Sunday, July 13, 2008

The war that keeps on giving-- when will it end?

Joseph Patrick Dwyer died in a Pinehurst, NJ hospital last week at the age of 31. He was a former Army medic who served in Iraq. He was killed by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in the form of a drug overdose. There's more about him at AP.

Joseph Dwyer became well-known-- at least an image of him-- when, during the first week of the Iraq War, he was photographed carrying an injured Iraqi boy to a makeshift hospital. Dwyer's mother says the photo embarrassed him.

Millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, tens of thousands of U.S. military killed and wounded-- and for the most part, we in this country are so insulated from this war that opposition to it is an exercise of intellectual will-- unless you are a family member or a friend of someone serving in the military, and then the war is never far from your mind. How clever this administration has been in hiding the reality of war from our eyes: remember the flag-draped coffins we weren't allowed to see, the embedded reporters, the media's complicity and all the dirty secrets-- the lies, the torture-- that seem like an episode of 24?

On and off through much of my adult life I flashed on two black and white images, both involving hands. First, the white flash of an explosion, then two hands, torn from a body, gripping barbed wire. Next, a butterfly drifts near a trench. A hand comes out tremulously, reaching toward the butterfly. A shot rings out; the hand recoils, loosens in death.

Ten years ago I watched All Quiet on the Western Front, the 1930 movie version of Erich Maria Remarque's novel of World War One, and recognized those hands in an early scene and then in the final scene. It is war as we need to understand it if we are ever to end it.
"It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit. In a bomb-proof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hour's bombardment unscratched. No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck." Paul , who once was a boy who collected butterflies before he was a soldier.

No comments: