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Commentary: Consequences of a Controversial War

By Peter Siedlecki

Buffalo, NY – The author and philosopher Albert Camus once observed that war alters the style in which we express our humanness, and that in times of war our style becomes less human, more mechanical, more instinctive. The overwhelming sadness of wasting young lives in an action that need never have been undertaken is compounded by attempts to rationalize the value of such tragic waste. And now, in addition to the waste of lives and the waste of money, we witness the waste of character. To see these graphic pictures of American military personnel abusing citizens of an occupied land, citizens whose only guilt is that they want their country returned to them, is a stark reminder of the terrible style that war and power can impose. Meanwhile, generals complain of inadequate forces, soldiers complain of the lack of inserts for their bullet-proof vests, and local television stations advertise for basic toiletries desperately needed by those serving in Iraq. Even the opposition party candidate admits that it is too late to back out of our commitment there despite the increasing lack of international support for that commitment

In a poem, Walter Scott once reminded us of the tangled web woven by deception. Phantom weapons of mass destruction; imagined links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda; and other lies that have benefited Halliburton, Bechtel, and the Bush ego are trapping us in a circumstance that seems to require our assuming a style that grows increasingly monstrous.

I only wish I could attach an ending to this piece more hopeful than the previous sentence.

Listener-Commentator Peter Siedlecki is dean of the division of Arts and Sciences at Daemen College.