No matter what ones viewpoint on the war in Iraq, one thing is strikingly clear. War is a terrible thing.
On both sides, families are torn apart. Men, women, and children are harmed. Countries are split. Economies are drained.
And the ones involved in actual battle, the soldiers, have to face these byproducts of war while dealing with the deadly circumstances around them. They are noble people, fighting for their country, willing to die for what they believe in. But, the fight is still a brutal one to undergo.
Wilfred Owen, a poet and soldier of World War I, captures this sentiment of ones duty to ones country versus the harshness of war with his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And floundring like a man in fire or lime
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devils sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
At first take, Owen would seem to be against the idea of war. He was not. He fought very well, winning a military cross, before he was subsequently killed by machine gun fire a week before the war ended.
His message is what is important. War is necessary. War is brutal. As a country, we know this, but still pass on the message that war is glorious, something to be done to prove oneself. But it isnt. And we should stop the old lie stated in the last line: It is sweet and right to die for ones country. Sweet! And decorous! Perhaps it is right to die for ones country, but it is not sweet or decorous. It is a horror that sometimes has to be done.
Melissa Wangall is a contributing writer for The Rock River Times and is a Poplar Grove resident.
From the April 6-12, 2005, issue