Letters

Readers respond to Gary Kamiya's essay about the seduction of war.


Salon Staff
December 19, 2002 1:00AM (UTC)

[Read "High on War."]

The author fails to note that the basic argument for preemptive action against Saddam is not that he has weapons but that he cannot be allowed to get weapons of mass destruction. Saddam getting WMD is like Hitler getting the bomb. That is a risk that is unacceptable. Every day that is wasted by appeasers arguing over the fine points and wondering whether Saddam has a bomb is a risk that is unacceptable because if he does get a bomb then attacking him, defending the U.S and stifling his terror and evil will result in unacceptable casualties for the U.S. Therefore, Bush has decided that to let Saddam stay in power is too risky for us and frankly it's not all that great for the Iraqis.

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I also am totally unmoved by these people defending this dictator. He is a murdering war criminal many times over and no one who cares one iota for the Iraqi people seriously could possibly be for the continuance or appeasement of this man.

The author further argues that the U.S. is guilty of war enthusiasm because of our involvement with the contras and such. Whatever our guilt in bringing about the defeat of the Sandanistas and peace to Nicaragua, it is irrelevant whether Saddam should remain in power or not. This author tries to tie the two together by claiming a war hysteria. It is probably closer to a feeling that the U.S. is in a position where it can finally take clear action against evil and some hate the U.S. so much that they would prefer to support evil than let the U.S. do good in the world.

The problem with this is that after Saddam falls and the cheering in Iraq starts all the appeasers are going to look pretty bad. You won't be able to find a single one except Al Gore who will admit they were against attacking Saddam.

-- John Mathon

Thank you for your thoughtful review of Chris Hedges "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." On reading your review, I went directly to the bookstore and bought a copy.

There was one thing that struck me. You mention Hedges' omission of an alternative to the war response to 9/11. As you say, that was not his purpose in writing this book. But you could have mentioned that, up until the point we started dropping bombs on Afghanistan, there was an alternative. We could have treated the 9/11 attacks as a crime against humanity, taken the Taliban up on their offer to turn bin Laden over to us, and let the International Criminal Court deal with the murderers.

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Of course, after a year of trashing the ICC, this is less of an alternative now, but we need to remember that this war on terror was not inevitable. We need to remember that Europe has been dealing with its own war on terror for 30 years, and doing it effectively through the courts. Forgetting is dangerous.

-- Jim Senter

Thank you for this thoughtful article, reminding us of the truth about war in the face of so much patriotic doublespeak these days. Mr. Hedges' book sounds like necessary reading and I'll be looking for it at my bookstore; I also found Mr. Kamiya's comments about "virtual war" interesting.

One additional thing that may be worth pointing out about "virtual war" is the extent to which virtual war privileges certain "virtual participants." While Mr. Kamiya is probably right that the vast majority of American people do not really share the rhetorical obsession with "manliness" and "toughness" found on Fox News and "Hardball," these media outlets do seem to be having an inordinate, disproportionate influence on the debate about the looming war. It's almost as if in today's postmodern, high-tech, video-game-saturated society, we can delegate the fighting of wars to highly trained professional warriors. We are even able to assign the experience of watching the war, of "processing" it and reacting to it, to certain individuals -- professional "actor-citizens."

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-- Mark Haag

Americans have become high on the type of war that has been fought over the past decade because it appears to have no cost to them. High-tech wars that resulted in very few U.S. casualties.

America was justified in repelling Saddam's troops from Kuwait, but the slaughter of the conscripted peasant soldiers fleeing from Kuwait and the subsequent deaths of innocent civilians was not justified. The defeat of Milosevic in Kosovo resulted in many more deaths than would have occurred otherwise and has replaced one oppressor, the Serbian police, with another, ethnic-cleansing Albanian gangsters. The Taliban and their Arab supporters were destroyed in Afghanistan, but at an equal cost in civilian lives to those lost at the WTC. Furthermore, our "allies" have committed appalling massacres of Taliban supporters and have plunged the country back into turmoil, violence and possible civil war.

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Americans have a short memory and are provided with little information of the consequences of the wars fought by its government. We seem to care only about the lives of American soldiers and have little regard for the tens and hundreds of thousands of others, usually Asian or Arab and therefore less human, killed by our callous and ill-thought-out actions.

-- Martin Kannengieser

Thank God for Gary Kamiya's article on war as an addiction! As a recovering addict -- and Vietnam veteran -- this has been obvious to me for years. I've wondered if anyone else saw it.

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Now let's see if anyone has the guts to take on the activity where we first practice that addiction, in our adrenalized obsession with competitive sports. Isn't that all war is about, after all -- who's best?

There is no more seductive drug.

-- Terry McKinley

In Gary Kamiya's "High on War" we read all the anecdotes about modern war since the Second World War. The lust for killing and nationalism coupled with patriotism.

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I can see that from an antiwar book on a micro-level these things may be true, but what Gary Kamiya and the author of the book do not touch upon is the fact that sometimes things get so bad in a place war is the only way to change the static nature of a government in a modern or classic nation-state.

Let no one forget that it took war to free the slaves of Sparta, the slaves of the American South, the slaves of Nazi Germany and Vichy France, and had war come to Stalinist Russia, those slaves would have been freed in the 1940s instead of the 1980s.

If war does come to Iraq or the Middle East, in the long-term the people will be freer than they would under the current system or a theocracy.

Look to Afghanistan today in November of 2002 and tell me that it isn't a better place than Afghanistan in November of 2000.

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-- Mark Buchholz

I haven't had the chance to read Chris Hedges' book, but I enjoyed your review. However, isn't the most powerful motivation for attacking Iraq the fear factor? After the false start immediately after 9/11 when we were told that we can't let these terrorists win -- go out and shop -- the Bush administration has brilliantly manipulated the outpouring of middle-class fear. How many of us know people who when confronted with an actual, deadly mass attack on American soil, decided that anything the U.S. did to "protect itself" was justified 'cause it's them or us? The credo "we have a right to live unafraid," although it sounds ridiculous coming from the most powerful nation and one of the few that has not had to experience great sacrifice, is apparently enough justification to initiate the annihilation of 100,000 -- a half-million Iraqis. And I would point out that one of the ugliest elements of fascist thinking clearly infects us -- that being the grotesque equation that one American life is worth a thousand foreigners.

-- Paul Kleinman


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