War is air. War is life.
The metallic cloud of spent rounds.
The thudding in your heart when the world explodes.
The ripping of the air as the Klaxon screeches and the C-RAM tears apart the invasive enemy.
The overwhelming frustration of boredom and the numbing of the mind. Essence flows from your soul as a river through a dry land.
War is humans at their most animalistic. War is us.
This… is war.
Life changes in a flash. One minute, your mind is fixated on all of those moments you’re missing. Your middle school child starring in the school play, helping with homework assignments you don’t understand, a spouse having a bad day at work and just needing a sympathetic ear. Christmas morning waking alone, on a cot that no one over nineteen should sleep on; no tree under which are the carefully-placed expressions of love. Sleeping. Bored. Dreaming of home one moment… the next, you’re flopping out of your cot in the middle of the black night, scurrying like a cockroach for cover under six inches of used and abused cloth, polyester, and foam that provides restless sleep each night. Your heart threatens to thump its way out of your throat.
There is no sense.
The world is an enigma.
Your friends are subversive, playing politics in the middle of extended periods of boredom. Your enemies, the people you’ve sworn to kill if need be; humans, with wives, mothers, and children who depend on them to survive.
You realize they’re a lot like you.
In war, everyone believes they’re on the right side.
In war, you cling to the things that have meaning. Angels in heaven or demons walking the earth.
There are atheists in foxholes. A lot of them. War helps you see that.
The silliness in believing in anything that isn’t human motivation. You watch as God allows his throng of believers to die painful deaths at the end of an enemy gun. God turns his nose as limbs and lives are lost. No purpose is served beyond the single concern of the powerful; the ultimate god of mankind.
No, in war, there is only one god. And he is green.
Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors; bleed red so the rich are swathed in the perpetual flow of riches. Exuberant deals. Money moves from one government to the power brokers of another. Favors curried in the hallways of the Pentagon, a world where small people have no access, even though they give their sons and daughters to the cause.
Dust in every crevice.
Minutes which feel like hours.
Minutia for the sake of minutia.
Blind eyes turned away from crimes committed to preserve the state.
Thinking, feeling… loving humans convinced to kill one another for the sake of a state that does not care for them or their kind.
This… this is the reality of war.
The ignorant, the blind, those unwilling and incapable of seeing its realities stroke the canvas, painting the scene which they want to portray. They are no less guilty than the mongers who lust for more: power, money, control.
The compliant tote patriotism like a badge to be earned. They cannot see it is nothing more than a mechanism to manipulation, that the species is the greater good. They fear the other. The unknown.
The liberal expounds and pontificates as if they’re experts on a subject for which they’ve never attended. They assert knowledge; an asset they lack. They’re just as ignorant as patriotism’s lemming and in the same state of denial.
The only sane are those who retain the ability to independently think while dressed in the standard uniform of warriors. They see the abuses: of the powerful, the governments, their agents. They see the harm, the unnecessary, and the waste. They know the courage and sacrifice required to execute and influence, sometimes for and against the same entity.
The heart aches, longs for things it cannot have, unfulfilled by the dishonest proclamations of those who claim to hold the truth.
These are preached from behind the safety of international borders and oceans. The detached eye observes the price paid by the powerless, the voiceless; paid by those who have bought the lie or serve in complicity because they aren’t of the privileged.
Boxes draped in the three colors that used to stand for something, drift past, born by friends, associates, brothers, and sisters-in-arms. Eyes wet; eyes vacant; eyes seething with wrathful vengeance examine the box. Inside is a sister. A brother. A son. A daughter. A husband. A wife. A mom. A dad.
The promise of life needlessly and heedlessly spent.
The desert dust carries the spirit of what remains of hope. Here, in war, we exist. Nothing more. There is no happiness in accomplishments, no joy in the good news from home, no sense of importance. Here, there is what there has always been for the warrior who thinks: a longing to return… home. To touch the hand of the grandmother. To hug the crying child. To feel the softness of a kiss shared by intimate partners.
To the thinking warrior, war lost its honor when money became its justification.
In the thinking warrior, there is no greater opponent of war.
War nor its warriors are monolithic.
Its warriors must be actors.
The enemy is the friend; the friend, the enemy.
Confusion is king and clarity, a casualty.
The one who says they understand war… the liar.
The one who demands to abolish war… the denier.
Why deny that which we are? Why strive for the unachievable?
To do so is to delay measures of resolution and to hold true discourse amongst adversaries. It is to fail to invest in dialogue in that which prevents us from embracing our most basic instinct.
We won’t. We should. We haven’t. War is air. War is life.
(Author and audiodramatist Paul Sating served in the US Air Force for over 20 years.)