Monday, June 8, 2009

The way we war

It seems now that anyone who ever fought in a war is a
hero; the mere fact of having been exposed to enemy fire
is qualification enough. I don’t mean by this to sneer at
those who served this country in wartime, especially as I
am one of the lucky ones who have never been called on
to do so, but I rather think that the men themselves
would reject the label. They know—those who returned—
that war is an utter lottery in which luck, courage, fear
and blind stupidity are all intermingled. The guy who got
the VC for charging a machine-gun nest singlehanded
might well have been been a bit nuts. The real ‘heroes’
might well have been the ones who kept their heads down
and survived. War, as the film Three Kings reminds us
(saw it again the other night), is a sordid mess strewn with
impossible choices and moral dilemmas indistinguishable
from varieties of excrement. The media-hyped emphasis
on ‘heroes’ dishonours the reality of war for the sake of
gratifying some atavistic need to believe that shit smells
sweet; to live with the true stink of it, apparently, is
intolerable to us.

No comments: