Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Of War and Warriors…

This is a non-RPG post…skip it if you like.

Some people are “born warriors,” though not all of them follow the pursuit. I suspect I may have been one…certainly I am drawn to the tools, tactics, structure, and history of war…but for whatever reason, I have chosen not to follow a career in war. Call it cowardice, pacifism, an aversion to indentured (government) servitude…heck, it’s probably a combo of all these…but I have chosen NOT to be a warrior in this lifetime.

Now when I say “warrior” I am speaking of someone with the capability and desire for doing real, physical harm. I’m not talking about “fighting spirit;” most people have some type of passion (astrologically speaking, we all have Mars somewhere in our birth chart). Likewise, I’m not talking about hunters or woodsmen…some warriors born may find an outlet for themselves in the killing of animals, but shooting food is akin to being a farmer/gatherer/provider and does not necessarily mean being a “warrior born.” There are plenty of pacifistic hunters.

[likewise, using hunting or murder or sports as an outlet for dark rage and aggression doesn’t necessarily make one a “warrior;” simply a person with destructive, i.e. anti-constructive tendencies from looking on the darkest side of life]

But there are those who are warriors. Often they are drawn to careers like the military or law enforcement or the highest degree of sport and athletics. Of these, the first two are the more constructive use of their God-given talents (sports, enjoyable as they are, are mostly frivolous…and indeed, often debilitating to individuals due to over-work or specific muscle groups).

Now: war is a terrible thing. The worst thing, really. The purposeful taking of human life (and, yes, I consider collateral casualties as “purposeful;” pulling the trigger and unleashing destruction is a purposeful act) is the highest order of sin one can commit. Not only because it causes suffering (to the victims, to the victims’ families, and to the very soul of the killer), but because it removes HUMAN LIFE from the planet.

And human life is the very definition of the potential for creation.

Humans are capable of fantastic deeds…GOOD deeds…more than any other living creature on this planet. And no matter how awful and evil people are, they always have the potential to turn it around. I would point to the example of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Peace Prize that has encouraged and inspired (and rewarded) so many great humanitarian works. He created the prize in fact to make up for the death and destruction he had caused with his invention of dynamite. So much better to work towards a better world than simply wallow in your guilt and regret.

Taking of human life – the main result and end of war – is a snuffing of that potential from the world. And that is a terrible, terrible thing.

And self-destructive really…truly we are All One Body in this One Reality…beneath the trappings of the physical world we are simply small parts of One Universal Whole. Would you cut off your own nose because it offended you? No. But often, we are lost in the illusion of physicality (due to our own sense of self and selfish self-interest) and believe that we are somehow separate from those around us. That perhaps killing an individual whom we do not know is somehow better than killing one we do…or that someone who is different from us is somehow of lesser value.

Such is not the case. We are, in fact, of equal value. The brilliant, kind and caring doctor is of equal value to the world as the homeless junkie-addict begging for change. YOU may not be able to see one’s “intrinsic value” over the other (and certainly if you were mortally ill you might seek out the physician first), but it’s true. We are all angelic souls living in this physical world. Who knows how many people the junkie has inspired to good due to the very act of his being?

And don’t all babies start out equally sweet and innocent? All humans begin from that same mark…even those “divinely conceived” begin as creatures unable to walk or talk, and with a penchant for pooping themselves.

So why then do warriors exist? If war is simply a harming of ourselves (because the very act of harming another human is the soul’s equivalent of dipping your own hand in molten lava), then why are some born with the calling? Forget the fact that they COULD choose to do other things…why are these souls on this earth at all? As an evolved species who SHOULD know better about the worthlessness of war, why do warriors…good and bad…continue to incarnate into this 21st century?

Think of them as our body’s immune system; white blood cells, if you will.

Sometimes, the body suffers illness, most often due to our own mistreatment. When we are ill, we exhibit symptoms of that illness…and if illness is left untreated it can lead to worse things, including the death of the body.

Sometimes it is necessary to hurt part of the body to save it. Sometimes, a frostbitten finger needs to be amputated to save the flesh. Yes, it is our own damn fault we were frostbitten (we should have been smart enough to put a glove on that hand!), and we should mourn the finger’s loss…hell, we should TRY to save the finger if possible. But when time is of the essence, when keeping the finger means danger to the hand or the arm or the body, then the finger must go, so the body may live.

Osama Bin Laden was frostbite. And we called on warriors to cut him from our flesh.

It is not his ideals that were evil…there IS decadence in Western Culture and (at times) a real lack of spirituality. It is not his religion that was evil…Islam is no more or less valid than Christianity, and as with Christians sometimes teachings can be misinterpreted or misunderstood by their most devoted followers.

It was not even his soul that was evil…Osama Bin Laden was as much an angelic spirit in flesh as the recently beatified Pope John Paul. He started life as a smiling, happy baby just like my own son, I’m sure.

But his actions, and his continued actions, made him a cancer to our human body. He attempted to wage a war just as deadly and as damned as anything the world has seen in the last 200 years. That he killed fewer humans with his actions than the U.S. military has killed in the last 10 years is no consolation. He was but one man…if he’d had the means he would have killed as many or more.

I don’t say this out of fear or justification or vengeful wish for justice…I speak only of his actions. He killed. He encouraged others to kill. He continued to encourage others to kill. He offered no regrets for these things.

Osama Bin Laden’s death was not justice. Justice is not dispensed by humans, but by God or the Universe or the Great Wheel of Karma. But his actions WERE detrimental to the whole of our world. Not American society…our nation will have its Rise and Fall like all great nations before it…but to our human world.

The military men who took action to capture or kill Bin Laden were warriors who did the work of warriors. They exemplify the reason why some are born warriors in this world. After reading the account of the engagement, I am both happy and satisfied with the results.

This was not a remote control bomb or faceless airstrike on a “potential” target.

This was not the invasion of a sovereign nation with the intent to topple its government.

This was not the assassination of some “rabble rouser.”

Nor was there any gloating by the authorities who ordered the operation, no shit-faced smirking and proclamations of “mission accomplished” for bullshit publicity.

Osama Bin Laden’s actions have been criminal, and like any violent criminal it was appropriate to take steps to prevent future violent criminal actions on his part. The warriors’ orders were to capture or kill. I believe that they took those orders seriously. I believe that on this particular day, they were a credit to their calling…and that we should be proud of their actions.

I am sad, angry, and disappointed that we live in a world where violence and death is NOT confined to our games and entertainment and imagination. I grieve for all those killed…terrorists and innocents and warriors and wastrels. But sometimes a surgeon must cut the body for healing to begin…sometimes, sacrifice is a necessary part of the treatment of illness. I do not envy the burden on the souls of our warriors. But I can see now why some are born to the warriors calling. It is not for us to sit idly while some of our fellows seek the death and destruction of human life. We must strive always, ALWAYS to prevent the loss of life, even when it means finding a way to forgive those who do the most accursed deeds to ourselves and our loved ones.

Doing any less is asking for divine retribution.

All thanks to God for giving us warriors. May they be called to wage war as seldom as possible.


  1. JB, thanks for this post. If you don't mind, I would be like to share with you my own post on the death of bin Laden:


    I would be interested in what you think of my thoughts. I really liked your approach to the need for warriors and what role they serve, not only to the temporal world but also to the spiritual world.

    In my post I talk about how there are individuals in this life that violate one of the most basic, common sense truths (and I believe there are few universal truths): having no respect for other human lives. The difference between what our warriors did and what Osama did with his life is that I would like to hope that our warriors do not relish the lives they take. But Osama knew what he was doing and relished his ability to command others, take advantage of other souls, and feel no remorse as he killed both those that trusted him as well as civilians in other nations. It is these utterly selfish and amoral invididuals who are the few in this life who actually deserve death.

    Also, the spontaneous mobs of celebrating youths in our country were born more from relief and release of fear rather than some worship of death and hate.

  2. @ Drance: I heartily agree with your last point...it's difficult for me to put myself in their shoes...after all, I'm 37 and have been an adult for the last 10 years. Kids in their late teens and early 20s grew up thinking Bin Laden was the bogey man...similar to the way I grew up thinking we were all going to get nuked in a grand conflagration of Cold War exchanges.

    But I AM 37 and I DO have an adult's perspective and I felt a need to share my feelings on the subject.

    I do not feel relief...but I do not feel ill will towards our (American) actions in this regard as I have so many times in the past. Save for the scope, the action was little different from law enforcement taking down on a criminal in his lair...and that is what Bin Laden was. A criminal. A murderous rogue. "Terrorist?" Sure...if you allow his actions to fill your heart with terror. I choose not to, and I have done more world traveling in the last ten years than in my prior 27 combined. To quote David Lynch, "Fear is the mind-killer."

    I am PROUD of our military today. I am proud of our intelligence agencies. I am proud of our government. And pride in these things has been a damn hard thing to come by in recent years. It is tragic that any lives were lost...but I feel THIS time, we made the right call. And I am happy we had the warriors we needed.

    That's my true feelings on the matter.

  3. JB -

    I'm glad you did a long post on this. Your post of the other night, with the scare quotes around "justice," irritated me.

    I think I can see from this post that you were not trying to be flip -- maybe instead you are working through conflicting ideas about the assassination of Bin Laden.

    You write about killing and death, as if these things were the determinant of who is good and who is evil. As if whoever causes or wishes to do the most violence is the most evil. No, there is much more to it.

    There is a history of the philosophy of war, and of justice, and of when it is right to kill someone, and how it must be done. Just war theory, Geneva Conventions, etc. When to be restrained, and when to be savage.

    Further, there are ideologies for which we kill and die. Our US ideology of liberty, as embodied in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is worth killing and dying for. Give me liberty or give me death.

    Osama's ideology, of the supremacy of a particular religion, is idiotic evil. Just as are ideologies of the supremacy of a particular race. Just as are totalitarian ideologies that seek to destroy freedom, such as communism and fascism.

    The right to speak freely. The right to vote. The right to think freely. And yes, the right to bear arms, chief. These rights belong to us as humans. And all other humans, including Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans.

    We don't just kill to prevent killing. That is not enough. We kill for freedom. To kill the enslavers. It is more than our right to do this, it is our responsibility as humans, to the extent that we can.

    I assume (rightly) that you opposed the Iraq War. Then I ask you -- which of Saddam's rape rooms was the most super cool awesome? Maybe you could set up a nonprofit with Matt Damon and work to bring those rape rooms back to Iraq?

    I also ask you -- if George W Bush brought freedom of speech and the right to vote to 12 million women in Iraq, then who has done more for women's rights than he has?

    Ever hear of a Marsh Arab? A Kurd? What side was Noam Chomsky on during the freaking Cambodian genocide?

    The leftist assumptions about Bush, about Obama, about victimhood, about the relative degree of "authenticity' (scare quotes!) of humans in the developing world, are wrong and misleading.

    That is why you are having trouble squaring this circle.

    There will be no Utopia. But there is such a thing as "Justice." There are also such things as "Love" for our "children" and for our "fellow man." Scare quotes can't diminish these things.

    Justice - it does consist partly in blood for blood, but partly in blood for freaking freedom, dude.

    I apologize for my tone. Keep on rockin.

  4. @ Jason:

    I disagree with you on what is worth killing for. Certainly if you were to ask the more than 100,000 civilian casualties of the Iraq War, they might not agree with you, either.

    I use " " around "justice" because I do not believe killing Osama Bin Laden is any form of justice. It is not meant to be scary. It is meant to say:

    **Today what has happened is called "justice."**

    Even if I believed humans could dispense true justice (I don't), I can't believe the killing of one man makes up for the death and suffering he's caused. Nor can I believe the invasion of Iraq was anything more than an "angry giant (the USA) wanting to punch something" after getting punched in the nose by Bin Laden. Well, that, and perhaps an opportunity for certain folks.

    Sorry, but I do not place American values over the life, liberty, and happiness of other human beings. And there is no conflict within me on the subject.

    My post was my way of saying that I am proud of the way the U.S. handled this operation and while it is unfortunate Bin Laden was not captured alive, I do not fault the manner in which he met his death. I, pacifist that I am, can see that Bin Laden was someone that needed to be dealt with and I am satisfied with the manner in which he was dealt. I am proud at the restraint involved, even as I am pleased with the gutsy maneuver and proactive action taken.

  5. @Jason - I think you're falling into a very problematic binary with the "do you like rape rooms? If not, then you cannot oppose the Iraq War" phrasing you've used.

    Let me engage in a hyperbolic example to make my point here.

    "Well, I don't like rape rooms. The best way to prevent those is to nuke the entire population, so that nobody can set up a rape room again."

    Well, sure, but they're all dead, it's kind of defeating the point. (The Judge Death solution, if you will.)

    Working against injustice and hate, working towards justice, is a difficult task. The simple path, sometimes the one that may feel the most satisfying at first blush, may not be the one that ultimately does the most to help the most people. It is very possible to say "I think going into Iraq as we did was not justified," without having that mean that one was a staunch supporter of the Hussein regime.

  6. JB -

    The killing of Osama was the essence of justice. Like the execution of a murderer, of course it doesn't undo the suffering he caused. It is morally right punishment, retribution, and deterrence to others.

    I disagree that the US was just an angry giant. We were already virtually at war with Iraq, and wrestling with all the same issues. See Clinton and Gore's bombings and rhetoric of 1998.

    The implication that Bush had some secret profit motive for going into Iraq is not credible.

    As respects civilian casualties in the Iraq war -- how many French and German civilians were killed in the invasion of Western Europe? Was WW2 not worth it?

    How many of the Iraqi civilians were killed by US forces, versus those killed by the enemy? Which side tried to avoid killing civilians, and which deliberately targeted them?

    How many Iraqi civilians were dying due to the sanctions imposed in lieu of war? How many Iraqi civilians died during the years of Saddam's regime as a result of Saddam's oppression? How many more would have died had we not invaded?

    But violence only to prevent violence is not enough. Killing and dying for freedom is worth the sacrifice. Free speech, the right to vote, etc. are not merely American values, they are universal values. All people should be free. It is better to die than live as a slave.

    Allandaros -

    Your point is well taken. My rape rooms comment was simplistic and way over the top. But it illustrates what is at stake. I would refine my point by saying that neutrality in the face of great evil is morally inferior to a violent response.

    But you are absolutely right -- there are often other ways to defeat evil than by using violence. This would be morally superior to using violent means.

    In the case of Iraq, I feel those nonviolent means had been exhausted.

  7. JB: Excellent post. I disagree on the question of human justice (which I think is not only possible, but a significant driver of human moral sense), but it doesn't matter in terms of this issue.

    Jason: Given your stance on "rape rooms", how can you conscience our failure to date to intervene by military means in Congo? Or in every other area of inhumanity around the world?

    I'm not talking about the practicality (arguably, the invasion of Iraq was impractical on its surface, as is any foreign war), I'm talking about the specific rhetoric you are choosing to justify one particular foreign invasion.

  8. Hi Faoladh -

    In the case of foreign dictators, the way is to destroy them one at a time in series, when you are capable of doing so. As this happens, some of them will cease resisting, as did Gaddafi when he gave up his WMD programs after the Iraq War.

    I do not conscience our failure to intervene in the Congo, or the Sudan, or elsewhere to prevent genocide. We should have done so. I don't think it would have meant a large troop commitment or a lot of US casualties, as long as the scope of the operation was limited to preventing the genocide. Even setting up a small sanctuary area for refugees and defending it could have prevented thousands of deaths. It is a depressing failure on the part of the western powers and humanity that we failed to prevent these genocides.

    Apparently this is also the reason for the current war in Libya, to prevent Gaddafi killing his people, per Samantha Power.

    But I'm more neoconish in outlook, and your question is even more of an issue as respects human freedom. What should we do about China? An evil, one party state that forbids political and religious expression, murdering and torturing dissidents in its constellation of laogai concentration camps. It is protected by its economic power and its nuclear weapons.

    A cold war style diplomatic and propaganda campaign, a la Carter's human rights effort and Reagan's vigorous confrontation of the Soviets, may be the best way.

    But my attitude that it is not worth it to sacrifice my family and half of our nation's population in a nuclear war to liberate the Chinese people is a failure on my part to live up to the principles I believe in. We may avert our eyes from the evil, but it's still there.

  9. Jason: Thank you for your candid response. I disagree, still, because I don't have much faith in the ability of military intervention to lead to a positive outcome (though I also don't begrudge its use when necessary), and further I have little faith in the ability of any state to always have a moral compass (and I do find that states are very good at creating the appearance of justification, so it is difficult as someone outside of power to make an objective determination). However, I understand your position, having once held it myself. So, fair enough.