Saturday, May 15, 2004

More Money for War

President Bush is asking for another $25 Billion for the war against "Jihadistan", as it is known, curently being fought in Iraq. And of course he will get it. It calls to mind part of the poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Arsenal at Springfield:
Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,
Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
There were no need of arsenals or forts:

Which quote I found today in a book on the life of Geronimo loaned to me by a friend. The book is Watch for Me on the Mountain by Forrest Carter, about the tragedy that befell the Apache for being in the wrong place (their ancestral homeland) at the wrong time -- that of the great westward expansion of the US. Geronimo (whose real name was "Gokhlayeh") wrought terror wherever he went. This book brings to life his fight, his values, as few other books I have read on this subject have done. The systematic attempts at the extinction of Apaches after treaties signed, despite assurances granted, is part of a shameful chapter in American history that we would do well to remember when pointing fingers now at the people running our military prisons.

Those looking with disgust at the recent exposé of American treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib should read our history, and look into the horrific conditions of our own prisons right now in Yuma and Ossining. The depths of degradataion with which we treat Americans show a similar disregard for human rights. And we have done the same thing since at least the days of the Civil War. Conditions in our POW camps on both sides, North and South, were beyond modern comprehension. Prisoners starved to death and were treated like cattle on both sides of the conflict. Not everywhere, but in enough places and in enough volume to make it common practice. Harsh winters with not enough clothing or shelter, and overcrowding created epidemics that untreated among the prisoners. Many thousands died of neglect, malnourishment and disease. The photos of the prisoners from our Civil War POW camps document war crimes that went largely unpunished, unheeded, dismissed as "collateral damage".

I could be mistaken, but I think as a nation during World War II we were acted differently, at least on the home front. I had a friend (Al Crivello) who was a guard at a POW camp, somewhere in the South during that war. He told me that on a Saturday night, the Italian POWs sometimes got passes to go to town to see the movies. You could see them, he said, standing up at the back of the theater in the POW uniforms. They never tried to escape, so he said, because they had nowhere to go. He claimed that the Germans policed themselves - there were thousands of them who had been captured in North Africa and he said they ran strict military discipline on themselves, that it was an awesome spectacle to see them marching around in their camp waiting for the end of the war so they could go home. But that was just one very young man's view of what was going on. Perhaps abuses were as rampant as now, to which a blind eye was turned.

Al was a Scientologist, like myself, but an old man when I knew him as a young man 30 years ago. He was my mentor for a while when I took over his job. He kept an eye on me for months, and made sure I was doing okay on his old job. I lost track of him - he must be 80 by now if he's still alive.

Scientologists tend to be anti-war. I don't think we would make good soldiers. We work too hard at educating people to think sanely for themselves, for us to think that it profits anyone to maim and kill others. Even the crew that works remotely, guiding in a laser-guided bomb on an enemy position, where one can't see the people being killed and hurt. They know what they've done. The "thousand yard stare" of soldiers who have been in combat is the first reflection of what will haunt them after. While counseling will help a soldier recover from what he's done to others, we'd rather not see the need for it.

And when you believe, as most Scientologists do, that we are immortal spiritual beings who will only pick up another body when one is killed, the futility of war sinks home.

I believe I speak for all Scientologists, as a group, when I say that we want this:
A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology. -- L Ron Hubbard

Those aims are worth working toward, and you will find us working hard in Israel and in Russia and the US, wherever we are, to educate, enlighten, and counsel people toward those aims.

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