The world was shocked at the news of the alleged shooting of 17 Afghan civilians recently by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. What doesn’t get equal press is the almost routine “collateral damage” inflicted on innocent civilians through drone strikes, artillery attacks, land mines and other inevitable outcomes of war. Victims suffer in unimaginably horrific ways, with limbs, bones and body parts shattered, burned, severed and mingled with the precious blood of human victims, all of them God’s children.
It’s time we declare war itself as the enemy and every kind of violence as evil, no matter for what cause or under whose flag. The devastation done to victim and perpetrator alike is profound and simply unacceptable by any standard of civilized society. Killing is just wrong, period, whether of civilians or combatants.
In a January 16, 2012 interview in Time magazine, Navy SEAL Chris Hyle, recipient of two Silver Stars in Iraq, and author of the book “American Sniper,” admits that his combat experience still makes him easily startled when he is awakened at night or hears loud sounds that remind him of his time in active duty. Hyle holds the dubious record for the highest confirmed number of enemy killed in that conflict, 160 in all, and states, “The first time, you’re not even sure you can do it. But I’m not over there looking at those people as people. I’m not wondering if he has a family. I’m just trying to keep my guys safe.”
In one case he admits he shot a woman with a toddler because she had a grenade in her hand, but drew a line at shooting a child holding an RPG launcher. “I just couldn’t kill the kid,” he admitted. “He’ll probably grow up to fight us, but I just didn’t want to do it.” “(But) every time I kill someone (a combatant), he can’t plant an IED. You don’t think twice about it.”
As much as I want to respect service men and women who are putting their lives at risk every day in military service, there’s something chilling about the institution of war itself and the way it brainwashes people into behaving in ways that are directly counter to the values most of us have been taught all of our lives. Like never initiating violence against another human being, and using preventive force only in those rare instances when your own life or those of others are in imminent danger.
If civilization is to survive, we must all promote the supreme value of loving every human neighbor everywhere as ourselves. Otherwise, the more we resort to war as a necessary evil, the more necessary it becomes and the less evil it seems.
That’s is why I chose the bumper sticker “I’m already against the next war” for the back of my pickup.
P. S. In an earlier piece, "Saying No To War," I share more of my views on the Biblical case against violence.