A New Commandment
Could we make a rule — a kind of eleventh commandment — which requires us, every time we honor soldiers killed in battle, to remember: thou shall not kill?
As I sit and write these words at least 774 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan because of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which began in late 2001. Five hundred and ninety five of those killed were because of hostile action. Just on Saturday alone eight U.S. and two Afghan soldiers died after two outposts were attacked in eastern Nuristan province. Six other U.S. soldiers were killed in four separate incidents on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3.
And yet the fighting doesn’t look like it will end. President Barack Obama met with top national security and military advisers on Sept. 30 to decide whether to boost troops in Afghanistan by 40,000. Then on Oct. 2 he met Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, aboard Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen.
I’m not saying we should, heaven forbid, declare no to war. I’m saying every time we honor a courageous soldier— let’s formally lament our loss.
We too easily focus on the hero and on the battlefield, without also considering the idiocy that snuffs out young lives.
Every time we number battlefield losses, on whatever side, let’s also discipline ourselves to heave a very big sigh of regret. Each death could be an imperative to stop this murderous reflex.
The majority of Americans, according to the latest polls, want it to stop. Fifty-one percent of adults said the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth fighting and 46 percent said it was, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Sept. 10 to Sept. 12. This comes after polls in March in which 56 percent said the war was worth fighting and 41 percent said it wasn’t.
Sometimes war is a last resort, sometimes it’s a preemptive action. It’s always the result of the belligerent behavior leading up to it. I don’t know how we disentangle from the biological wiring, but we could at least put that on the agenda by creating a sincere ritual of higher order thinking. Oh, and going to war for political ambition and electoral calculation is murder. It’s a lot worse than pork barreling a budget, though it usually does that too.
Dr. Colin Greer has been the President of The New World Foundation since 1985. He was a Professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY, and has written several books. Colin Greer has participated in and directed several studies of U.S. immigration and urban schooling policy and history (at Columbia University and CUNY), and Chairs numerous organizations.