My reaction to Bill Richardson’s guest commentary of Dec. 28, “Young warriors a truly special breed,” is dismay. Although I respect his service as master police officer, and appreciate most of his contributions to the Tribune, I must comment that some of the opinions in this article are historically naive, on one hand, and disingenuous on the other.
He states that “war is war.” This is not true. Some wars are necessary for survival, others are opportunistic and political. We did not have to invade Afghanistan with our military forces; we got Bin Laden with a minimum of expense and loss of life. The invasion of Iraq was a hoax and sham; we could have removed Sadam with a drone or missile attack. Yet Mr. Richardson praises his young visiting warrior as a hero willing to put his life on the line and “bravely venture into the jaws of death” for his country. As this soldier leaves the Richardson home, he knows there will be another war that he will be a part of.
What really irritates me is that Mr. Richardson is amazed as to where we find young people who are willing to do this. Is it possible that he does not realize that we purposely glorify war, combat, and violence in our culture? We provide children with toy weapons, and violent combat videos, movies, and television programs; our adult children play with paintball weapons in mock battles. We encourage our citizens to participate in football to ensure that they develop the “camaraderie that comes with those you share danger with.”
Mr. Richardson, were you never young? Have you forgotten that growing up is a process of mental growth and maturation? Most people become wiser as they age. Why are you so naive as to wonder why young people become soldiers? They are adventuresome, idealistic, impressionable, and yearning for recognition; most of them have been duped by propaganda extolling the glory of fighting for fame, folk, and fatherland. Your obsequious, ingratiating pandering belies the underlying need to thank them for doing a “job” that you would not want your own child or grandchild to have to do.
In earlier centuries in Europe, whenever a political leader, king, prince, or lord decided to fight a war, he conscripted peasants to do the fighting. When things got serious so that the middle class and aristocracy were called on to join in the fight, they paid poor citizens to take their places. As we all know, Mr. Richardson, there are relatively few wealthy or otherwise influential people in our country who volunteer to serve in the military.
What is needed is for the leaders of this country to stop conducting political wars that serve specialized interests, such as those of the military-industrial complex. The Constitution used to require that only Congress declare war. When it was necessary to do so (for example, WWII), the draft was instituted; most citizens contributed in some way to defeat tyranny. I think you know, Mr. Richardson, why no one is complaining that we ignore these provisions. We know that most people are glad to abide by the Constitution in most other respects. The most glaring examples are the First Amendment, which the Supreme Court ruled protects the right of companies to produce and proliferate to children grotesquely violent videos, and the Second Amendment, which is interpreted to ensure the right of all citizens to arm themselves with semi-automatic combat weapons.
War is not intrinsic to our human nature. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, there are three great abominations, or “Triple Evils”: racism, poverty, and war. However, humans have made great progress toward ameliorating the first two; there is no reason to assume that we cannot make progress toward eliminating war. But the first step is refusing to accept war as natural and inevitable!
As Dr. King stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death” (from “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).