War is Ordered Murder

All war veterans are hereby permitted to hate me: I do not think war is glorious.

Respect for the dead, and for acts of heroism and bravery, cannot be challenged. Implying that getting killed was often done voluntarily, can.

We lose too many in war. Any untimely death is one too many. Remembering the camaraderie of the battlefield is fine; I don’t have enough evidence to support or challenge that. Fictional accounts, such as The Red Badge of Courage (Stephen Crane) and Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) do not dwell much on what it feels like to be among a large number of similar soldiers marching or flying into gunfire. In neither fictional account do I recall wondering if they all got together in a bar after the war to swap retellings of stories.

I think war was too intense to be interpersonal, beyond perhaps a best friend marching nearby, or a co-pilot or bombardier in the same plane. I do not think a wide sense of camaraderie across the entire army ever existed. I think our veterans have created their camaraderie after the fact, bonded together by common survival and a common level of horror, not specific interactions during the war itself.

You may disagree with me; if you say it reasonably well in response to this post, you will find your words here.

I guess what I’m trying to get at, however indirectly, is that it bothers me to see the Remembrance Day parades treated as a celebration of war. To me, surviving the war was like surviving a hurricane, concentration camp, extermination pogrom. Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) described his own actions in a concentration camp with something approaching shame in some passages; the important thing was to survive, and being in the right place in a group of prisoners improved his odds, so he did that.

So, for me, war is not glorious. I’m with W.H.Auden (The Shield of Achilles) and Robert Frost (The Bonfire). War is barbaric.

War is ordered murder. Surviving is a gift, and for all the veterans who made it this far, peace be unto you.

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