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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/action/view/entry_id/845779
Rated: 18+ · Book · Personal · #2025458
A blog not so much for daily activities but to reflect on my past & my experiences.
#845779 added April 4, 2015 at 6:42am
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Gordon Livingston & my Reflections on the Futility of War
My last blog update reminder told me I hadn't posted for 78 days, 12 hours, 55 minutes, a shameful performance (or lack hereof!). My only excuse is two prolonged bouts of computer problems, the first involving an upgrade from a VERY buggy version of Windows XP, and a parallel upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2007. Then, with the introduction of the NBN (Australian readers will know what that is), I needed to change to WiFi,which took a while to settle. I think (hope) everything is now settled.

My original intention with this blog was to reflect on issues in my past. But "Reflections" allows for a multitude of sins different possibilities. While battling computeritis, I managed to get some reading done, in particular a book entitled "The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: Thirty Truths About Fear and Courage", by Gordon Livingston MD. This is an amazing read, and I recommend it to everyone.

Gordon Livingston was a doctor in the US Army during the Vietnam fiasco. He knows the meaning of courage in many of its forms, having lost one son to cancer at age six and another to suicide in his early twenties.

Now I don't want what I have to say to be seen as any sort of attack whatsoever on the men and women who serve in our armed forces - it's not.

"It is easy to wax sentimental each Memorial Day about our unforgotten heroes. (in Australia it would be Anzac Day) But if all we do is put on American Legion hats and lay wreaths and enshrine the memories of our unlucky countrymen, we miss the opportunity to learn something from their fates. Something about what happens when patriotism is equated to support for the latest military adventure-and who pays the price. (My emphasis)

Since Vietnam, we have had Grenada, Panama, Dominican Republic, Beirut, Somalia, the 100 hour walkover in the Persian gulf, the twenty-first century adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do the families of the men (and now women) lost in these places find themselves grateful and at peace with their sacrifices? I wish it were so, but I doubt it."

And later:

"We cannot repay the families of our lost soldiers, families who must find consolation apart from the ceremonial remembrance of those who do not share their sacrifices. Rather than simply honoring the men and women we have lost, we are celebrating the notion that we live in a world in which we resolve conflicting ideas about how to live only by force. We tell ourselves that each military undertaking is required because some value - liberty, democracy - is threatened and must be defended. The instruments of such defense are our sons and daughters.

Next Memorial Day, before you join in the romantic reverence for the dead with its implied willingness to add to that number, I ask you to think again about the cost, not of liberty but of misjudgement. I would not wish on you my own memories of young men who, at the end, could only call for their mothers as their lives leaked away far from home."

He also makes some interesting points about the reality of war.

"When I was in Vietnam (1968-69), the first thing I noticed was that the actual fighting was done by less than 20% of soldiers ("grunts")unfortunate enough to be assigned to the infantry or Marine rifle companies. There was, as I recall, little talk of freedom or democracy among them

Another important discovery I made at war was that in a combat unit, what separates the dead from the survivors was not courage but luck. The person who took the AK47 round, stepped on the mine, bled to death before the medevac arrived was random."

On reflection, and this all reinforces it, it is the young men and now women who fight, bleed and die in wars. But it is the politicians who set the processes in motion, and they are not at risk of injury or death. It is the willing (but unaware) volunteers, and much worse, the conscripts who must be taught to kill for reasons which they do not understand. And let us ask ourselves what benefit we gained from Vietnam, from Iraq, from Afghanistan or any of the other series of catastrophic misjudgements - and how are our lives better for it?

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