Monday, August 15, 2005

Something to Chew on

“Strange thing. You would die for it without further question, but you had a hard time talking about it. He shook his head. I’ll wave no more flags for home. No tears for Mother. Nobody ever died for apple pie.” -Michael ShaaraThe Killer Angels”

I have often thought about how to answer the continually re-occurring question, “Why do you fight?”, and I wonder why it’s so difficult to put into words.

The parents of a 3/3 Marine had included a book in a care package to me, Michael Shaara’s “Killer Angels”, a book that I have read many times but have always found inspirational. Somewhere in the first 20 or 30 pages Colonel Joshua Chamberlain ponders the same question before the battle of Gettysburg.

…The faith itself was simple: He believed in the dignity of man. His ancestors were Huguenots, refugees of a chained and bloody Europe. He had learned their stories in the cradle. He had grown up believing in America and the individual and it was stronger faith than his faith in God…

I usually have a fairly decent ability to put my feelings into words yet somehow I struggled with how to portray my feelings about this, about the compelling reason I feel to be here and be a contributor to this campaign. Some may perceive this to be a lack of substance or conviction, that isn’t the case. It’s more that the issue is so vast that it can’t be capsulated into a few quick epithets or euphemisms. In my mind, to say simply that this is a “Religious War” or “Blood for Oil” is a not only hubris, it is condescending, arrogant, and indicative of overt laziness. Even a precursory overview of the history and issues surrounding this region will make it very evident that you could no more encapsulate this conflict in a single sentence than replicate the Mona Lisa with a single brushstroke.

…This was the land where no man had to bow. In this place at last a man could stand up free of the past, free of tradition and blood ties and the curse of royalty and become what he wished to become. This was the first place on earth where man mattered more than the state. True freedom had begun here and it would eventually spread over all the earth…

If freedom is the ability to choose your own destiny, then the recent history of this country that has been engaged in war and conflict longer than most of its citizens can remember, is truly the antithesis of freedom. Following a peaceful monarchy and a bloody subjugation by the Soviets, a new, more sublime method of enslavement manifested itself, a slavery of the worst kind. It is a slavery in which the chains that bind a person are the scriptures and sacredly held religious beliefs which have been perverted and used to exploit the most vulnerable, the ones whose physical condition has become so desperate that they feel the only tangible possession they have is the paradise that awaits them in the afterlife.

…The fact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean earth was appalling…They were forming a new aristocracy, a new breed of glittering men, and Chamberlain had come to crush it.

There is no higher noble purpose and intent motivating the Taliban, it simply lust for power; the same age-old lure that we have seen replicated through history. It is the irresistible urge to exploit others for personal gain and sanctify it through some perverse interpretation of laws, secular or religious. It is nothing more than the subjugation and exploitation of a class of people for personal gain.

“…Sometimes we broke down their doors and went inside their homes. And…I’d…I’d sweep the barrel of my machine gun around the room and fire and fire until the smoke blinded me. You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘liberating’ until you’ve done something like that, stood in a roomful of targets, let the bullets fly, free of guilt and remorse, knowing you are virtuous, good, and decent. Knowing you are doing God’s work. It’s breathtaking….” -Khaled Hosseini “The Kite Runner”

The fact that an attack on our country precipitated this conflict is almost secondary; it was a symptom of the disease that has spread through this region ripe for exploitation. A regime, drunk with power, provided sanctuary to terrorists who subscribe to the same twisted ideals. Now with their hold on power broken, they find themselves with nothing to lose and have resorted to the same murderous tactics of the terrorists they sponsored while in power. In the end, it’s almost shameful that, as the most powerful nation in earth, that it took the attacks of 9/11 to spur us into action, but that doesn’t suffice as an argument to not do anything now.

But he was fighting for the dignity of man, and in that way, he was fighting for himself. If men were equal in America, all these former Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere, and there was really no such thing as a foreigner; there was only free men and slaves. And so it was not even patriotism but a new faith. The Frenchman may fight for France, but the American fights for mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land.”

I can’t answer for why no action was taken before, but there is action being taken now, and it is noble. I can’t answer for why here and not Rwanda, but I’m here now, and we are needed. I can’t answer for why others don’t come or for the reasoning they use to indict these actions as evil; people will say what they will in order to look at themselves in the mirror and sleep at night, but at the end of the day I don’t have to answer for their actions or inactions, only my own.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? James 2:14

5 comments:

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devildog6771 said...

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Mark Delaplane said...

I am glad you posted this commentary. I have just finished "reading" the audio book "The Military History of Afghanistan" and am currently reading "Islam". Having a good understanding of the history of Afghanistan and, more importantly, Islam properly frames the issues.

What you write about the perversion of the Islamic principles rings very true. I think it is important to note that it isn't that Islam or Muslims are the issue, it is those radicals that have perverted their religious beliefs for their own ends.

The Taliban took advantage of a power vacuum as a result of the Soviet withdraw, establishment of a interim government that didn't pay attention to the historical context of the country and subsequent civil war. Most Afghan people initially believed any order is better that anarchy. (Reminds one of 1930's Germany).

The worst thing that could happen is to leave the same type of power vacuum after removing the Taliban from power and trying to impose Western style government on muslim people.

emma said...

Mark, I also suggest you read "The Kite Runner" that Firepower quoted in his blog - truly an excellent novel and an eye-opener into recent Afghan history.

Anonymous said...

Firepower Forward,
Very impressive--so many times I've wished i had the 'command of language' to explain some of the feelings that are in my heart concerning our country, why I feel as I do about the War, and supporting our troops who are sacrificing so much for us. It is just too overwhelming to explain to those in the general public, and the 'media-educated,' WHY it matters so much to me. So, this I loved. Having 'adopted soldiers'and doing what I can--its still hard to put into words. So many people just don't seem to get it--or feel they're 'just entitled' to have an Army leave home and go defend them-- Someone else's son, not theirs, and for goodness sake, don't cost them any money! And all the time, my heart's filled with so much gratitude, and my words are just not sufficient. afraid I don't have much patience with those who disagree on the war anymore--not after reading so many of the military blogs, and searching out the real news from there, So, I guess I just wanted to say I wish I could commit your words to memory--but-can't do that very well, so, I'll just say thank you and keep them coming-God Be With You.