Our society, like most others, glorifies war. "For God and Country!" is the cry. "Be all you can be," is the manly challenge. "Bring 'em on," was George W's machismo war whoop, which drew cheers from "barstool soldiers" like he'd been.
Of course, war must be glorified to make it possible. How else can presidents and generals lure sane young men and women into the voracious maw of deathly chaos and unimaginable horror? As Gen. William T. Sherman put it in 1880, "Young men think that war is all glamour and glory, but let me tell you boys, it is all hell."
For a glimpse of this hell, check out an Oct. 30 Washington Post article, titled "Operation Damage Control" (washingtonpost.com). It's meant to be a positive piece extolling the wondrous ability of American trauma teams in Afghanistan working to save grievously injured soldiers.
But the article also lifts the covers on the raw carnage that is the true story of war, highlighting nine soldiers injured in a single week. Two of them lost a leg; two others lost a leg and a foot; two lost both legs; two lost both legs and a hand; one was paralyzed from the waist down; three also lost their genitals.
"Lost" is a euphemism for blown apart.
But as the Post points out, bombs not only shred limbs, "they drive dirt deep into flesh and often peel skin back a foot or more above the bone's jagged end." It takes multiple surgeries over several weeks just to discover all the damage. Blood clots, pneumonia, collapsed lungs and other "complications" often follow, all of which can be deadly. Not to mention the brain damage, pain and psychological trauma.
Some 32,000 Americans have been maimed in Iraq and another 8,000 so far in Afghanistan.
And for what? Ask them about the "glory" of war.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.