Check The Map
Let’s all take a deep breath and repeat after me: Give war a chance. This is Afghanistan we’re talking about. Check the map. It’s far away.
— Thomas Friedman, New York Times
But what if tomorrow, turning the corner, it’s not that street with those elegant two-story homes & luxurious lawns, but a gutted-out havoc of empty door frames & ruins of what once had been walls. Overhead, the shrieks of B-52s diving back thru the clouds. A smothering haze through which you see women in burkhas down on their knees digging their dead from under the rubble. Two blocks from home & it’s suddenly Kandahar, the Kapisa Valley, Mazar-i-Sharif. That wreaking of vengeance you were so pleased to watch on TV. But it’s you now who cannot stop coughing, whose mouth has dropped open in terror, whose eyes smart in that acrid smoke; you who are scurrying, shuddering, hugging the shadows. Till you manage, somehow, at last, to find your way home: that snug little duplex with its nifty flag decal stuck on the window over the door. Still shaking, you manage to get the key in the lock & stumble into your favorite chair, though it’s hours before your heart stops pounding inside your chest & you’re able to breathe, till you no longer retch over the toilet, till you’ve got yourself calm & all but convinced it must have been some sort of vertigo, seizure, delirious dream. But now — thank the Good Lord — you’ve come to your senses at last & are more or less clear who you are, where you live, what it is you’re supposed to believe.
Because our sons adore their plastic missile launchers, cybertronic space bazookas, neutron death-ray guns, a decade down the pike it won’t prove difficult to trick them out in combat boots & camouflage fatigues, rouse them with a frenzy of parades, the heady rhetoric of country, camaraderie & God — the drum & bugle & the sudden thunder of the cannon as they march into Hell singing. Which is the order of things. Obedient to a fault, the people will do as they are told. However dispirited by grief at the graves of their fallen, the mother returns at last to her loom, the father to his lathe, & the inconsolable widow home to raise sons ardent for the next imperial bloodbath: Ilium. Thermopylae. Verdun. Pork Chop Hill.