A Brief Note about the Sky and the Road
Is there any true moral difference in a bomb dropped from a jet and a bomb placed by the side of the road? I remain confused with that one.Mr. Benson is a Vietnam War veteran: what appears as an entirely rhetorical question to others has only the thin veneer of abstraction to those who have actually seen combat in the grim wars of our age. In other words, moral philosophy for a veteran is carved on the edge of a blood-stained knife. The moral dilemmas don't get any more real than when fighting as a soldier; and notably, the moral killing box doesn't get any less real with years separating service from retrospection.
Edited and extended, this was my response:
I thought about your question long and hard. It's not that I hadn't thought about it before: I had; but every time I revisit the difference between them and us I try to look more deeply. Perhaps curiously, it is always to the tools of war that I return, for it is in the machines by which we deliver death to one another that the cold reality of war slips through in the raging thunder of power over the lives and deaths of others.
I think about the young naval officer in fire control who orders the launch of a cruise missile that has to fly hundreds of miles to come to its end in a residential neighborhood of Baghdad. Does he understand the specific, exact connection between what he utters and the death that ensues so far away from him that he'll never have a clue about even the names of the people who died because he ordered them to?
I think about the hot-shot flyboys talking with dispassionate, technocratic calm as they matter-of-factly announce that fox is away. The weapons control officer will not see the instant of ripping death literally sweep men, women, and children off their feet and hurl themalong with bricks, animals, chairs, toys, beds, and cooking utensilsin a flaming, shrapnel-filled wind. Do he and the pilot envision what they've wrought?
I think about the young soldiers in a Bradley hammering big rounds in bright streams of light into a cluster of buildings. Do they see who's on the other side? Civilians? Combatants? Both? How could it possibly matter if they can't see it?
Eventually, the question simply turns the other way: how could they possibly see it if it doesn't really matter anymore?
Finally, I think about a pair of young Iraqi men methodically going about the business of daisy-chaining a couple of old artillery shells and attaching some wiring, switches, and maybe a cell phone, then high-tailing it away before they get their heads blown off by either a sniper or the bomb, itself.
It has now come to me after all these years.
You know what the difference is between the guys laying IEDs and the guys cutting loose an air-to-surface missile?
For the Iraqi insurgents, this war is worth killing and dying for.
For us, this war is only worth killing for; it sure as Hell isn't worth our guys dying for.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.