Who pays the real price of war?

A couple of days ago, I was scouring the web for award-winning photos when I came across this one. I was instantly struck by the poignancy of the scene and decided to post a blog about it. However, ten minutes of trying to download the image proved futile so, being lazy and unmotivated, I decided to scrap the idea. Today I found the image on another website and figured out how to copy the link so I decided I had no excuse but to go ahead with my planned blog. And, because I discovered this image on the day after Valentine’s Day, I’ll take the chance to talk about two things close to my heart: love and war.

So here goes.

I was against the invasion and occupation of Iraq even back when this misguided war was only a misguided idea, and I am even more against it now. I am not opposed to war per se because I understand that sometimes violence is unavoidable and even necessary. Rather, my opposition is based on the belief that with any war, the planners and executors suffer the least while soldiers and their families—not to mention civilians—often pay the steepest price.

So it is with the current war in Iraq.

The so-called brains behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq lied us into a war with fantastic tales of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, which most of us now agree were baseless. Some of us thought they were baseless even before the war, but I’m not one of those I-told-you-so types.

In the almost four years since this war started, about 3,000 US soldiers have been killed and many more injured. Even worse, about two hundred times that number of Iraqis have been killed according to Johns Hopkins University researchers. The Washington Post also covered the story. But, because we live in the US and Iraq is full of people who pose an existential threat to our way of life, let’s not bother talking about their casualties. Just kidding.

Anyway, by this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell any of this has to do with love. You got me. Clearly war is closer to my heart than love. But before you write me off, take another look at this photo of Ty and Renee on their wedding day. Hideous innit!? Ghastly! Freakish!! Morbid!!! Nay macabre!!!! Look at the young woman’s expressionless face. If you look long enough, she almost looks resigned, like she’s given up.

In this photo we see the consequences of love and war. Poor kid. She probably fell in love with a relatively good-looking guy (see, I told you I was going to work love into this somehow) but now, she’s getting married to a substantially less good-looking guy. Can anyone blame her for not wanting to spend the rest of her life with with a hideously deformed person, for having to be there for him as he recovers from his physical and mental injuries. I wouldn’t want to be in her place.

And who is responsible for this poor woman’s plight? Part of the blame definitely lies with whoever built and detonated the explosive device that blew off his ear and left his face indistinguishable from the rest of his head. BUT the bulk of the blame lies with those political figures who started and prosecuted the war that took this kid from Illinois to Baghdad, where cars blow up and take people’s good looks with them?

Now Ty is back and married to his high school sweetheart. Yeah yeah, I know she probably loves him for who he is and whatnot but I’ve always been told that a substantial part of the basis of romantic love is physical attraction. Certainly, Renee is a better person than I am because she has stayed with her husband (who probably looks nothing like he did when their love was first kindled) and continues to support him. But she still needs money for his surgery and rehab. Incidentally, you can make a donation to Fisher House, an organization that supports military families.

Which brings me to my real point. Why doesn’t the organization that sends the young people to war also provide for their medical care? Why should Renee and countless other spouses and lovers and parents of soldiers have to pick up the slack and turn to charities? The simple answer is that our leaders do not care about the well-being of military personnel, or anyone for that matter. Why should they? After all, they seldom have to open their homes to a child or spouse who is mentally or physically damaged by war.

If they cared, they would be a lot less cavalier about sending soldiers to kill and die in foreign countries on the flimsiest of pretexts. For all their support-the-troops rhetoric, these people have no sympathy or concern for soldiers or their families. If they cared, Renee would not be in need of extra funds for her husband’s surgery and rehabilitation because our leaders would have thought long and hard about the merits of this war and decided not to risk damaging young lives, limbs, and minds on such dubious claims. But that was not the case, so they sent young people off to be killed and maimed while people like Renee, bound by love and loyalty (not to mention a whole lot of common human decency), pick up where the government leaves off. When there’s killing and dying to be done, the government is there with slick advertising and recruitment campaigns. Afterwards, loved ones are left to pick up the pieces.

So, on this day after Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated solely to the recognition and glorification of romantic love, one has to ask, “where is the love?” The answer is, it’s everywhere. It’s becoming more fashionable to oppose the war because it’s killing US soldiers but let’s not forget that Iraqis are also being killed and maimed. And everyone who dies in Iraq is connected to countless other people through a bond of society or family, a bond of love. It is these people—Ty, Renee and countless other victims and their loved ones—who pay the real price of war.

I originally wrote this blog on February 15 but it has languished on MySpace for the past several months, never having seen the light of day.

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