Wednesday, July 25, 2007

War: The disease, its vector, and its cause

The Peace of the Grave
I've been reading The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the legacy of Vietnam, one of the books recommended by nonfiction blogger and librarian Nonanon in comments on my July 4 post. It's journalist Tom Bissell's account of his father John's service as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam, and the trip they took there together many years later. Here's a conversation when they were entering the Citadel in the city of Hue, site of such bloody fighting during the war, that stuck in my mind.
"Do you remember the time you admitted to me that you actualy kind of liked war?"

He winced and put his glasses back on. "Did I say that? I must have been locked and loaded."

"You said that you loved war, you hated war, war scared you, you couldn't get enough of war."

"War," my father said finally, "is an illness caused by youth."
I thought about it for a moment and nodded. And then I thought again. I thought of all the old men like Wolfowitz, Perle and Cheney who led us so heedlessly to war in Iraq, and the terrible toll in lives their folly has been responsible for. No, I thought: War is a disease, but youth is the vector, not the cause. The cause is old men, making one last effort to contol the world and reshape it in their image before they pass from the scene.

1 comment:

Nonanon said...

Well, to say I'm glad you seem to be liking Bissell's book is not quite the right sentiment, but I know what you mean: so many parts of it made me stop reading and just think. I think you're right though. War consumes youth but I think you're right in thinking it's caused by power and age wanting to leave its mark.