WORDS: 1,696 — In part one of this two part series I talked about the book recounting the American Civil War battle of Gettysburg, “The Killer Angels“. On my first trip to that battlefield about 30 years ago I had a strong impulse to make that mile long walk from the Confederate line along the line of trees a mile wide, up to the center copse of trees marking the Union center.. the exact path of Pickett’s charge direct into enemy fire.
By any standard, Napoleonic style warfare is a completely insane way to fight a war… but given the high propensity for your own death fighting became more an act of valor, honor, a measure of romance (literally), and devotion to cause in marching straight into enemy fire. While the opposing force is obviously trying to kill you.. again, humans killing humans… you are heading straight into that killing field not to avoid your own death but to follow some road to heroic immortality before you can even advance to a distance from where you can kill another human being yourself. Back then it was called glory. Glory or not, your chances of dying or being a casualty before you get to your enemy to kill them was quite high. As I crossed that field, imagining all those dead I was stepping on and over, I kept asking myself… “Why?” I stopped a couple times in crossing that field, using the toe of my shoe to scrape away a bit of topsoil in the hopes of uncovering some artifact of a great battle having occurred there. Up until about 100 yards from the Union position I half expected if I found anything it would be shrapnel from overhead exploding ball or cannister grapeshot. Any closer I might find musket Minie’ or ball rounds. I found nothing that day… except a bit of my own vulnerability to my own level of humanity in that we are all prisoners of our genetic selves…. killers and angels, and often within the same moment.
Ukraine, The Current Killing Field
A couple weeks ago, March 23rd to be exact, I made a post “How Could This Happen In 2022?” -…. and in the intro paragraph I remarked…
To answer that question we could easily reply.. “Why not? It’s as good a year as any.” In other words, why would we even presume that mankind has learned anything from past history, just in the 20th century alone, that would suggest that in 2022 we’ve finally realized the errors of our collective ways, and our amazing application of technology has made our current times on the road to some Utopia. No more dictators! No more oppression! Freedom for all! Well, it seems humanity isn’t there quite yet.
I went on in that post to remark about the need to attend to the greater enemy in the Ukraine struggle as being Putin himself and not just Putin in Ukraine. But we can also use my opening words to begin a discussion on our human need to have to kill each other…. and regardless of the seeming “modern times” we live in, 2022, presumably with a level of evolved intellectual reasoning and economic affluence… we still want to kill each other. Who cares what year it is. Obviously the Ukraine struggle represents a here-and-now consternation of just plain ruthless barbarism from one nation onto another more vulnerable nation. Then to compound that, the rest of the “moral” world in a position to help, is apprehensive to do so directly, and only by proxy, opting to surrender to the nuclear blackmail.. and avoid Armageddon…
“We” All Underestimated The Tenacity and Will of the Ukrainians To Actually Fight
Consider this… in the 20th/21st centuries America has always been in the “advisory” role to get others to engage and fight. Vietnam.. marginal engagement from their people and we did all the pulling. Iraq… we equipped and trained them.. they were marginal. In Syria, we had to step in to defend, yet again and they couldn’t overthrow their own leader. Afghanistan… 20 years there couldn’t convince the population to engage for their own benefit. We equipped them for 20 years.. they failed. Middle East refugees? Please… how many males also took off for the other countries to escape ISIS, a dictator leader, and Russians, and not stand and fight? Yep, the Ukrainians WANT to defend themselves and are doing so. We’ve never experienced that before. Their military hasn’t turned-tail and ran. Their civilian population is engaging more than I ever have seen a nation we’ve “advised” to fight has done. Ukraine WANTS their independence and they are fighting for it like no other nation I am aware of that we have allegedly helped. Hell, all the other nations we’ve been mixed up with we’ve tried to impose in some fashion the idea of democracy-is-the-best-way, ignoring the idea that you can’t force a democracy onto the unwilling. The Ukrainian people are fighting for it… and dying for it. We’ve lost our own soldiers inside countries with less enthusiasm for saving their own hides. Yet the West.. America… fears engaging to help beyond some proxy position. On the surface it’s because we fear the unknown maverick Putin pushing a nuke button. I also think it’s because of Afghanistan we fear another “forever war” and body bags coming home. On a moral scale I am appalled. What greater crusade than helping another civilized democracy, that has proven its own will to survive, from being annihilated by Putin.
And there, I just said it… a great noble crusade is the justification for saving of Ukraine from conquest by another bully nation.. and killing the invaders, also other humans. Makes no sense on the surface, justifying death with more death. But because we can reason as a species we can certainly “justify” all of it… and who are we justifying it to? The only audience present is us. Tell that to the poor civilian in the photo at the top of this post… when someone else with a gun said that HE, personally, must die… to be executed with his hands tied behind him… in order for someone else’s cause to prevail. I am reminded of the uniform belt buckle issued to German troops in WW2 with the inscription “Gott Mit Uns” (“God is with us.”), over an image of a Nazi swastika. Rather like Putin rubbing elbows with the Russian Orthodox church leader who has decided that Putin’s cause is also the cause of the church… to subjugate by killing randomly, or any other way. God is always on both sides as both sides are righteous in their cause, right? Even religion itself has managed to re-define the interpretation of the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” as some obtuse concept of “well, it doesn’t mean ‘kill’ specifically.” Fits in nicely with justifying human instinct and absolving guilt.
Crimes Against Humanity?
Religion aside (religion didn’t help that poor fellow in the photo apparently)… Putin remains the here-and-now bully of the moment. Frida Ghitis of The Washington Post presents the world frustration very well.
“With every image of a murdered civilian lying on the sidewalk in a Ukrainian town devastated by occupying Russian forces, with every interview of a tearful woman mourning dead relatives by the side of a grave, the level of frustration rises around the world. How can Russian President Vladimir Putin get away with brazenly assaulting a neighboring country, targeting noncombatants and killing thousands of innocent people while repeatedly claiming his troops are not committing atrocities or aiming at civilians? Can’t he be stopped?”
To date, economic sanctions has done little to stop him (So far. The Russian people may become more incensed down the line to want to depose Putin… maybe.), and most certainly threats of being a world pariah and being judged a purveyor of war crimes isn’t stopping him from doing it all the more. Kicking him out of the international “playground”.. the various UN and economic organizations, has done nothing. What’s left is the usual “good vs. evil on the battlefield… with both sides claiming to be “good”.
The Usual Hypocrisy…
Here we have a country proving to the world it can defend itself in the face of an international bully… and the world watches, and reacts from some apprehension and fear about what Putin “might” do. Oh sure.. everyone is giving them military and humanitarian aid to keep up the “good” fight. But honestly, America and its allies have gotten involved in past battles over idiotic pretenses and outright lies. The Gulf of Tonkin incident… those weapons of mass destruction… the U.S.S. Maine blowing up in Havana Harbor… the sinking of the Lusitania… name your conflict and likely (save for a couple.. maybe) we got into it with contrived reasons. Again, we found reasons to go out and kill under what was alleged to be “righteous” causes. The one “black & white” war (meaning not skin color… but the plain reason behind it all was a bully nation attacking a peaceful nation without provocation), a war of non-complex origins, and the world is holding back. It’s truly like watching an absolute modern day Hitler at work, and for the same reasons.. Lebensraum.
Odd perspective realization about this Ukrainian conflict… if we had kept the sanctions out of this and gone in up front as the invasion began, the world’s economies would be more intact, and we could have pushed the Russians back into Russia. But we fell for the fallacy that the Russian military was invincible, the Ukrainians would falter in their ability to defend themselves, and we feared Putin would introduce chemicals and/or nukes. There’s an international moral responsibility here. NATO had (and still has) the ability to stop Russia and send them back home. You don’t make peace with a Hitlarian type who cares less about human life and lies all the time.
So there you have it… to kick out an invader humans have to kill other humans. In 2022 we thought us humans of this day and age had reached a point where our intellect and reasoning had finally understood the futility of war. Silly us. War itself is all the reason we need to do anything we want.