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The Children's Crusade
May 8, 2004
By punpirate

In the popular culture of the day, few of us remember that the subtitle of Kurt Vonnegut's major work, Slaughterhouse Five, was The Children's Crusade.

By that, I think that Vonnegut meant to convey that all wars are conducted largely by our children. We send our young to kill the young of other nations for suspect, but ostensibly patriotic reasons.

In Iraq, we have most recently seen the effects of sending our young to fight the wars envisioned by the elderly and feeble of our generation - the Perles, the Wolfowitzes, the Bushes, the Rices, the Feiths, the Powells, the Boltons of our age.

The reasons for the animosity of these people are still clouded in propaganda and the language of ill-will disguised as democracy. Their benefactors, their hosts, are bent on world domination, often for the purposes of personal enrichment. They use our young for their own purposes, but almost never commit their own children to the task. The rich evade the horrors of war. The rich have connections.

Our current president evaded the horrors of the war against Viet Nam, and now commits horrors against the ordinary people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and, perhaps, the people of Iran and Syria and North Korea, if his "axis of evil" rhetoric is a foreshadowing of this perverted man's intentions. He commits these horrors in the name of god. The stupid and venal in our country think he's been anointed by that same god to carry out simple, absolute horror in that god's name, and thereby define their stupidity and venality.

George W. Bush believes he's been appointed by god, and, in the process, has come to believe he is god, no less righteous than the archangel Michael. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the lord, and George W. Bush has become, in his mind, the lord's archangel, carrying out the terror of the Old Testament, but burying the "C-word," crusade, for purely political purposes.

Let us be plain here. George W. Bush, in his administration of this country's affairs, has shown himself to be crazier than a shithouse rat. He does not read, does not think, and prefers to make decisions "from his gut." He guides this nation by the most perverse set of political rules imaginable - whatever is thought to ensure his re-election is permissible.

In the past week, amidst the shameful revelations of Americans torturing and abusing all manner of Iraqi prisoners, Bush repeated his political mantra during a Republican fundraiser, saying that the torture chambers of Saddam Hussein were banished forever. Ordinary, sensible people of this country, or any other, might think that such protestations in the face of recent news were an indication of insanity. They would be right.

Bush is determined to carry out his crusade. The victims of his crusade are Muslims, in the same way as previous crusades, and, as well, the victims are our young people, those called upon to carry out Bush's wishes.

We try to make excuses for their behavior, but we cannot. Their actions are too abhorrent to accept, and yet, they are our own - flesh of our flesh, borne of us, nurtured by us. We are faced, finally, with the awful conundrum of war - how can those kind, decent young men and women we raised to be good people commit such abominations?

The answer is, of course, that our leaders encouraged them to do so. Every person in the Bush administration, every member of Congress, every person in power who let this happen through inaction and by failure of will is complicit in their crimes.

In a most fundamental way, war is simple, absolute terror visited upon innocent people for the purpose of carrying out the goals of a few people. In the case of the United States, those people are well-known to the public and to the government - they are the ones braying mightily about our rights, as they conceive them. Killing is our right. Torture is our right. To hell with our Constitution and our concept of the rule of law. That imagined and ephemeral security is of greater importance than our laws and our children, whom we set upon a crusade ultimately intended to re-elect the very worst of our politicians.

We are the damned. Make no mistake about that. We are the damned. We live in an age of enlightenment, and yet hear nothing, feel nothing, see little, and think not at all. Our leaders encourage stupidity, xenophobia and militarism, and we blindly follow. Our children are the victims of our own stupidity. They are not defending us. They are killing others to protect the profits of the wealthy among us. Our children have become what we let them become. We taught them respect for war, for crusades, for the death and destruction of any and all we designated our enemy.

We could have taught them about peace and how to achieve it. We didn't. We could have taught them to think for themselves. We didn't. We could have engendered in them a vision of a better, more peaceful world. We didn't. Instead, we created a society where the poor amongst them could only get an education and have good prospects for the future by becoming soldiers, and, in some cases, killers. Some of them also became, at our insistence, the torturers of innocents.

We have sent our children on a crusade of dubious value and purpose. We instructed them in who to kill and gave them reasons to do so, specious as those reasons may have been. We encouraged them to devalue the lives of others for purely political purposes. We helped teach them how to do these things of which we are now so ashamed and paid for those miseries with our taxes. We let our President and our Congress make criminals of our children because we were too cowardly to resist these contemptible ideologues, too complacent to throw the evil bastards out before they had the chance to corrupt our sons and daughters, before these despicable specimens of humanity currently controlling our government used our children, our future, for their own greedy and inhuman purposes.


punpirate is a New Mexico writer.

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