Effect Measure

Afghanistan: War is Kind

We’ve had other wars besides Iraq and Afghanstan djinned up or whipped on by our “free press.” Sometimes it’s good to remember that “the power of the press” also meant the power of the person who owned the printing press. People like William Randoph Hearst, who had the power to make “the splendid little war” known as the Spanish American War. The same power also gave us The Philippines via Commodore Dewey’s Battle of Manila Bay (referred to by a British historian as “more a military execution than a real contest”). The power that gave us domination over Cuba in the name of Cuban independence from Spain. The power that gave us our first war on soil not contiguous to our borders. That kind of “power of the press.”

The 5 month Spanish-American War took the lives of 345 American soldiers — almost the same number as US troops lost in Afghanistan in 2009 (319). One of the newspaper correspondents covering the Spanish – American War was also a poet, Stephen Crane (better know to high school English students as the author of the Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage). One of the things Crane saw was that disease killed almost ten times (just under 2600) the number killed in combat. The troops were improperly led, ill supplied and poorly trained soldiers fighting in tropical jungles in wool uniforms.

Not to worry. War is kind:

War is Kind by Stephen Crane (1899)

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom —
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.

Comments

  1. #1 C. Corax
    January 2, 2010

    Allow me to treat you to some beautiful writing. I’ve just started A Long Long Way by Irish writer Sebastian Barry. The book starts with a description of the birth in 1896 of the protagonist, Willie Dunne.

    His mother took him to her breast with the exhausted will that makes heroes of most mothers. (….) A baby knows nothing, and Willie knew nothing, but he was like a scrap of a song nonetheless, a point of light in the sleety darkness, a beginning.

    And all those boys of Europe born in those times, and there abouts those times, Russian, French, Belgian, Serbian, Irish, English, Scottish, Italian, Prussian, German, Austrian, Turkish — and Canadian, Australian, American, Zulu, Gurkha, Cossack, and all the rest — their fate was written in a ferocious chapter of the book of life, certainly. Those millions of mothers and their million gallons of mothers’ milk, millions of instances of small-talk and baby-talk, beatings and kisses, ganseys and shoes, piled up in history in great ruined heaps, with a loud and broken music, human stories told for nothing, for ashes, for death’s amusement, flung on the mighty scrapheap of souls, all those millions of boys in all their humours, to be milled by the mill-stones of a coming war.

  2. #2 revere
    January 2, 2010

    Corax: Sigh. It makes me think about my grandchildren and all the others lke them and what might be in store for them at our hands. One of the things that keeps us going.

  3. #3 Queef
    January 2, 2010

    “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which [they are] willing to fight, nothing which is more important than [their] own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better [people] than [him or herself].”

    – John Stuart Mill

  4. #4 revere
    January 2, 2010

    Queef: How about this: “most things aren’t worth war.” Satisfied?

  5. #5 John Savage
    January 2, 2010

    Too bad Queef’s quote was so hacked as to render context indiscernible and meaning twisted…or perhaps that was the intent, after all.

    “But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

  6. #6 pft
    January 3, 2010

    The Philippines was our first Iraq. After “liberating” them from the Spanish, we decided to keep control and occupy it. Those who did not agree and who fought with us against the Spanish became insurgents. It was them we first used the water cure on (known as waterboarding today). By some accounts, as many as 200,000 Philipinos, presumably insurgents, were killed.

    As Major General Smedley Butler wrote, War is a Racket. He defined “racket” as something only a small “inside” group knows what it is all about, which had something to do with profits and resources. Today we would call that a conspiracy, something that is not possible according to the conspirators.

    After all, who could imagine a small number of rich and powerful folks conspiring to better themselves, and getting away with it. LOL.

    But you can’t have perpetual peace, peace is not economical, what to do with surplus production capacity. This does not profit our monopoly capitalists. So in this Orwellian world, Peace is defined as Perpetual War. War is Peace. Everybody happy. As we spread democracy and freedom
    abroad, we must fly nude at home to be safe and torture enemy combatants, but thats a small price to pay for the utopia in the making.

    Bring on Yemen I guess,next stop for Operation Liberty and World Peace coming up. And surprise, surprise, they got oil. You lucky devil you Joe L, always picking them countries that have the Black Gold to liberate.

  7. #7 Magpie
    January 5, 2010

    “In all the human societies we have ever reviewed, in every age and in every state, there has seldom if ever been a shortage of eager young males prepared to kill and die to preserve the security, comfort and prejudices of their elders, and what you call heroism is just an expression of this fact; there is never a scarcity of idiots.”
    (Iain Banks – Use of Weapons)

    I once was an idiot, but now I’m a father of boys, so now I’m just scared for them. Idiocy seems to be a necessary stage of development for boys.