“The Charge of the Light Brigade”
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
(Alfred Tennyson 1854)
As the war clouds grow thicker in Europe with an understandable ripple effect all over the world, the Western media-machinery cleverly goes about reinforcing our thoughts as to who the villain is. I had written in an earlier post that “Conflict is inevitable ..but combat is not”. But why do I get this strange feeling that in this particular case, combat was actually made inevitable?
Listening to world leaders from across the world, it seems that there was no real attempt to diplomatically address the issue. Some side actors admittedly did come to the fore with their own national agendas in the garb of promoting world peace. But the one powerful protagonist who really mattered, appears to be the one who has cornered the cat with no escape route and left it with no choice but to fight.
Arms lobbies are without a doubt the biggest influencing and controlling stakeholders in global geo-politics. They have no loyalties whatsoever to any nation or alliance as they thrive only on a singular agenda and that is ‘creation of insecurity’. After all, countries do not buy arms and ammunition to kill and defeat. They buy them to tide over their insecurities.
So when the sales go down, the obvious solution is to shake and disrupt a country or region which is weak and vulnerable. What follows thereafter is a natural corollary. In recent times, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and now Ukraine, the fire must never be doused. Look around you and it will not be difficult to identify future sacrificial lambs.
While the external lamb analogy and logic can be easily understood though not acceptable at all, what sometimes misses the eye is the impact these unscrupulous and devious players have on their so-called own.
Just to highlight the point, the preceding war in Afghanistan named “Operation Enduring Freedom” led to a total human loss of approximately 172400 people by a conservative estimate. God only knows which motherland was being defended, which freedom was being protected and which democracy had been threatened?
And more so, what really changed when they decided to pull out? Hardliners say that “Infinite Imperialism,” “Infinite Arrogance,” or “Infinite Injustice” would have been more appropriate names for the misadventure.
I find the so called “War on Terror” the most hilarious justification put forth for the 839 billion $, two-decade deployment to temporarily displace the Taliban and to unearth one individual who could have been easily hounded out by a special force or a handsome bribe down the line. Akin to poking a stiletto all over in a dark room with a blindfold on your eyes, the results of this ‘war’ are there for everyone to see.
I very well know how professional armies are deployed. But I wonder what justifications their leaders feed for such ‘invasions’ to the ground level troops who are as aware as anyone else around in today’s information age.
Casualties are attempted to be assuaged by a liberal pension and posthumous bravery medals but what story do you tell to the family and kids of the departed soul apart from a pseudo-comforting thought that ‘he was a brave man who gave up his life in the service of the nation’?
It is not unusual for such soldiers to go back home and get treated for severe psychiatric disorders emerging from the differential between what they are fed to believe and what they in their hearts know is the true picture. They may recover symptomatically but their lives would never be the same again.
While ‘Tennysonian’ obedience and compliance is built into operating these instruments of war, the soul of an army must always rest on the strength of a moral fibre and the indomitable spirit emerging from a cause they would truly like to believe in. And when that is lacking, are you not just a glorified mercenary irrespective of the uniform you don?
You go through the motions and keep adding the shiny ribbons and medals to a coat feeling smaller with each anointment. And what stories do you tell your grandkids? That I fought in Vietnam and I fought in Iraq and killed people who were not supposed to die?
“When can their glory fade?” asks the poet further. To which I ask, “How do you feel glorified from inglorious acts?”. How do you feel being named a war-hero when your heart knows that your deeds have been far from heroic? That is the ‘battle within’ which each soldier always has to face alone and it is not easy.
I somehow get a feeling that times are not far way when these back-end realities will dawn and troops will start demanding:
Theirs is but to reason why,
Theirs is not to just do and die.
With a faint glimmer of hope,
Always wondered if the Indian soldiers deployed overseas during the WW II by our British occupants felt the same way?
American service members killed in Afghanistan: 2,448.
U.S. contractors: 3,846.
Afghan national military and police: 66,000.
Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.
Afghan civilians: 47,245.
Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.
Aid workers: 444.
First published at seekmediation.com on 25/02/22
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