By Tony Magliano
A couple of weeks ago, while waiting to change planes at Midway International Airport in Chicago, I saw a man walking along the concourse waving the American flag, and shouting “these are troops returning from Afghanistan!” The smiling young men and women walking behind him were obviously glad to be home. And we fellow travelers were glad of their safe return from harm’s way. But as soon as the troops paraded by and the brief clapping stopped, most everyone went back to eating, drinking, reading and checking flight monitors.
It powerfully struck me as a microcosm of American society’s attitude toward the three wars the nation’s military is fighting – young men and women spilling blood, theirs and others, while for most everyone else, life going on as normal. A real disconnect from the hell of war, I’d say.
War has always been hell. That’s because it originates in hell. It is an invention of the Evil One. But today, the hell of war is distant and does not affect American society at large. And since nearly all of war’s hell is being experienced somewhere else, going to war, and staying in war, is all the easier for the vast majority of Americans.
The time surrounding Memorial Day is the most appropriate time to seriously question why is the United States waging the hell of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya? And why are so many young men and women being sent by our government to kill and be killed? Is there even one honest, morally sound, overriding reason why the U.S. insists on adding more people to be sadly remembered each Memorial Day?
Beware of misleading sound bite responses such as we’re fighting to “protect our national interests” or to “protect innocent civilians.” Our real national interests like ending poverty, cleaning up the environment, healthy job creation and universal health care are not addressed by the death, destruction and astronomical monetary costs of war. And innocent civilians are not protected by waging war. Quite the contrary, modern warfare kills far more innocent civilians than combatants.
In his Farewell Address to the Nation, Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. never heeded the warning of this five-star army general. Instead, the military-industrial complex of weapon producing corporations shrewdly guarantees its “unwarranted influence” and “disastrous rise of misplaced power” by contributing funds to many incumbent members of Congress, and by operating arms factories in many states, which in turn, employ countless Americans. Additionally, with the presence of military installations throughout the U.S., communities have grown economically dependent on war and war preparation.
Jesus is calling believers to convert our permanent war machine into an economy dedicated to peaceful development. Popes have been preaching this for the past 50 years! For example, Blessed John Paul II wrote since ‘“development is the new name for peace,’ war and military preparations are the major enemy of the integral development of peoples.” Is anyone listening?
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, God’s plan is for us to beat our swords into plowshares, and to train for war no more. If we, the disciples of the Prince of Peace, refuse this holy call, then who on earth will ever heed it?
Tony Magliano is a columnist whose work appears in diocesan papers throughout the United States. If your diocesan paper does not carry his column, we encourage you to call them and request that they do.