Those who watched the The War, a documentary about World War II by Ken Burns which aired on PBS this fall, could feel the horror of battle with a foot soldier from Mobile, Alabama; understand the pressure on a newspaper editor in Luverne, Minnesota, who worked as if victory depended on him; and feel the anxiety of a mother coping with the government’s rationing program.
From 1995-2005, 2 million child soldiers were killed and 6 million permanently disabled or injured. An estimated 300,000 children (younger than 18) are currently serving as soldiers. Some have joined voluntarily out of economic desperation or for their own safety; others have been forcibly recruited by rebel forces. Still others have been by recruited by recognized sovereign governments—and eight of the nine such governments receive military assistance from the U.S.
I love looking at old photographs; it’s the closest thing to time travel that I know. I find myself staring at century-old black and white photos taken on the streets of large cities. I look at the people. I search their faces, wondering what was going on in their minds. Often they are turning toward the camera—an item that was much less common then—with a shocked expression.
They can laugh about foxhole religion but every front line soldier embraces a little religion and are not ashamed to pray. When you face death hourly and daily you can’t help but believe in Divine Guidance. My faith in God has increased a thousand fold. He has pulled me thru when nothing else could.”
Jeremy M. Loveless. Nathanael J. Doring. Richard A. Bennett. James A. Funkhouser. J. Adan Garcia. According to a recent article in the New York Times, these are the names of the five soldiers killed in Iraq over the three-day Memorial Day weekend this year. If I had nothing else to say in this column, I would also name the 24 soldiers killed over Memorial Day weekends since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, along with the 4,000-some Americans who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since the wars in those countries began. I wish I could also name the Afghan and Iraqi dead, but I do not know anyone who keeps track of their names.
Robert Solow on his friend Milton Friedman: “One difference between Milton and myself is that everything reminds Milton of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper” (New York Review of Books, February 15). We keep many things out of M.E.M.O. Money? Sex? No—only war.
On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I visited the historic complex of Buddhist and Hindu temples at Angkor, near the city of Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. The temples are spread out over 40 square miles; on a two-day look-see, one can do scant justice even to the major ones, such as the 12th-century Angkor Wat, generally considered the greatest masterpiece of Khmer architecture.
It happens every time a U.S. soldier or marine dies in Iraq. Internet connections are shut down. Commanders don’t want word of the death to reach the soldier’s family before military officials can personally deliver the news.
While doing research for a talk on religion and violence, I kept running into accounts of people who selectively quote the Qur’an to show how it commits Muslims to killing “us” infidels. That research inspired dour thoughts of the sort that I do not often let intrude on this page.