Fathers and Sons and Wars and Rumors of Wars

I just read Patrick Mead’s recent post Another Tent Peg Pops Loose, and his fatherly angst brought to mind some that I felt a little over four years ago, and wrote about in my weekly column in the Abilene Reporter-News. I wrote it in the late autumn of 2002, when Matthew was about to turn ten years old, and pretty much everyone in the Western world believed that Iraq was brimming with weapons of mass destruction. I don’t write political commentary in this blog very often, but I do now strongly believe that the administration at that time pulled a stunt like the mythical Governor sang about in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in his showstopper, “Dance a Little Sidestep.” I believe that some sleight-of-hand about this so-called WMD “intelligence” and Iraqi government sponsorship of Al-Quaeda was presented to distract Americans’ from the unsuccessful attempt to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, the self-admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet it is undeniable that Saddam Hussein practiced genocide within his own country and attempted to annex another. And while I rue my own credulity, and detest the catastrophe that has befallen Iraq and all armed forces there engaged in trying to establish peace, I can have nothing but the deepest admiration for the young people who are willing to serve at the President’s whim and protect their nation to the price of their own lives – even if he may be wrong about where or how that must be done – and admiration for the parents, spouses, children and friends who send them off with their ongoing prayers. If my son chooses to serve, I will not be able to be more proud of him. If he chooses to protest and oppose the war, I will not be able to be more proud of him. He will do it with all his heart, whatever he chooses. But if he chooses to remain silent and do nothing, I will be no more proud of him than I am of myself for having said nothing and done nothing all this time. So here is what I wrote then, and what I felt then, and what I mostly still feel ….

“What war now?” my son asked, appearing at the entrance to our den in his pajamas.

I fumbled for the remote and quickly shut off CNN.

“C’mon,” I redirected him, heading for the kitchen. “Let’s get water for you and your sister. It’s bedtime.”

“What war now?” he persisted.

Matthew’s question came some time back, when sabres were first being rattled in the direction of Iraq and CNN was already discussing strategy. He was already aware of the “conflict” in Afghanistan, which eventually was called “war.”

“It’s possible,” I said hesitantly, “that we will go to war with a country called Iraq, and soon.”


Why do countries ever go to war? I wanted to say, but it was a question beyond adult reason and certainly not an answer to an honest child. I filled two kid cups with ice and water.

“Their leader may have helped the people who destroyed those two buildings in New York and damaged the one in Washington.”

“And crashed that plane?”

“Yes, and crashed that plane.” I gave him his cup and we started upstairs. “He also tried to take a country next to his several years ago and said it was his. When we stopped his army, they set fire to everything they could so no one could have it.”

Matthew thought about it. “So we didn’t really stop him.”

I shook my head. “No, I guess we didn’t.” We were in his room now, and I picked up his globe to point out Iraq. “But if a war does happen, it will happen way over here, on the other side of the world. Nowhere close to us; we’re here. Their missiles can’t go that far.”

Yet, I thought. Yet.

“So we have to go to war to stop him?”

I hedged. “It will cost a lot of money. And a lot of young soldiers may die or be hurt really badly.” For one heart-stopping moment, I saw my little blond, blue-eyed boy very differently: all grown up, and yet just a teenager … wearing desert fatigues and carrying a gun. “But, yes, our president thinks it’s the only thing that will stop him.

“And the sad thing is, he may be right.”

“More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars. Yes, an end to this brutal, inhuman and thoroughly impractical method of settling the differences between Governments. The once powerful malignant Nazi state is crumbling; the Japanese warlords are receiving in their homelands the retribution for which they asked when they attacked Pearl Harbor. But the mere conquest of our enemies is not enough; we must go on to do all in our power to conquer the doubts and the fears, the ignorance and the greed, which made this horror possible.” – What would have been President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s next speech, had not a stroke taken his life the day before he was to deliver it. His son read the message April 13, 1945.

6 thoughts on “Fathers and Sons and Wars and Rumors of Wars

  1. Very good and thoughtful post. The fact is we cannot live in a world without war of some sort, Christ himself said he did not come to bring pease on earth. But I believe we are told in the bible to be cautious and prepared when we deside war is necessary as a last resort. Some times it is. But we should only engage the enemy with our best leaders in charge and a number large enough to do the job the fighting personel are ask to do.

    Lk:14:31: Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

    I don’t believe the advise of those who had the expertise to conduct battle was followed. that is the reason we are where we are.
    now we should consult those with the experence in deplomacy to extracate our children fron this mismanaged battlefield.

  2. “and I am deeply ashamed of our president . . .”

    Why not also the rest (or the VAST majority) of the Congress at the time, irrespective of party affiliation? Was there ANYONE on Capitol Hill who did not have access to the same information? How many took a stand, based on that information, against going to war? (I am excluding from that anyone who is opposed to war, period.)

    Truly, I do not understand the mindset that singles out the president for such disdain. Almost NO ONE in Washington disagreed with the “data” at the time.

    To be ABSOLUTELY clear, I am not defending the president here – I am calling folks to a more consistent application/assignment of responsibility.

  3. Keith, my brother in Christ. although I do not know you personaly I have read many of your thoughts on this blog, and I must say I am proud to be considered in the same brotherhood as one of your cloth/cut. and this latest post only confirms my opinion. You have the GUTS to stand for what you believe and stand firm as long as you believe it. power to you. The subject you have raised here is just as important as any earthly subject you could consider, as you no doubt have realized many of our fellow christians was and are still for continueing this unwarrented war against a country who did absolutly nothing to us to prevoke such a response, hundreds of thousands of dead and mamed children without parents, parents without children, a country in such disaray it will take centuries to repair. not to say anything about the losses this country has endured. If this is not something CHRISTIANS are not called to stand against I truly mis-read what Christ is all about.
    I bow before no man, but I am persuaded to lower my eyes and say THANK YOU LORD for brother Keith.

  4. I singled out the president because he has told us he is decider in chief. I totally agree with you that the facts should have been looked at much closer, instead of just taking his – and his administration’s word – on the WMDs. When I realize I’ve made a mistake, I try to apologize and make amends. After 4 yrs., he’s just beginning to say some wrong decisions were made. DUH! He has ingrained fear into so many and convinced people that what he says is true. No matter what he says, people are still gullible and believe him. Mark my words, our next fear and distraction, is Iran. If you read “bitterness” into my post, perhaps you’re right. I have been accused of being nonAmerican and unChristian because I don’t fall hook, line, and sinker for everything that comes out of the man’s mouth.

  5. belinda those who call names have a problem not you, nearly 70% of the public says they just want this administration over with. seems you might be on the right side.

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