CHURCH OF TWAIN: Supporting the war effort

Around our family, we’re all proud of my nephew, Steven Smith. He is an Army Ranger with a sergeant’s rank. Steve fought through two tours of duty in Iraq, then returned to the United States for several months to train and await a new assignment. He’s back in the fight these days, so we don’t hear much from him.

Like a lot of Americans, a majority I suspect, we’re proud of our soldier and support him in his decision to join the military and fight for his country. We pray for him and think about him all the time and can’t wait until he returns home for good.

But whenever you discuss the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the question eventually arises: Do you support the war? Can you support the warriors and not the wars they fight?

Of course you can. And we do.

Many years ago, the United States was involved in a war in the Philippines. It wasn’t much of a war, really, and the decision to enter it was riddled with foolish bravado. Mark Twain had some thoughts about that wrongheaded war in a place we had no business fighting.

“I pray you to pause and consider,” he wrote. “Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object – robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused this change? Merely a politician’s trick, a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads: Our Country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it in every schoolhouse in the land, the war department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it, or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor – none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our Country, right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that phrase is an insult to the nation.
”Only when a republic’s life is in danger should a man uphold his country when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.”

We’ll continue to pray for our Steven and all the soldiers and hope they return home soon. And I’ll curse the scoundrels of government and media every day for fanning the flames of patriotism and propaganda.