Just a Thought

  • Jana Hill<br>
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 9:18am

It’s been said that “war is hell,” or a venue to freedom, or an impetus for democracy.

War has shaped the United States, impacting every generation with one conflict or another. American history becomes almost a study of war — its impacts and its ripple effect over time.

I have watched this war sporadically and admit I lack a thoughtful, thorough basis for an informed opinion. Like many Americans, I get my war coverage from television and radio, always while I’m doing something else.

I knew almost nothing of the Middle East before the war hit, and that hasn’t changed. All of my information is new, processed by a profession that is well aware it is competing with the personal lives of its audience.

In the past, I have been a news junkie, soaking up every drop of information I can get from every newspaper and magazine, stopping short of expressing my opinion until I knew as much as I could. And, in the past, my opinion has always echoed that of a peace protester.

This time, my information gathering has probably paralleled that of the average news consumer. A crying baby takes priority over the goings-on in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. Dishes stacked in the sink and a lack of clean towels have taken time I used to spend reading and reflecting. I am a parent first, a news junkie second.

As such, I have taken a limited, sideline view of the war. But with or without the immersion in the facts, my perspective of war in general has changed.

I remember during the gulf war, before studying history in college, I immediately took a dove’s stance: “You can’t fight hate with hate,” I’d lament to others, as I watched television news reports seemingly brag about the horror war was causing.

Now, even with a son of my own, I find myself honking at the “Support our Troops” demonstrators, and passing silently by peace protesters. I remember when I was adamant about a stance on peace, but I realize there is a time to kill, even if I hypocritically won’t enlist and do it myself.

But my new mind-set has nothing hawkish within it — I don’t rejoice in military victories overseas. They make my heart sink because I wish there was a more diplomatic, less bloody way to solve the problem. I respect the U.S. government’s choice to be as surgical as possible in their attacks, sparing collateral damage whenever possible. But I wonder if there is real purpose to the fighting.

The question in my mind is: what do we win in this war? If a democratic government is not successfully implemented in Iraq, then a leader just as horrid as Saddam Hussein could step into place, and the hate that spread from this war could fester and resurface again down the road.

It was my study of history that forced me to realize that there is a time to kill. Who would allow Adolf Hitler to continue his path of destruction and hate if they were put in the position to make the choice? And if a leader would make the choice to turn their back on the wrongs in that era, what would have become of our free and democratic nation?

While in college, I studied World War II with a heavy heart, trying my best to find a way the U.S. could have made other choices historically to avoid war, but also stop Hitler. I wondered. I theorized. And I looked for ways to rewrite the past in hopes of better understanding the future. Maybe if Germany had not been so financially strapped after WWI, Hitler would not have come to power, and his dictatorship would not have occurred. But he did, and the hateful government he implemented had to be toppled.

Today, I see Saddam Hussein and his parallels to Hitler. I catch glimpses of Iraqis dancing in the streets, celebrating their freedom. These images come to me in between diaper changes and an evening trip upstairs to convince an inconsolable infant, fussing because he is tired, that things will be better in the morning. And I think of whether they’ll be better for him in the future. I hear the horror stories about the Iraqi secret police ripping people’s teeth out with pliers as I drive to work, and I know if that was happening here, I’d take up arms myself, to protect my child and his future.

And as all this sinks in, I wonder which war to compare this one to, and how to make my own peace with what my nation has chosen to do.

I’ll honk in support of our troops because I know freedom comes at a price and I respect the people who have chosen to pay it for me, my family and friends. I am the child of a veteran and I admire the sacrifice it takes to serve and protect a nation. But I can’t land on either side of the common war debate: “peace or war,” “fight or flight.” I think it’s more complex than many of us know, and the truth won’t be expressed until years from now when the government documents are declassified, and the effects of this “conflict” are known.

But by that time, we’ll be onto the next conflict, and most will be disinterested in this one.

Jana Hill is editor of the Mill Creek edition of The Enterprise.

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