We find, on this Memorial Day, that we are still at war. Seventy years ago, Germany put pen to paper and acknowledged their unconditional surrender to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and the Soviet High Command. It has been nearly ninety-seven years since the end of the ‘War to End All Wars’. And while it is true that there have been no formal declarations since, (neither Korea nor Vietnam were declared wars, but were considered a ‘police action’ and a conflict for Communist containment) we never the less remain in a de facto state. We entered Afghanistan in 2001 to get Bin Laden and shut down the Taliban, then Iraq in 2003 to get Hussein and his WMD’s.
Apart from murder and rape, there is no more detestable a form of human conduct than war. Sadly, it seems engrained in too many of us. Daily, my stomach churns over stories about ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram. I don’t care what religion or form of ideology they claim; they are animals. Actually, that does the animal kingdom a disservice. They are cockroaches. Just this morning comes the news that ISIS executed 262 Syrian fighters and civilians, including 13 children. The ancient city of Palmyra is in danger of destruction if they follow the pattern established at Nimrud. When they capture a town or a village, men and boys over the age of 14 are murdered, and the sisters and wives suffer the abuse of rape and torture.
In the past, America has been slow to take up a cause, especially when it involves putting our military in harm’s way. It’s easy to understand our reticence. Who wants to see their son or daughter, their husband or wife leave with the possibility they’ll never return. It took us three years to intervene in WWI and more than two to answer Germany’s declaration of war in WWII. The night before the invasion of Iraq, I overheard a conversation in a Pizza place in Queens. The girl was speaking in cliché, saying that we shouldn’t be going in, that it wasn’t our problem. I feel the tug of conscience pulling from either side of the argument. But all the while, insects like the dark-clothed jihadists spread their evil and subject our fellow humans to unimaginable despair, torture, and death. It’s embarrassing to read that in the past couple of weeks, six people have been arrested while attempting to go to Syria for jihad, and the FBI estimates that at least 150 have already gone. Garland, Texas should serve as a wakeup call that the war has arrived inside our borders. Leaders of these fundamentalist organizations are practically begging their adherents to attack military, police, and civilian targets to such a degree that our bases have put personnel on alert. Not content to fight on their own soil, they are committed to bringing the conflict right here.
We all know what happens when you fail to take a cockroach infestation seriously; it raises the possibility of extermination to nearly impossible levels. We need to think hard about what it will take to curb this aggression, both here and in the Middle East. I’m afraid that the choices may feel neither popular nor palatable.