I recently had a near-death experience, and it has haunted me ever since. Though no one put a gun to my head and I did not even see a knife, the experience was shocking. What I, like most Americans who have never been on a battlefield, suddenly realized is there will be a lot of fighting long after the war with Iraq is over.
Returning soldiers with physical ailments are only part of the tragedy of war, because the greatest impact is going to be the psychological effect which may or may not be curable. Many of the support troops, who probably will not even fire their weapons, will be scared by the sights and sounds.
And what about those captured or trapped behind enemy lines, constantly feeling that death is one step behind them and closing? Few among us, untrained, have what it takes to watch an autopsy - much less assist with one. So how do you suppose an 18- or 19-year-old kid is going to react when he sees a comrade, or combatant, in more pieces than a jigsaw puzzle?
Collectively, America is not worried about losing a battle whether we are fighting Iraqis or North Koreans but, individually, those on the front lines have more to fear than fear itself. If a robbery attempt, which I have not yet reported, can traumatize a streetwise veteran like me, imagine what it's like for our young men and women who we expect to act normally when they return.
War is a necessary evil that has been helping the human population stay under control and in decent fighting shape. Unfortunately, technology and ideology are conspiring to foster invincibility on the American scene and we may regret this if we don't work harder at coalition building and respecting other opinions...
Thousands of years ago the Middle East, under different names, was exporting war. Today the shoe is on the other foot. The time is near, so our foes should brace themselves for impact. Once this scrimmage is over we must brace ourselves for the fallout. That's just as scary!
Robert "Tunk" Martin, Edgefield, S.C.
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