Small Talk About Big Issues

Touching Base with Common Sense

War and Peace

WARNING: The following post contains graphic pictures and descriptions of war. 

 I have left the photographers’ names off their pictures for two reasons: 1) space and, in many cases, the unavailability of that information, and 2) the photographers were not seeking fame when these pictures were taken they were seeking to tell the true story of the cruelty of war.  Every picture is real, every person depicted had mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.  Every person you see in these pictures had hopes, dreams, goals, and desires.  Some of these pictures are quite famous, others are rather obscure. All are readily available on the Internet.  Just as a personal note, I met or knew a couple of these photographers.

William Tecumseh Sherman is credited with the origination of the phrase “War is hell,” and he should know.  Serving under the command of Ulysses S. Grant and, later, as the Commander of the Union Army, he became infamous as a cunning strategist and unmerciful foe in the carrying out of his “scorched earth” policies against the Confederate States.  As a soldier, he carried out the directives of President Grant and helped get Abraham Lincoln elected.  As a politicians’ soldier, he was loved because he struck fear in the heart of the enemy and diminished their will to fight, and because he was willing to dirty his hands when others would not.

“War is hell,” as anyone who has been there will affirm!

Unlike citizens of many other countries, the majority of Americans can only give academic acknowledgment to this fact.  The reality is this: Nowhere does the desire for peace burn more intensely than in the heart of a soldier.  Warriors from every nation across the globe understand the horrors of war, regardless of the time frame in which they lived or are living.

It is an understanding of peace the uninitiated to mortal combat will never know.  Those who have never lived on the razor-sharp edge of death; Those who have never watched a human-being fall to the ground lifeless just above the front sight of their own rifle; Those who have never felt the rush of gases being expelled from the person they just stabbed; Those who have never experienced the warmth of another human’s life dripping from their blade-filled hand; Those who have never swallowed hard to squelch the rising sick, empty, nauseous feeling in their own gut left from the realization of having taken another’s life can yearn for peace more than those who have.

Those who have never witnessed first-hand the bloating, rotting, decaying bodies of what appears to have been once human now covered in dirt and flies; Those who have never witnessed the bloody, disintegrated bodies of men, women, and children ripped apart and riddled by bombs or gunfire; Those who have never witnessed the silent calmness of a dead comrade floating facedown along the blood-soaked shores can understand the depth of a soldier’s desire to see peace abound.

Those who have never smelled the bitter-sweet stench of burning flesh; Those who have never choked on the clouds of spent gunpowder; Those who have never smelled the aroma of their buddy’s life draining from his veins onto the foreign, musty soil can understand the warriors’ yearning to breath in the fresh, clean air of peace.

Those who have never heard the roar of the guns, the explosions of the munitions, or the wicked heart-stopping snap of bullets breaking the sound barrier as they whip by your ear; Those who have never heard the fluids of a human body boiling; Those who have never heard the heat of fire popping and cracking human bones; Those who have never heard the cries of death, misery, and sorrow can fathom the soldiers’ need for the quite solitude of peace.

Unlike in the white-glove clean offices of the high-backed, leather chairs filled with Armani suits, the battlefield is sterilized of common human problems.  Political parties do not exist.  Racial issues are left back in camp.  Religious views are narrowed to only one, “God (whoever he is conceived to be) save us from this terrestrial hell!”

The war is never over for the soldier.  Nightmares interrupt is sleep.  Flashbacks invade his days.  Common, everyday sights, sounds, tastes, and smells draw him back to the battleground.  Even in peace the warrior is troubled: troubled by the past and troubled about the future.  In a world of more than 6.5 billion people, war is an ever-present danger the experienced soldier longs to avoid for himself, his family, his neighbors, his country, and his world.

Peace burns within the breasts of soldiers…regardless of race, nationality, sex, or creed.

Today as I have written the above and searched for the photographs that accompany this writing, my eyes have been continually blurred with tears and my heart heavy with sadness because of 1) my own remembrance, 2) the remembrance of other soldiers reading this, and 3) for the state of our nation and our world.

Everyday across the globe patriots are dying for their country.  Loved ones are mourning the loss of their dead and dying.  The human race has been fighting among themselves since Cain and Able.  One website I visited today claimed that over the last 3000 years, only 250 years have known peace.  That statistic is a sad commentary on human relations.

Perhaps the saddest commentary of all is that human beings are not learning the lessons we should have learned over the countless blood-stained years of war in our histories.

Although horrific, war is not the problem.  Like peace, war is a symptom not a sickness, a by-product, not product.  The problem humankind faces, the sickness that makes us ill, is that we love power.  We are power-addicts dredging for our next fix.  Cain desired his religion to reign over the beliefs and practices of his brother Abel.  Political parties crave victories to experience the high that can only be felt by the injection of power.  Nations seek supremacy over the others and spouses vie for power over each other.  Almost everywhere a relationship between two or more people exists, a fight for power ensues.

Regardless of how you feel about his life or his music, Jimi Hendrix may very well have given us a prescription which starts us down the road to recovery.  He said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”  May his words ring true in all the earth.

Great minds speaking of peace… 

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”          Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“We make war that we may live in peace.”          Aristotle

“Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.”          Robert Fulghum

 “The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: “Our country — when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.”          Carl Schurz

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”          Omar N. Bradley


I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play

And mild and sweet the words repeat,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


I thought how as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had roll’d along th’ unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


And in despair I bow’d my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

……….Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


November 18, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. John, Thank You! It was my pleasure to read such a well researched view on war and peace. But I wonder if the United States of America will ever achieve PEACE. D

    Comment by Delores Michaels | November 26, 2009 | Reply

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