War Torn

I love good silver-screen battle scene. Especially battles that precede the 20th century, when most warriors still had to get up close and personal with their adversaries – and get blood on their hands.

The appeal of such scenes to me isn’t the action and gore, but the courage of conviction in the face of horrific violence they represent. When you are forced to look your enemy in the eye and assess their humanity firsthand before killing him, you best believe in the cause, right?

What our men and women in Iraq are doing requires that same sense of purpose. Think about it: they’re fighting in close urban quarters against an enemy that can only be distinguished from the civilian population with difficulty. According to the few accounts I’ve heard, our soldiers are often making split-second decisions at point-blank range – who to kill, who to let live.

I was talking to this guy on the bus the other day, saying that it seems to me we shouldn’t be surprised that soldiers are returning with mental health issues, given this up-close-and-personal style of combat and the widespread misgivings about the war (if not among the soldiers, at least on the home front).

“It’s tough,” I said. “I mean, regardless of how you feel about the current administration or its policies, the troops have to know that we support them.”

A woman seated in front of me turned around and said she’d done a tour a in Iraq. “It’s extremely important,” she said. “It means a lot to know they have support back home.”

The question then becomes how do you criticize an administration, a policy, or a war while still expressing support for the men and women fighting?

Steve Earle has one answer. On his 2004 release, The Revolution Starts Now, Earle included a spoken-word-over-guitars piece called “The Warrior.” The song, if you can call it that, pays homage to warriors past and present, while holding modern warfare and policy-makers in contempt – and ultimately, holding all of us responsible.

It’s magical, poetic – a tribute to the warrior spirit and a passionate plea for peace. At least that’s how I take it.

What about you? From a practical standpoint, is it possible to openly criticize the policy and still give the troops the moral support they need to face death on daily basis?

The lyrics to “The Warrior” can be found here.

Incidentally, if you ever really get fed up with our current administration, take Pearl Jam’s self-titled release, Green Day’s American Idiot, and selections from Steve Earle’s The Revolution Starts Now (“The Warrior,” “The Gringo’s Tale,” “Home to Houston,” “Rich Man’s War,” and “I Thought You Should Know”) and Jerusalem (“Ashes to Ashes,” “Amerika v.6.0,” “Conspiracy Theory,” “John Walker’s Blues,” “The Truth” and “Jerusalem”), put them on your iPod, and shuffle freely at high volume.

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