thing to do. Different time, different place, different people, and it is not for me to pass judgement. I can actually see both sides of the issue now, and could probably argue successfully for both positions. However, I wonder if I could have been the crew member on the Enola Gay who flipped that lever to release the bomb? No clean launches from silos in the Midwest...they flew over the city, saw the buildings, and dropped their payload right on top of civilians. I don't believe I could do it.

Is it easier to push a button thousands of miles away? Is it easier to shoot someone from yards away than it is to slip a knife into their heart? You tell me.


  1. Nice entry. We have talked about the lack of American sacrifice numerous times.

    On the news, I saw that recruiting is picking up again due to the economic downturn. I hope that these new recruits are spared the horror and hell of war.

  2. Yes you are right about it being the right thing at the time. I have read about the psycology of the time in Japan where to surrender was a major disgrace. They would have never surrendered, it did save millions of lives on both the USA and Japanese side. I wonder how in 2045 how it will be percieved, almost all the veterans will be gone then.

  3. Hi Beth,
    I remember that Star Trek episode and how disturbing it was on so many levels ... mainly because it really hit home. War should only be a last resort -- and it comes with great sacrifice. It feels like the Bush administration used it as a political tool, that they force-fit the facts to build their case and then left the country to pick up the pieces. "Mission Accomplished"?!? Not by a long shot ...

  4. There was a program on NPR this morning that dealt with this very thing. It talked about how today's somewhat impersonal modern warfare can, in some cases, result in a military person sitting at a computer directing assaults and then going home to have dinner with his family that evening. I'll try to find a podcast of it later so you can hear it. Very interesting!

  5. Hubby is so much like you & Ken & your movies... He bought a couple more this weekend to add to his collection. He just looked up & seen the picture of your movie & said, "I saw that movie." LOL

  6. I expected more out of the movie "Windtalkers"...the whole story behind the usage of the Navajo language was almost lost in this movie. It could of definitely had more meat to the whole concept. Paul has seen all the world war II movies out there: Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, even the movie (which is based on Viet.)We were soldiers. He loves the history in these wars.

    I truly believe if we were to fight with the idealogy an eye for an eye, we would all indeed be blind. War in defense at times can't be helped. However Vietnam and now Iraq are wars that are simply wasting lives at the mercy of wrong choices. My SIL is in Iraq, there isn't a day I don't wish this war would end. I'm all to aware of the consequences of this war.

    Is war easier? I think the ones to ask are those who come home covered with a flag. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. I just re-read my comment to you. I'm sorry that last statement was a little harsh. Any war that cost lives will never be easy in my view. On the other side of those lives, even the enemies are families, someone who loved them. One life is one too many. This is just a delicate subject matter to me, as I'm sure it is for anyone who has someone serving in the line of fire. I didn't mean to take it out on you in comments, I know what you meant by that question.(Hugs)Indigo

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  9. If you haven't already watched it, "WE WERE SOLDIERS" is awesome. But be warned, it will really get to you - based on a true story.

    What you mentioned about smart bomb technology, etc. is what gets to me when I watch newsreels of WWII, Vietnam, etc. showing planes crashing & ships being sunk. All we see are the machines in the film, & our society has become so desensitized to killing that most aren't moved by it. I am. I see beyone the machines being destroyed - the sailors, the tank operators, the pilots, and so on. I realize I am watching people dying.

    I agree on your point about President Bush's mistake. We have such a spoiled society now that no one knows what all-out war really is. Gas rationing, automakers factories being converted strictly to making war machines, growing as much of your food as you can. In the past, America wasn't anywhere near as affluent as it is now & all available resources had to be directed to the war effort in WWII. The scale of the war far exceeded our capabilities, & I think that war was won & our freedom preserved by prayer.

    I am all for going to war when we need to - it's always been someone else starting something. But, if I ever became President, anytime I was faced with sending our young men & women, peoples husbands, wives, daughters, brothers, sisters, into war, knowing they would not all come home alive, it would rip me out of the frame. I never have seen pictures on a page or numbers, I see faces & people. War is a horrible thing, & anyone who likes it in my opinion is sick. This conservative despises war, but I recognize the fact that it becomes necessary someitmes.

    I know I'm not the stereotypical male in American society, but I get very, very emotional when it comes to our military personnel. I absolutely never fail to thank a service man or woman for my freedom & their service to our country. Because that may be the last time I ever see them in this life, I always want them to know I'm proud of them for serving.

    We all need to keep our military personnel in our prayers always.

    Good post, Beth.


  10. During WW II things were rationed, fuel, bread, butter. We had to crush and save our cans Now war is a tv show. Some wise one once said that war is sweet to those who aren't in one. And another one said that when a war is fought by an aggresor nation on foreign lands it is always justified as protecting freedoms. I can locate the source of those quotes if anyone wants them.
    I support the courage and bravery of our soldiers, both the noble and ignoble, but I have no use for the top military and non-military minds that got us into this stupid war and keep us there.

  11. i am totally not a scholar about wars but i think that hitting a button and not seeing those who will die by that action IS easier. The person doing that does not see what the after effect is face to face. I think many Americans go thru their day to day life NOT really caring or thinking about the end results of wars because they are not seeing what goes on face to face. I have read extensively that Bush kept a lot of what went on with the war out of the daily papers and it has been much worse than what we even know. XO

  12. Thanks Beth for sending those pic's on to me. I appreciate it. Somw good ones. War movies really get to me but I would have rather watched that than The Cell. It was so out of real life. Lucy

  13. Nice entry. I could never bring myself to watch Saving Private Ryan again. It was too painful the first time.

  14. I know what you are saying and I pray daily for our troops safety , god bless those who sacrifice for our freedoms.

  15. You make a lot of good points. I may have to see that movie because I've always been interested in the code talkers.

  16. Didn't see the movie ... may after this entry.

    'Private Ryan', got to me as well. People don't know, what they don't know. We have become desensitized to the loss of life in so many ways, culturally. In urban areas, where murder and mayhem has long be glorified, to the middle and upper middle classes who sit in front of a tele or monitor playing imaginary games, where they think nothing of the acts their 'avatars' execute.

    That is why I use the phrase, 'Boots on the Ground', because things are so much different when you HAVE to face them. There is a line in the movie 'The Unforgiven' where this dialogue takes place:

    The Schofield Kid: [after killing a man for the first time] It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
    Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
    The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
    Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.

    I think that this is what is missing from society as a whole, the sense of what the loss of life means. When you match that with the distance between classes of people, of countries, of idealologies, you lose the sense of the humanity of someone.

    So you use these weapons that can cause great damage, because you are sooo insulated from dealing with the consequence. One of the reason that WWI was supposed to be 'the war to end all wars', was that the suffering that took place had been unknown in the modern world, at least on the scope of it.

    Now, we see each other only in caricature ... in our own country as well as foreign. The connection to others that made war so terrible, is muted, and it has been replaced with 'as long as it isn't me' kind of thinking.

    This, is how Big Brother wins. He will convince us of our own self importance, while he goes about the elimantion of those deemed 'unworthy'. We can wrap ourselves around our own 'patriotism', and feel we 'know' what war is, when really, we don't. As long as we can purchase cheap gas (even at $4 a gallon, that is STILL the cheapest in the world!) and watch our reality shows.

    Anywho, the ugly jigoistic tendencies of the talking heads have far too many folks sedated, and not thinking nor feeling for themselves. It is too difficult, almost as difficult as it is for me to type this (been at it for an hour ... geez louise!).

    One of the things that I find disappearing in our nation, are the folks like you and Ken, who can disagree with a principle, yet remain open to being able to be convinced if another perspective is promising or daresay, correct. I think y'all were repubs, but I don't think I am speaking out of turn when I say that. To have seen thru the Rep. ticket as wrong for the country and the general greater good of all, is a fabulous trait.

    It is what folks need to have in order to stop the killing and waste of life. Can it happen? You just don't know ...


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?