To Mr. Guenzel's initial comment.
encounter with a reader
on war and empire
Continuing the thread with Dan Guenzel ...
You rail at those in our government who send the military in harm's way. Then, you have absolutely no appreciation for the fact that they are there, not by their own direction, but by circumstances beyond their control. Most of those who have been in combat, understand that their primary concern is for their own survival. You, never having been placed in those circumstances, spout philosophy about things that have nothing to do with day-to-day survival. That is why you are totally out of touch with the reality of the situation with which most of our forces are faced. And what compounds this incredible lack of understanding of reality is the fact that you think one of their primary concerns ought to be protecting the antiquities of the country where they may be killed or maimed.
Then, you conjure up scenarios wherein our troops brutalize Iraqi civilians. Then, condemn our forces because we have a more advanced military. And you are not completely out of touch with reality?
Someone can kill you with outmoded weapons just as quickly as with the most modern weapons. It just happens less efficiently. But then, you have no understanding of that either, since you have never been in combat. For someone who has extremely limited experiences, you do not hesitate to lecture others on how they should conduct themselves under circumstances of which you have absolutely no understanding. Your pomposity and arrogance are overwhelming.
It is also interesting that you do not hold the Iraqi's accountable for looting their own museums and libraries, but blame the US military for their uncivilized behavior. They are, apparently, highly cultured. While our military are barbarians. Another example of how out of touch with reality you are.
You take the US to task for the war in Iraq. However, there are documented stories of the abuses Saddam perpetrated upon his own people. You have not once had any condemnation for Saddam's repressive regime. Only the repression you feel exists here in the US. You are absolutely convoluted.
No thoughtful person thinks that everything that is done or exists in this country is fine. However, it would appear that nothing is good about this country, as far as you are concerned. Let's see. Nothing good about the US. Everything good about the rest of the world. Let's see. We have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, trial by jury, the right to confront our accusers, the right to private property, etc. Europeans developed communism, fascism, monarchies, dictatorships, etc. However, in your convoluted mind they are more desirable since they have a more extensive history and antiquities.
Nine children? You chastised me for, perhaps watching Rush and the evening news instead of reading "good" books. Maybe you should have been reading "good" books instead of procreating to such an extent that you can count yourself among those who threaten to overpopulate the planet. But then, rabbits do not read "good" books, do they?
When are you moving to Europe? I will gladly drive you to the airport. And if your plane is hijacked, not to worry, hijackers have the right to their personal freedoms also. After all, when they react in this kind of outrageous manner, taking the life of you and your family, it is only a reaction to the perceived abuses of Bush & Co.
April 27, 2003
Since it is apparently Mr. Sherwin's style to go off on a multitude of tangents that have little or nothing to do with the topic at hand, it would seem that I have my work cut out for me. But I'll attempt a reply.
I realize he likes the shotgun approach to thinking but in this case I must ask him to try and follow some sort of logical progression. Wearily I must once again state the obvious: the invasion of Iraq was a crime. Crime is generally committed by criminals. Ergo, the U.S. government is run primarily by criminals.
Presumably Mr. Sherwin is not a criminal; I am not one either (the execrable pious fraud John Ashcroft notwithstanding). Those in government who prosecuted this war are, indeed, criminals. Those senators and congressmen who supinely enabled the little Texan and his superiors are also implicated as are the news media, who shamelessly spread the lies necessary to whip up war hysteria. In a just world these men would be given the same treatment Il Duce was given. But there is the next world, and in that world these men will receive justice.
Mr. Sherwin keeps harping on the fact that I haven't been in combat. I say again, thank heaven for that. But what, pray, does that have to do with my ability to sense injustice? Reading his letter, I gather that he has been in the military and has seen combat. Fine. But seeing combat or not seeing combat has little to do with making sound judgments, unless, of course, we excuse in our mind unjust killing. The men who dropped that bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki knew exactly what they were doing, and some of them, at least, went on to brag about it. For them, great evil became great good (what they thought about it on their death beds I do not know). I fear some of our modern mad bombers feel the same.
If I was forced to go into combat ... no, let's get specific: If I had been drafted into the military to fight in this outrageously unjust war against Iraq I would, as a Catholic who has tried to learn his Faith over the last twenty-five years, have had to be a conscientious objector. Why? Because it is never right in the eyes of God to kill those who have in no way ever done me any harm. This simple concept is one Mr. Sherwin would do well to contemplate.
Forgive me if I am wrong, but he appears to be one of those benighted citizens out there who subscribe to the beliefs embodied in the phrase, "My country, right or wrong." The great G.K. Chesterton says that that's like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober." I read that in a book, by the way. And speaking of books, it is high time that Mr. Sherwin threw away his old fifth-grade American history book and started reading something a bit more substantial.
He says I conjure up scenarios wherein our troops brutalize Iraqi citizens. I have "conjured" scenarios? With all due respect, has Mr. Sherwin taken leave of his senses? U.S. troops are killing men defending their homes, along with their women and children. If Mr. Sherwin wants to close his eyes to it, that's up to him. But as long as I live, I will never, not ever, forget the photo I saw a few weeks ago of some poor Iraqi father holding in his arms what was left of his daughter. That is what our "brave boys" are doing over there, and it cries to Heaven for vengeance.
Mr. Sherwin says I condemn our forces because we have a more advanced military. He is going to have to explain what he is talking about here because I haven't got a clue.
Again he mentions the antiquities. Does he not understand that the looting done is being done not just by Iraqis but by American troops? and, in case he missed it, at the direction of a well-placed cabal of international antiques dealers? The looting merely illustrates again, if such were necessary, that the people of Iraq were invaded by criminals and yes barbarians. Civilized people do not invade helpless countries, kill innocent citizens, steal their treasures (and oil, my lad), and then hand out the lucrative rebuilding contracts to their political cronies at home. Only barbarians do that. Is any of this becoming clear yet?
I am "pompous" and "arrogant" in Mr. Sherwin's view. Well, if he says so (I like the old Universal horror movies, too, if that counts against me). But I'll take pomposity and arrogance over stupidity and sentimentality every time. Perhaps Mr. Sherwin's use of the word "arrogant" was all he could think of when confronted with something he couldn't answer. Sometimes people who are confronted with certainties can only respond by accusing the confronter of being arrogant.
Mr. Sherwin displays some pride in our "modern weapons," if I read him right, while pointing out that one can be just as easily killed with "outmoded weapons." True enough. But he's given me a great idea: let's re-do the Iraq war, only this time we'll give Our Boys (and the incredibly strange mixed-up women who were there with them) the very same kinds of weapons and other materiel that the Iraqis had, and an equal number of combatants, and let's see what happens!
Gung-ho Americans like Mr. Sherwin don't like to hear about all those inconvenient little atrocities being committed in Iraq by U.S. forces. It clearly touches a nerve, doesn't it? It doesn't jibe with all the horse manure passing for "history" that has been flung at us since childhood in our State schools, does it? Well, that's just too bad, my dear man, because the truth is that the truth is the truth. If this war at least starts some of our blockheaded Americans into thinking that maybe there is something rotten in Denmark, then maybe some good will come of this horror after all.
Mr. Sherwin castigates me for not trotting out the usual Saddam horror stories. Who needs to? The propaganda machine has been doing just fine without my help. I would only point out that Saddam is not nearly as bad as Ariel Sharon.
He says we have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, and so on. Really? They must be missing in action. Is he dreaming, or am I? Has he noted what's been happening to our civil rights lately? He also says we have the right to private property. In the deathless words of Ralph Kramden, "hardy, har-har." I wonder whether Mr. Sherwin has tried not paying his property taxes lately. Thanks to that fifth-grade history book again, he accuses Europe of bringing us monarchy which, oddly, he lumps together with communism and fascism. What planet has he been living on? Yes, Europe (and the Catholic Church) created monarchy just as the Catholic Church created Europe ("The faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith," says Belloc magnificently), but what does monarchy have to do with dictators? This is not the time or place to expound on monarchy; it demands a lengthy, fruitful discussion. But traditional European monarchy can hardly be classed alongside the modern totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorships Mr. Sherwin mentions.
Mr. Sherwin wants to know when I am moving to Europe. Tomorrow, if I could. His offer to drive me to the airport was most kind. I'll let him know.
Normally, I don't respond to insults, particularly those of the near-imbecilic variety. What I had hoped would be helpful advice, that Mr. Sherwin turn off such Republican flunkies as Rush Limbaugh and instead read great literature so that he could see issues more clearly, was met with scorn and insults, I'm sorry to say. And my falling into fatherly pride by mentioning the size of my family was, perhaps, a mistake, for it lead Mr. Sherwin into further insults. But his insults on that score weren't that great, actually; my wife and I have heard much better ones over the years. I think we've heard them all. The most clever and charming one I can remember was that great morning when I found a condom on my front step (a used one, I'm sorry to say). After that wonderful example of gentlemanly behavior anything Mr. Sherwin could come up with would be likely to fall pretty flat.
Mr. Sherwin expresses alarm that I am among those who threaten to overpopulate the planet. Wow! Imagine, little old me doing all that!
He indicates that I should have been reading "good" books instead of procreating. Gee, I didn't know it had to be one or the other. Does the "Patriot" Act demand that we choose between the two now? He adds, wittily: But then, rabbits do not read 'good' books, do they? I see that rabbits have something in common with George W. Bush. But wait: Mr. Sherwin says rabbits don't read "good" books. That implies they could read some books which makes the analogy with Mr. Bush break down.
In a letter to Mr. Strakon, Mr. Sherwin says that this is still the greatest country on earth. Only a very superficial mind could make that statement. Forgive me for being honest, but it never was and never will be the greatest country on Earth. Oh, it has beautiful lands and many good people, and in some instances has done some good. I don't deny that, obviously. But the "greatest" country? Hardly. No country that extols homosexuality and the murder of innocents is a "great" country. Mr. Sherwin should never forget that. It could one day be a fine country, but it is going to take, among other things, a citizenry that looks squarely and honestly at our problems, a citizenry that, first and foremost, gets its own house in order. That's another way of saying, Mr Sherwin, that we get the kind of government we deserve, and if we want a better one we have to change ourselves first.
April 28, 2003
Nicholas Strakon comments
Three points about what Mr. Sherwin writes. First, anent all that moral knowledge that he supposes arises from "serving" in combat for some state: One does not have to commit murder in order to recognize it and condemn it. In fact, it usually works just the opposite way.
Second, anent Mr. Sherwin's declaration that we have absolutely no appreciation for the fact that [the troops] are there, not by their own direction, but by circumstances beyond their control: Speaking for myself, I have no appreciation for it because it is not a fact but rather complete balderdash. The boys and wymyn in the imperial military all joined up voluntarily ... except, of course, for those who were otherwise headed to jail.
Third, anent Mr. Sherwin's deadly insult to Mr. Guenzel and his family: If these be rabbits, our cause has no need of tigers.
April 30, 2003
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