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Modern combat is not pretty

Jeffrey Bergeron
Vail CO, Colorado

“Don’t confuse me with a pacifist because I’m a liberal.”

Those words were a reminder I offered to a fellow bar patron a few years ago. The events leading up to that disclaimer are too long and involved to go into here; perhaps in a future column.

The reason I mention it is that I’m not entirely unfamiliar with aggressive behavior. I remember nearly exploding with pride when, as a child, I watched my Dad back-down a couple of union thugs; this took place on the loading docks of the small trucking company he owned. They were threatening to vandalize his vehicle when we crossed the picket line to retrieve personal belongings from his office. My old man got out of his car with a tire iron in one hand and a freight hook in the other and stared until they looked away.

It was only a few years after that when I watched my older brother Mark ” still in high school ” take-on the neighborhood bully. He was a man who’d recently returned from Vietnam with a bad attitude.

I grew up in an era where the designation of “That guy can handle himself” was the ultimate compliment.

Even as I approach middle age, I still like a little violence ” now only as a spectator.

I enjoy watching boxing, those no-holds-barred fighting contests, and anytime I hear of a brouhaha at a major-league sporting event, I search the web for the footage.

Because of all that, and also because I wasn’t thinking clearly, I downplayed the dog-fighting charges leveled against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

In my ignorance, I considered Vick’s alleged crimes more stupid than criminal; that is until I did some research.

I’m not normally squeamish, but what I saw online about dog fighting nearly made me sick. Not only are the dogs raised in deplorable conditions, but the fights almost always result in one or both of the animals being horribly mutilated. The vulgar cruelty caused me, several times, to look away in revulsion.

It was one thing to consider dog fighting philosophically; another to see the suffering of the innocent. The images were able to bring the issue from a concept to reality.

With that in mind, I think it would be a great benefit for world leaders and voters to occasionally view, first-hand, the results of war.

Only about a quarter of Americans may still support the war in Iraq, but the concept of war in general isn’t as universally reviled as I might hope. Those Americans who have not seen the ravages of war up close should see for themselves the results of modern combat.

I know as much about war as I do about dog fighting. But by doing a simple Web search, I’ve found figures estimating the death-toll of Iraqi civilians from 300,000 to over 800,000. Another statistic I was shocked to read is this: You can multiply the number of dead by 50 and get a rough idea of the number of those people who are physically or emotionally disabled as a result of the war. (That statistic goes for both sides.)

When you add to that the coalition forces, private contractors and media deaths and maimings, the number could easily approach a million. And we need to remember, with each and every death and injury, there are countless more still living also impacted.

During the Vietnam War, nightly newscasts showed the impacts, both military and civilian, of that war. As much as anything, those images caused Americas to question the assertion of our leaders that the conflict was necessary. There seems to be an information shroud, at least in photos and videos, over the Iraq War. Though I was able to find many statistics on the toll of the war, there are few pictures or videos available. Though the numbers of noncombatants deaths are available, numbers do little to demonstrate the devastation.

JFK said: “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”

We will eventually get our troops out of Iraq. And someday down the road, Americans will be asked to go to war once again. Perhaps that war will be unavoidable, perhaps not. I can only hope that, when that time comes, this country thinks of war as an ugly dog fight against not only an adversary but also against humanity, and that the option of war is used only as a last resort.

I don’t know if Michael Vick is guilty or not ” the courts will judge him ” just as God and history will judge us.

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio, and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at biffbreck@yahoo.com.


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