What Would I Do?

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There
goes another war, and another war, and another war. They were all
the last resort of course. They will all be the last resort. They
run together; different names, different places, different flags,
different faces; one continuous last resort with no beginning and
no end. Nonetheless, they are a last resort. A last resort to be
sure.

I
am often asked the question, "If you are opposed to the war,
then what would you do about this crisis, this terrible injustice,
this evil dictator?" If I don't accept the judgment of the
leaders who were elected by the majority, and who know secrets most
people will never know, what would I do? If I resist the leaders
who are doing their best to serve me even in spite of me, what would
I do? If I, who am nothing more than an average man, reject the
words and actions of the leaders and stand by my convictions, how
would I defend freedom and democracy? What would I do?

What
would I do? The question is a demand. Any dissenters must answer
correctly, convincingly, and understandably or they will be considered
illegitimate. The catch is that the questioner already believes
that the war is necessary and just. No indisputable facts are required.
The leaders have spoken. The die is cast. All that is needed is
to believe in God and country, salute the flag, and support the
troops. No amount of debate will be convincing. No alternative course
of action will be adequate. Simple faith and loyalty defeat complex,
uncertain reason. The result is preordained. War is responsible.
Peace is irresponsible. Dissent is selfish. Show solidarity. Dissent
is wrong. Salute the flag. Dissent is evil. Support the troops.
Peace is bad. War is good. War is good. Feel good… If religion is
the opiate of the masses, the style of patriotism reflected in the
question, "What would I do?" is the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

"Yes
Mrs. Doctor, we know that you love your son, Mr. Corporal, and fear
for his safety. We know that you are suspicious that this war has
more to do with oil and business than with weapons of mass destruction
and a threat to the security of the United States. We know that
you have grave misgivings about knowing that much of the substantial
tax you pay each year goes to buy weapons that kill and maim. You
wonder if there might be peaceful ways to solve our problems. But
you must admit, Mrs. Doctor, Saddam Hussein is a bad man. He does
bad things."

"What
would you do, Mrs. Doctor?"

Mrs.
Doctor doesn't have an off the cuff solution for bad men who do
bad things. She is too busy trying to earn a living and raise a
family to thoroughly research this issue. She feels self-doubt,
and a little guilt. She says to herself, "Don't I love my son
and want him to know I am proud of him and all his medals? Don't
I support him? I could not protest the war knowing that it might
cause my son to feel bad. Don't those civil servants who so unselfishly
serve our country have our best interests in mind? Doesn't the government
have experts who know far more about these things than me? Am I
not a patriot? Don't I prominently display a US flag on my Cadillac's
antenna?"

"Yes
Mrs. Doctor, that is what we thought. Believe in us, Mrs. Doctor,
we are your government. War is the only solution. Now drink this
cup of Kool-Aid, pay all your taxes, and support your son, the President,
and the troops in these difficult times."

Mrs.
Doctor believed. She drank the Kool-Aid. She hung her son's medal
and a flag in a special place in the waiting room of her office.
Her taxes bought a smart bomb that incinerated a busload of women
and children. One of the surviving fathers was a scientist. He vows
revenge. The pilot who dropped the bomb sees pictures of the charred
corpses during debriefing. He is stunned for a while, but he sees
Mrs. Doctor's Cadillac on CNN flying "old glory." He is
told the mission was a success. There was one man on the bus who
was suspected to be a militant. He feels good enough to continue
his bombing raids. Three years later he has nightmares and he drinks
too much. He sees Mrs. Doctor for refills on his Prozac and Xanax.

"Yes
Mr. Corporal, we know that you have your misgivings about invading
another nation when most of the world's religious leaders and governments
oppose this invasion. We know that you, based on the evidence you
have seen, are not sure this invasion is justified. You get no pleasure
from killing another grunt like yourself who, like you, is probably
a husband and father. We know you are concerned about what would
happen to your family if you were killed. But you must admit, Mr.
Corporal, Saddam Hussein is a bad man. He does bad things."

"What
would you do, Mr. Corporal?"

Mr.
Corporal is not an expert in international relations. He does not
have a quick, easy solution to all the problems in the Middle East.
He has not heard the other side of the story. He is not sure if
what he has heard is the truth, or propaganda, or lies. Mr. Corporal
looks confused. He feels self-doubt and guilt. He says to himself,
" Don't I want to make my family and my community proud? I
could not face them if I am court-martialed for refusing orders.
Didn't I pledge allegiance to the flag? Don't I love my country
and want to serve it? Didn't my minister bless me? Don't I believe
that God loves me? Hasn't God blessed America? Didn't I know what
I was getting myself into when I joined the Army?"

"Yes
Mr. Corporal, that is what we thought. Believe in us, Mr. Corporal,
we are your government. War is the only solution. Now drink this
cup of Kool-Aid and do as you are told."

Mr.
Corporal believed. He drank the Kool-Aid. Mr. Corporal ran over
a land mine.

Mr.
Corporal is dead.

Mr.
Corporal's young bride found a new husband to make love to her.
His beautiful young daughter runs to her new father and calls him
Daddy. Mr. Corporal's mother got another medal. She hung it in her
office. That made her proud.

"Yes
Senator, we know you were secretly briefed about the problems we
have with the ruling regime in Iraq, and that you are skeptical
because we cannot specifically verify many of our claims. We know
that you heard contradictory information from your personal sources
in the intelligence and military community. We know that you have
grave misgivings about sending your constituents' children off to
war and possible death. But you must admit, Senator, Saddam Hussein
is a bad man. He does bad things."

"Senator,
what would you do?"

Senator
is an expert in politics. Senator knows that much of the pro-war
talk is politics and propaganda, but Iraq is a small far-away nation.
Death and disease among the common people of Iraq, and the destruction
of their country will have little impact on the lives of people
in the United States. Iraqi oil is important to the economy of the
United States. The lobbyists for Senator's major donors say that
a war in Iraq could result in many lucrative business contracts.
Senator is a politician, not a priest. Senator feels no guilt. "Did
I not vow to serve my state and my country and my constituents including
my campaign donors," thinks Senator? "Am I not a very
important Senator? Do I not enjoy the power and perks of my office?
Do I not want to appear to be patriotic and supporting the troops?
Do I not desire re-election? "

"Yes,
Senator, that is what we thought. That is government, Senator. Believe
it."

Senator
believed, and not only drank the Kool-Aid, but sponsored a bill
that authorized the use of Kool-Aid and paid for Kool-Aid for everyone
in the state. Senator personally passed out the Kool-Aid as a way
of serving the public.

Thousands
of soldiers and civilians died. Cities were destroyed. Cultural
relics and historic places were lost. There was thirst and starvation
and disease. The environment was permanently damaged. Seeds of hatred
were planted. Revenge was plotted. The budget deficit soared. The
economy fell. Rights were suspended. Protestors were shot. Flags
waved. There were victory parades. The Senator was re-elected. So
it goes.

May
23, 2003

David
Wiggins [send him mail] is
a West Point (United States Military Academy) distinguished graduate
and an honors graduate of New York Medical College. He left the
Army as a Conscientious Objector resigning his commission as an
Army Captain on the Iraqi front lines during Operation Desert Storm.
He is currently an Emergency Physician.


     

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