Dulce et Decorum est…
A very wise man once told me that his litmus test for whether or not a war was truly and inevitable necessary was thus: Whether or not he would want to send his children to fight in the war. Being a loving parent, this is a hard test to pass indeed.
This is how we must look at the War in Iraq; with the critical eye of someone who may be sending their most precious people off to die. When the Congress of the United States of America voted to give President George W. Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq, only one Congressman had a child in the Military. Sexual discrimination in the military aside, no Alex or Vanessa Kerry’s were shipped out to fight on the front lines; Jenna Bush is not encamped in Falujah or in a Baghdad Shiyite ghetto, wondering if Al-Sadr is going to get her killed.
But there are a great many young men and women serving in Falujah, and in the Baghdad ghettoes. There are a great many sons and daughters who are putting their lives on the line for a war they may or may not have supported.
We have always made heroes of our military—there is a reason G.I. Joe is still around—but do so without looking at the real reasons for the fighting they do. Our children fight the War on Terror, and our children die fighting it. When they do, we hang our heads and pray for them.
But when we are done praying for them we give speeches; our leaders tell us that they fight for Freedom, and they fight for our Safety, and that they give their lives in the service of something greater. It is an old tune with new words: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
The line, which literally means “It is sweet and right to die for your country,” is most famously used in the Wilfred Owen poem Dulce et Decorum est. The poem speaks of lies used to bring children in to War, to recruit for the army.
“If in some smothering dream you too could pace
Behind the wagon we flung him in
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin…
…My friend you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
If we were on the front lines of the War on Terror, if we were bent double like old beggars in a bunker waiting for a 15 year old with a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher to come looking for us; if we lived in fear of the bullet that would do us in, of the boy our own age with an AK-47 with murder in his eyes, would we say the things we do?
If every day we lived in fear of another new militia army attacking our post, if we fought day by day against the people we had come to save, would we tell our children Dulce et Decorum est?
How can a Congress vote to go to war when only one man of hundreds has a child with a stake in the game?
And how can we, as Americans, sit by and watch our children and our friends die? With the election coming, with a chance to change and bring our family’s home, can we truly sit by and do nothing.
America, ask yourselves…is it truly Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori?