Saturday, May 26, 2007

WAR IS HELL

PHILOSOPHY OR OBSERVATION? We've all heard the "war is hell" quip attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman was the Union commander whose armies turned Atlanta into an inferno and much of the south into a wasteland. I've not yet been able to place his "war is hell" quote in its proper context. I'm not sure the quote can bear the weight of a philosophy about how he intended and conducted war, as some posit. It may be more a comment about the nature of any war. As I’ve explored, I have found some interesting excerpts from Sherman's letters. Here are a few:

ALL GLORY OR ALL HELL? "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys it is all hell."

CANNOT BE REFINED. "You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices today than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war."

SICK OF FIGHTING. "I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting--its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers ... it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation."

CONSIDERING TODAY. I think about General Sherman’s words on the heels of a Memorial Day that marked the death of 10 more American troops in Iraq, bringing the four-year total to 3,462. I consider these words at the conclusion of a month in which more American youth were killed in Iraq than any month since 2004. I consider these words as the President, who himself successfully avoided being put in harm’s way in an unpopular and unwinnable war, vows to increase troop numbers and “win” in Iraq at all costs.

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