Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dulce et Decorum Est

One of the strongest of the antiwar poems written in English is Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est." Although he died in France during World War I, he recognized the futility of war. The Latin at the end of the poem translates as "Sweet and fitting it is/to Die for one's country." The poem can be found at the following link: Wilfred Owen

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.


Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.


If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

***************

The only time when war might be justified now, in this post World War II era, is when one's own country is invaded; otherwise, there are far better ways to solve problems and conflicts. You would think we would get smarter after all of the years that have made up humankind. The events of 9/11 don't signal invasion; anyone who lived in Europe during the time of 1969 to 1985 or so, recognizes that terrorism can be a constant threat. It can be prepared for, if the government and officials are competent, but the event itself can happen at any time.

Even attacking Afghanistan was not necessary. You didn't see the British invade the Republic of Ireland whenever a bomb was set off in London. The problem with the IRA was solved through diplomacy. Likewise, our government should have analyzed the situation and determined what we could have done to lessen the hostility against America. A thinking president would have gotten troops out of Saudi Arabia and done everything possible to find alternatives to petroleum products so that this country's presence in the Mid-East could have been drastically reduced.

Similarly, the president should have ensured that oil producing nations deciding to switch from the dollar as the currency of exchange to, say, euros, should not threaten the economic health of this nation and should not serve as a reason to invade Iraq and as a reason to bomb Iran in the near future.

That's how the lives of those Americans killed on 9/11 should have been remembered.