by Elizabeth T. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
April 7, 2007
LET US SING OF WAR NO MORE
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. -- He has the air of a Southern gentleman. He is soft-spoken, a good listener, considerate, very knowledgeable on national and international happenings - and I am fortunate to have him for a neighbor.
By anyone's definition "B" is a homegrown, all-American man. The house he grew up in on Main Street in Cartersville is still standing; he "served his country" first as a Marine and then for 30 years as a Lockheed employee who helped build C-130 gunships, heavily armed aircraft used against ground troops.
But I suspect his heart is one-part poet, for he noticed the flowering of the first tulip in my Spring garden and yesterday stood beside me as we tried to take in the grandeur of my gold gladioli with their crimson centers. He loved flowers, he said, but didn't like their demands on his time.
"If we would study that gladioli," I said to him, "instead of how to build bigger bombs our boys and girls might stop coming home in body bags from faraway places." And B. replied: "I think about that a lot, Elizabeth. What part I played in it." And his voice was the voice of a man who was big enough to question the craziness of something he had participated in: the insanity of war as a solution to men-against-their-brothers.
He believed, he said, that there are many good men who - having served their time and paid their dues - now question that service and the lingering price of those "dues."
Not so very far away in another small Georgia town lives another homegrown, decent, all-American man. Deeply troubled by the fair questions of many people regarding America's justification for dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, this former soldier co-authored a book entitled Clear Conscience that adamantly defends then-President Harry S Truman's decision to drop that bomb.
That man is Northwest Georgia's own Dan Winn, former senior judge of the Superior Courts of Georgia, a reader of poetry, a former Marine, and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.
I've had several conversations with Winn and have had his book in my possession for more than a year, deeply troubled by it, pondering if it might have been written as a personal attempt by a good, loving man to justify his part in the following facts and figures: Okinawa, June 22, 1945.
We ritually recall the grim statistics: 100,000 Japanese soldiers killed, 150,000 civilian deaths, 68,000 American Marines and Army casualities and more Navy casualties than all other wars combined. Iwo Jima, March 26, 1945. 23,000 Japanese and 26,038 American "casualities" (a nice word for killings and woundings). Saipan, July 9, 1944. 30,000 Japanese killed (4,300 Japanese suicides); 17,752 American casualities. The list goes on - Peleliu, Guam, Tinian, The Phillipines and, not to be overlooked, the unspeakable 190,000 Japanese children, women and men killed in the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The figures are so staggering they make our mere "3,000-plus American body bags and counting" in Iraq sound like a Bush tea party that's gotten just a little out of hand.
What we, as a nation, have done to these two good men - and millions more like them - is to demand that they define their manhood and their national loyalty by building weapons of people destruction, and by charging across the sea to slaughter brothers who, as these two, were following orders from the decisions-makers at the top of the dung heap called war.
The many take their marching orders from the few, and I think the next war ought to be declared against those few - the war-mongering decision makers who mouth peaceful solutions while sticking red pins in ancient maps and ordering young men to keep firing their surface-to-air missiles.
I have no doubt there are some Gen. Pattons among us (World War II's George Patton admitted he loved war) who delight in the glamour of the not-yet-bloodied uniform, the click of the boots, the beat of the drums, the rigid regimenting that relieves them of personal responsibility as they pull the triggers and push the buttons of the slaughtering machines. But I am equally convinced there are many good men like my neighbor who don't see war as the only inevitable solution to people-made problems.
My first husband was a Marine. Mild-mannered and kind, he was packed off to a military school for boys at a very young age. During our engagement he went off to war and came home forever changed. Crouched in a foxhole, charged by a lone enemy soldier, he lifted his bayonet and "speared him like a fish" ... an "enemy" boy he might have enjoyed a beer with under different circumstances. And in the frenzy of fire on another occasion, he turned around to see his American comrade still standing up with half his head blown off.
There go the possible poets and the gladioli growers among us.
So it has always been, and so it shall be unless many good men stand up and refuse to be used as expendable fodder in the war games of a few insane, power and property hungry heads-of-state.
And so it shall be until millions of mothers all over the world get up off their knees from beside the old and new graves of their bomb-scorched dead babies, their war-mangled sons and daughters, until they turn their faces toward all the capitals and tyrant-occupied buildings on the international scene, and scream: "Enough! No more! In God's name, enough!"
AR Correspondent Elizabeth T. Andrews is a former columnist for the Orlando Sentinel now living in Cartersville, Ga., where she writes poetry. She can be contacted at email@example.com or P.O. Box 816, Cartersville, GA 30120.