Every now and then it’s fun to go back into history. Not far back, just enough to peak at public arguments concerning invading Iraq. War, as we know from much reading and history channel watching, can involve all of those things Mark Twain’s anti-war prayer speaks of:
>O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
Whatever the likelihood of any of that–or the absence of even more likely things from that prayer–it’s a reminder of the dreadfully serious consequences of justified or unjustified belligerence. War is pestilence.
Here are three paragraphs from a prewar article by George Packer:
>One chilly evening in late November, a panel discussion on Iraq was convened at New York University. The participants were liberal intellectuals, and one by one they framed reasonable arguments against a war in Iraq: inspections need time to work; the Bush doctrine has a dangerous agenda; the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East is not encouraging. The audience of 150 New Yorkers seemed persuaded.
>Then the last panelist spoke. He was an Iraqi dissident named Kanan Makiya, and he said, ”I’m afraid I’m going to strike a discordant note.” He pointed out that Iraqis, who will pay the highest price in the event of an invasion, ”overwhelmingly want this war.” He outlined a vision of postwar Iraq as a secular democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens. This vision would be new to the Arab world. ”It can be encouraged, or it can be crushed just like that. But think about what you’re doing if you crush it.” Makiya’s voice rose as he came to an end. ”I rest my moral case on the following: if there’s a sliver of a chance of it happening, a 5 to 10 percent chance, you have a moral obligation, I say, to do it.”
>The effect was electrifying. The room, which just minutes earlier had settled into a sober and comfortable rejection of war, exploded in applause. The other panelists looked startled, and their reasonable arguments suddenly lay deflated on the table before them.
Their mistake was making reasonable arguments.