Fathers' anguished thoughts on war
WASHINGTON -- Two writings about war have struck me for their rarely expressed poignancy and thoughtfulness even as we are engaged in a conflict that regularly takes American and Iraqi lives.
Both were written by anguished fathers and both are profound in discussing the painful decisions and consequences of war.
I am also motivated by the fact that in the current divisive war against Iraq, there are no memorable songs, poetry or prose to rally us to the cause. Here are some of the excerpts:
One is a personal letter written by former President George Herbert Walker Bush -- father of the current president -- to his five children on Dec. 31, 1990, giving them a strong signal that he was about to embark on a war to oust Saddam Hussein's occupation forces from Kuwait. He ordered the attack on Iraq two weeks later, launching the first Gulf war.
A World War II veteran himself, Bush wrote: "I have thought long and hard about what might have to be done." He was not too hopeful of a peaceful solution, Bush said, because Saddam was "too unrealistic and ignorant of what he might face."
In his letter, Bush said:"When the question is asked 'How many lives are you willing to sacrifice?' it tears at my heart. The answer, of course, is none at all."He went on to write, "I look at today's crisis as 'good vs. evil'. ... yes it is that clear."
He told his children he knew that his stance might cause them "a little grief from time to time" but he wanted them to know how he felt. His letter also said:" * Every human life is precious ... the little Iraqi kids' too.The first President Bush has stayed in the background and remained silent about the war his son initiated against Iraq. We don't know what advice, if any, he has given his son.
" * Principle must be adhered to -- Saddam cannot profit in any way at all from his aggression and from his brutalizing the people of Kuwait.
" * Sometimes in life you have to act as you think best -- you can't compromise, you can't give in. ... even if your critics are loud and numerous."
All we know is Bush senior was much more cautious than his son. Unlike his son, the father did not ignore the international world. All major U.S. allies were full partners in the U.S.-led coalition to liberate Kuwait.
The second text is a deeply touching editorial by Hubert Roussel in The Houston Post in 1945, in tribute to his son, Hubert Roussel Jr., who died in World War II at the age of 20.
The writer, a music critic, also was the father of Peter Roussel, deputy press secretary in the Reagan administration and the White House of the first President Bush.
Hubert Roussel Jr. volunteered as an aerial gunner in the Army Air Corps and died on Dec. 13, 1944, when his B-29 superfortress crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
"In a war such as this, prolonged expression of grief over personal loss is a luxury that no one can afford," Roussel wrote in the editorial 59 years ago.
"Our son has given his life for his country," he said. "I know the feelings he had, and the motives that led him to take one of the most terrible risks asked of men who are waging this battle for freedom."
"He gave himself for an order of life which he believed to be worthy of any sacrifice,"
"Today would have been his twenty-first birthday, but he was already mature in thought. ..."
He said his son wrote in a letter: "It is good to look down on the earth from height. It seems then so peaceful and orderly."
"He went to his death for what he loved, doing the hard duty he chose for himself, as thousands of other typical American boys have done in this battle for decency," his father said.
The best way to repay them is "to secure the peace that will actually make the world better and safer, and not merely a training ground for another generation of youth to be slaughtered at the whim of war makers."
In the editorial, Roussel said the voice of the dead should "ring in the ears of politicians and statesman."
"God pity any man who shall fail those who have died in this war."
© 1998-2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
I believe in the doctrine of non-violence
as a weapon of the weak.
I believe in the doctrine of non-violence as a weapon of the strongest.
I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed.
- Mahatma Gandhi
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