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June 2005, Volume 12 Nr. 20, Issue 155

War is Failure. What a Piece of Work is Man

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

I sometimes imagine the warmakers compartmentalizing their thoughts as they slot evidence of human carnage and suffering neatly away as collateral damage.  I often wish that just once these sophisticates of slaughter could close their eyes and see the misery and death they produce in the name of their pet ideology, religious aphrodisiac, or mythical supreme being.  I wish that the people they lead, the subjects riled into frenzied warmaking, could close their eyes and see the steady stream of the war dead, the maimed and injured, the moaning and groaning, the starving and diseased.  I wish the dead could file by one-by-one each making eye contact with them for just a second.  Seeing the faces of the 20th century war dead for just one second each would require 6.4 years of non-stop viewing.  Humanity congratulates itself for having made incredible scientific and technological progress during the 20th century.  Yet in the years spanning 1900 through 2000,  an estimated 203-million people died as a result of wars (M. Cherif Bassouni, Chicago Tribune, 25 Oct. 1998).  Progress like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Sadly to many industrial warfare, the mechanized wholesale killing of multitudes, is progress.

While inflicting horrendous horror upon itself humankind has the audacity of proclaiming that we are made in the image and likeness of God.  It is humanity, however, that has created God in its own image and likeness.  The supreme being that we embrace is like us, a vengeful entity that condemns those who disobey.  Our leaders, like our invented God, declare, "If you are not with us, you are against us."  Accepting a condemning God makes it easy for us to condemn each other.  How convenient for us that we can assuage our guilt through an invented supreme being who is on our side.  The atomic bomb, which many in the United States believe was divinely given, is an example.  How convenient to believe that  God gave the United States this awesome weapon with a divine sanction to it, not once, but twice, used on civilian targets.  Since most of humanity believes in some version of a supreme being, God winds up supporting opposing sides in war.  Allahhu akbar!  Praise the Lord!  Both phrases are testament to the same vision of homo sapiens' self-grandeur.  And yet, humanity sees itself as special in the universe audaciously declaring itself to be the end result of "intelligent design".  How bizarre.

We teach war and its glory to our children.  Our history is cut into chunks and periods that are named for wars.  Our history books are the slanted stories and chronology of wholesale killing.  We make our children memorize the names of places and the people related to wars.  Students study war in high school and college, while ignoring the means of preventing it.  History book chapters make scant mention of the means by which humans peacefully resolve differences, disputes and conflicts.  Diplomacy and treaties do not excite us as much as blood-letting.  Bashing  each other over the head with bones, rocks, using catapults, bows and arrows are  not far removed from dropping thousand-pound laser guided bombs on populated cities.  Shock and awe for access to the watering hole is little different than shock and awe for possession of the oil spigot.  The sophistication level of the bashing may have advanced, but that is hardly grounds by which humanity can lay claim to progress in intra-human affairs.  

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln eloquently pointed out the absurdity of war by saying of the war makers, 

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces...

Cowboy Diplomacy

Few would suggest that George W. Bush has the intellect of Abraham Lincoln.  Bush is less well-read than Lincoln and speaks less eloquently.  Bush takes every opportunity possible to speak about God.  In a January 19, 2005, article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer entitled, "Bush Changes White House Rhetoric About God", columnists David Domke and Kevin Coe write, "No other president since Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 has mentioned God so often in his Inaugurations or State of the Unions."  Bush references God, on average, six times per address.  Domke and Coe further write, "This president positions himself as a prophet, issuing declarations of divine desires for the nation and world."  George W. Bush is president of the world's only remaining super-power.  He is the commander-in-chief who believes in Armageddon and has the ability of creating it.  Access to launching the world's most power nuclear weapons arsenal rests with a man who often talks to  Jesus.  I wonder if the two talk about the "end times."  This is troubling for most of the planet, yet here in the United States, many eagerly support a president because he converses often with the adult version of Santa Claus.  Armageddon as the ultimate confirmation of religious belief is a self-fulfilling possibility, perhaps even a desire, for George.  

George W. Bush is dead certain of his religious convictions and actions.  Domke and Coe continue, "Such certitude is dangerous even for those who share such views because U.S. presidents have the unique ability to act upon their beliefs in ways that affect billions of people worldwide."  Bush has said, "As the world's only superpower, America will justifiably take any steps necessary to assure that no other countries ever approach American military strength, cultural influence, or economic dominance."  Bush's god-crazy delusions combined with cowboy diplomacy should make the world very afraid.  Michael Sky in his piece, "The Cowboy Diplomat" suggests other names for the Bush Doctrine: manifest destiny, benevolent hegemony, American exceptionalism.  Regardless, Sky states that "it all amounts to dominism".  Sky defines dominists as those who "...have a sole overriding purpose to all of their actions the expansion of power, by whatever means, at whatever costs."

We Are Responsible

War is a crime against humanity and warmakers are criminals that  should be prosecuted.  Yet on a basic level we as individuals are responsible too, for we are the ones that go to war, doing the bidding of the war makers.  We are the ones that send our children to kill children.  We are the ones that allow the cowboy diplomat with the support of his desert psycho deity to wage war at will.  We are the ones that pray to that deity for victory in war.  We are the ones that with a lump in our throat gulp when the marching band and flag passes by.  We are the ones saluting a flapping rectangle of cloth on a pole, singing passionately to war glory our national anthem whose third verse reads:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It is time to stop cheering war and burying the dead.  It is time to stop handing widows neatly folded blood-stained triangles of cloth that sanitizes the truth of war.  All of us, regardless of nation, are responsible.  As long as we, as individuals, members of humanity, accept war as the solution to anything, war will continue.  As long as we elect cowboy diplomats to be president the carnage will continue.  As long as our loyalty to war prevails, war will remain prevalent.  It is time to recognize that war is human failure and do something about it.  

What a Piece of Work is Man 
(Hamlet's speech, lyrics as performed in the 1960s musical "Hair")

What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason
How infinite in faculties
In form and moving
How express and admirable
In action how like an angel
In apprehension how like a god
The beauty of the world
The paragon of animals

I have of late
But wherefore I know not
Lost all my mirth
This goodly frame
The earth
Seems to me a sterile promontory
This most excellent canopy
The air-- look you!
This brave o'erhanging firmament
This majestical roof
Fretted with golden fire
Why it appears no other thing to me
Than a foul and pestilent congregation
Of vapors

What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason

How dare they try to end this beauty?
How dare they try to end this beauty?

Walking in space
We find the purpose of peace
The beauty of life
You can no longer hide

Our eyes are open
Our eyes are open
Our eyes are open
Our eyes are open
Wide wide wide!

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. Albert Einstein

2005 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD
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