Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cowards: Shot at Dawn

A piece on the BBC News last night, Bush, that might interest you. It concerned a belated pardon and vindication for a number of British soldiers who had refused orders to go "over the top" in the trenches during World War I, and who had been court-martialed for cowardice. Their punishment, and to set an example to others: to be summarily shot at dawn.

Many men lost their lives to this exercise in brutality, Bush. Men who were "shell-shocked" and battle-fatigued. Men who simply couldn't take it any more. Men who perhaps consciously chose the swift, certain death of execution over the terror of that climb up the ladder from the filth and mire of the trench into the barrage of enemy fire. I don't know about you, but to me it's simply unimaginable, the courage it must have taken to make that climb.

We are perhaps slightly more enlightened in our understanding of the stress of battle today. We have progressed from the shame of shell-shock to the pathology of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and are more likely to treat the symptoms as psychological war wounds than to condemn them as cowardice. Still, we continue to ask and expect it of men--and women now, too--that they expose themselves to the very real threat of dismemberment and death, and the courage of those who accept that challenge is still to me unimaginable.

I am happy that in these few cases at least, condemnation has finally been superceded by compassion. I celebrate the clearing of their names. I just wish that we had managed, in the nearly one hundred years since the dreadful lessons of World War I, the "war to end all wars", to find some way to resolve our differences other than sending brave souls such as these "over the top." For the sake of what? Sadly, mostly for the sake of the misbegotten egos of powerful and misguided men, whose arrogance, ignorance and intransigeance leads them into wars which others must fight on their behalf. It's these men, in my view, who are the true cowards, not those whose lives they so horribly forfeit.

I would hope that sometimes you lie awake at night and think about this, Bush. I would hope you would lie awake every night... Sadly, though, from everything I hear, I don't see you losing too much sleep.

3 comments:

GringoWithoutBorders said...

Sadly, these cowardly arm chair warmongerers will soon have remote control planes, tanks and robots to slaugter other humans they deem as resistant to their goals. Thus making war even more detached from the reality on the ground.

Ooops, I guess we already drop bombs from 20,000 feet, shoot missles from ships 500 miles away, use drones to bomb areas. And who are the cowards and terrorists? Oh yes, the ones who give their lives and fight an enemy who has invaded thier homes.

PK said...

Those that have no compassion, like Bush & Co., don't understand any of this. I'd sure like to put them out there with a rifle, some fatigues, brogans and a helmet and see how they fare in the 'war on terror' in Iraq...

denn said...

I can see, 'deer in headlights' Bush in the trenches of WW1. Why, he would have sat in the mud, frozen, probably crying and sniveling "war is hard, it's hard", .