An Open Letter To America: The Truth About What War Is Really About

By Staff Sgt. Matthew Lima via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Two guys go on a patrol in Ramadi, and guy number one gets shot out of a gunner’s hatch after an explosion. Guy number two films it from the truck behind. He posts it on YouTube, and it gets thousands of hits. This makes you think that war is about an explosion and how it messes people up.

By Staff Sgt. Matthew Lima via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).
By Staff Sgt. Matthew Lima via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

You think you get it. You think you get it because you see a man get blown out of a gunner’s hatch, or you see a Marine throw a puppy off of a cliff, and that’s horrible. You think that this defines war, but it doesn’t even come close. War is mostly about fear though there are people who won’t admit that. They will tell you that everyone has fear, and that courage comes from recognizing fear and doing it anyway.

No one really knows what it is.

Here’s the truth. There are no courageous people in war. There are just the too-dumb-to-know-any-better people, and then there are the I’m dead people. I was the first kind of person before I realized what I was doing, and then I became the second. However, that was good. When you’re too dumb to know any better, you curl up and cry. When I became the second that’s when I could finally function in Iraq?after I changed into a dead man and I finally knew it.

This was the problem: I was a dead man. I had accepted this absolute, undeniable, praise Jesus, hallelujah truth. However, it is very hard to get back alive again once you’re dead.

Explosive Blame

Another two guys: One sits in a Humvee and the other is outside, playing tic-tac-toe in the dirt with six little Iraqi children. Along comes a man in a tan shirt and a white robe that goes all the way to the ground. He walks up close to the soldiers and the kids, and he puts one hand inside his robe and poof! The kids are gone. However, the two soldiers stay ? they were already dead to begin with. An explosion makes no difference to dead people at the least, one way or the other. It has some effect on the living, but even then, it takes a lot to change somebody, and mostly, you don’t change.

Just ask people who blame the Iraqis for our failures. This person describes the blame:

?If you had the resolve to do so, children in Ramadi would not be getting raped today. Shame on you Iraqi Army, I want my candy back.?

Maybe if America had the resolve to do so, we wouldn’t have made mistakes in that war ? as in the war itself. Yet, even those who have lived and died in Iraq ? at least Americans ? don’t seem to understand the cost.

For every American killed about 55 men, women, and children, who are not Americans, won’t go home to their families. Double that for the number of people injured, and?that data only goes through 2013.

It is time to place the blame where the blame lies: ourselves. Once we do that, then we can begin to fix things.

Body Count

So guy one, who was playing tic-tac-toe with the kids, says to guy two:

?Aww man, that jerk blew those kids up.?

?Why do you care?? guy two says.

?Because he blew the dust away too,? says guy one. ?Now we don’t know who is gonna win.?

Nevertheless, we know who won.



Matthew Sterner-Neely is a profoundly progressive Catholic Christian, a writer, a disabled Veteran, and a current English and tap and ballet teacher in Pueblo, Colorado. His work includes the systematic deconstruction of the patriarchal hegemony and joining his children for tea in the middle of the living room floor. He takes seriously the commission to love one's enemies, and rarely remains anything but friends with those he comes into contact with.


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