Here is a term I have never understood: war heroes. Let me tell you something about war heroes; they don’t exist. There is nothing heroic about wars. They are not grand or glorious as some books and films depict them. War is legalized murder. It is fought by the stupid against the stupid for the sake of the stupid. And people go to fight in wars either because they have failed to achieve anything meaningful in their lives or to exercise the sadism inside of them without having the risk of going to jail.
There is one anecdote that encapsulates for me all the banality and absurdity of war. I believe it was Emperor Caligula who marched with his army to the sea in order to conquer the god Poseidon. When they arrived, Caligula ordered his soldiers to stab the waves with their swords which they did because the duty of every soldier everywhere is not to think or rationalize but to follow orders, all orders as long as they come from someone higher than them in the food chain. I like that anecdote because it shows what all wars are about: Men vs Waves of Nothingness.
In the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk used to say to his soldiers “I’m not sending you to fight; I’m sending you to die.” I guess that’s the most honest thing a military leader has ever said. Most generals don’t do that. They use rhetoric and purple prose. They tell their soldiers that they are fighting for the right cause; that god is on their side; that they are fighting to save civilization, etc.
The warmongers always like to talk about patriotism in order to fan the flames of war. But I don’t buy that bullshit. I’m like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I don’t believe in professional armies. I believe that everyone should protect everyone. From what? From War! The only thing that should be killed in war is war itself.
War is the enemy, the idea of war, the love of war. War is neither a biological nor a moral necessity. We don’t need it and we shouldn’t want it. It’s only cool and fascinating on the screen. In reality, it is dark and bloody. It is hell for those who live through it or die because of it, and it is entertainment for the others who have the luxury of not knowing it. There is no glory in slaughtering others for the sake of vain ideals. Those who kill should not be decorated with medals. A murderer is a murderer even if he is wearing a uniform.
This world has seen two major wars in the last century and many more ‘minor’ ones. The two World Wars were more absolute and more devastating than all the ancient conflicts. They showed us what War + Science can do. The next World War will finish us all. It’ll be the epic finale for our symphony of destruction that has been playing for thousands of years. Maybe at that moment our collective ashes will finally find peace.
They sent forth men to battle,
But no such men return;
And home, to claim their welcome,
Come ashes in an urn.