War is hell

While watching the House and Senate Armed Services Committee hearings regarding the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, I was filled with admiration for the greatness of our country. Here we are, fighting a war against terrorists who have no regard for human life, yet we don't hesitate to penalize any of our soldiers who engage in abuse of prisoners. The President of the United States, the most powerful nation in history, apologized to the world community for the inhuman treatment of POW's by a few aberrant members of the military.

In addition to being killed in combat, our men and women in uniform have been tortured, hacked to pieces, soaked with gasoline and set afire before being hung upside down in public. That's the way the enemy treats its prisoners. After seeing their fellow soldiers suffer the most ghastly deaths imaginable, it is nevertheless expected that every US serviceman and woman use kid gloves to treat those whom they capture. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just get along? To his great credit, Senator Joseph Lieberman said: 'We didn't receive an apology for the 3000 lives lost on 9/11, and we didn't get an apology for the hundreds of US soldiers tortured and killed in Iraq.'

I know, we are a civilized country and we're supposed to be above such inhumane treatment. As an orderly society, with readily enforced rules of behavior, including stop lights, speed limits, and cross at the green, not in between regulations, it's easy to follow a pattern of civility. However, those soldiers are not fighting the battle on Maple Avenue in East Cupcake, Nebraska. They're dodging bullets and bombs every day, and seeing their friends get their heads blown off on a regular basis. They're sleeping intermittently amid the cacophony of explosions and mortar fire; their beds are made of dirt and sand, and they wouldn't place a bet on living past tomorrow.

Under such conditions, one tends to view the world through a dysfunctional prism. The rest of us lucky folks are well fed, clothed, and sheltered in our antiseptic bubble, free from the psychotic influence of battle. We connect to the war with a remote control button that brings us sound bite journalism and flashy images that we have come to associate with the pyrotechnic displays we see in the movies. For some it's entertaining, for others, informative, but for all it's a simple and safe method of staying in touch with the war, and discussing its merits and demerits while passing the mashed potatoes and gravy at the dinner table.

One by one, the Senators take their turn questioning and criticizing the generals and the civilian authorities who have responsibility for the warriors in the field. They must make it clear that Americans don't tolerate abuse of any kind, notwithstanding the conditions under which the soldiers must struggle daily against an unmerciful enemy. Civility, being profoundly more important than self—preservation, means the soldier must conform to the rules, even as his adversary plots to disembowel him.

Some have said if the soldiers had shot the prisoners, instead of humiliating them, there would be no outrage. I suppose that means death is more acceptable than shame, which makes the term 'civilization' questionable. Human rights groups have protested bitterly against the abuse by US soldiers, but were oddly reticent when terrorists made a bonfire out of the bodies of American civilian contractors in Fallujah. Because our troops are sold as the good guys, I suppose they should not allow themselves the luxury of anger, hatred, and revenge against those who wantonly kill their buddies.

We expect them to be Little Lord Fauntleroys, marching into the smoke and fire with uniforms neatly pressed and Colgate smiles on their faces. Raised in small towns and large cities in the good old USA, they were never quite sure what to expect if called to fight on the other side of the world. Unlike some others, who fled to Canada for exile, the overwhelming majority of our soldiers faced the enemy and risked their lives for their country. Weary from battle fatigue, and the constant struggle for survival, even some of the most milk—fed, religious minded, values based products of this great democracy can become corrupted from exposure to a culture of degeneracy. Some will say this is merely an excuse for their shocking treatment of prisoners. To those I would ask, how many times have you had to wipe off your friends' blood and brains when they showered your uniform after a sniper attack? Enjoy your mashed potatoes with gravy, and be thankful that the closest you'll ever come to war is CNN.     

Bob Weir writes the syndicated column, "Weir Only "Human." The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

While watching the House and Senate Armed Services Committee hearings regarding the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, I was filled with admiration for the greatness of our country. Here we are, fighting a war against terrorists who have no regard for human life, yet we don't hesitate to penalize any of our soldiers who engage in abuse of prisoners. The President of the United States, the most powerful nation in history, apologized to the world community for the inhuman treatment of POW's by a few aberrant members of the military.

In addition to being killed in combat, our men and women in uniform have been tortured, hacked to pieces, soaked with gasoline and set afire before being hung upside down in public. That's the way the enemy treats its prisoners. After seeing their fellow soldiers suffer the most ghastly deaths imaginable, it is nevertheless expected that every US serviceman and woman use kid gloves to treat those whom they capture. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just get along? To his great credit, Senator Joseph Lieberman said: 'We didn't receive an apology for the 3000 lives lost on 9/11, and we didn't get an apology for the hundreds of US soldiers tortured and killed in Iraq.'

I know, we are a civilized country and we're supposed to be above such inhumane treatment. As an orderly society, with readily enforced rules of behavior, including stop lights, speed limits, and cross at the green, not in between regulations, it's easy to follow a pattern of civility. However, those soldiers are not fighting the battle on Maple Avenue in East Cupcake, Nebraska. They're dodging bullets and bombs every day, and seeing their friends get their heads blown off on a regular basis. They're sleeping intermittently amid the cacophony of explosions and mortar fire; their beds are made of dirt and sand, and they wouldn't place a bet on living past tomorrow.

Under such conditions, one tends to view the world through a dysfunctional prism. The rest of us lucky folks are well fed, clothed, and sheltered in our antiseptic bubble, free from the psychotic influence of battle. We connect to the war with a remote control button that brings us sound bite journalism and flashy images that we have come to associate with the pyrotechnic displays we see in the movies. For some it's entertaining, for others, informative, but for all it's a simple and safe method of staying in touch with the war, and discussing its merits and demerits while passing the mashed potatoes and gravy at the dinner table.

One by one, the Senators take their turn questioning and criticizing the generals and the civilian authorities who have responsibility for the warriors in the field. They must make it clear that Americans don't tolerate abuse of any kind, notwithstanding the conditions under which the soldiers must struggle daily against an unmerciful enemy. Civility, being profoundly more important than self—preservation, means the soldier must conform to the rules, even as his adversary plots to disembowel him.

Some have said if the soldiers had shot the prisoners, instead of humiliating them, there would be no outrage. I suppose that means death is more acceptable than shame, which makes the term 'civilization' questionable. Human rights groups have protested bitterly against the abuse by US soldiers, but were oddly reticent when terrorists made a bonfire out of the bodies of American civilian contractors in Fallujah. Because our troops are sold as the good guys, I suppose they should not allow themselves the luxury of anger, hatred, and revenge against those who wantonly kill their buddies.

We expect them to be Little Lord Fauntleroys, marching into the smoke and fire with uniforms neatly pressed and Colgate smiles on their faces. Raised in small towns and large cities in the good old USA, they were never quite sure what to expect if called to fight on the other side of the world. Unlike some others, who fled to Canada for exile, the overwhelming majority of our soldiers faced the enemy and risked their lives for their country. Weary from battle fatigue, and the constant struggle for survival, even some of the most milk—fed, religious minded, values based products of this great democracy can become corrupted from exposure to a culture of degeneracy. Some will say this is merely an excuse for their shocking treatment of prisoners. To those I would ask, how many times have you had to wipe off your friends' blood and brains when they showered your uniform after a sniper attack? Enjoy your mashed potatoes with gravy, and be thankful that the closest you'll ever come to war is CNN.     

Bob Weir writes the syndicated column, "Weir Only "Human." The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com