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Inside Looking Out: The child in the pillowcase

I have come to the realization that I don’t want to try to understand anymore. I guess you could say I am disgusted, about war that is. I watch the news and see a crying man in Gaza holding up a pillow case with a dead child inside. Then I see this acclaimed expert from Florida Southern University explain that the military objective for Israel to stop the Hamas is very complex and it will require many more months of fighting to get into the underground system below the sewers to take out the enemy leadership.

Through his explanation of proposed military maneuvers, I can’t unsee the bloody pillow case and the man, quite possibly his father, holding it up to the camera like you would lift a garbage bag just before you throw into a dumpster.

I wonder until this day why all wars could not have been avoided through peaceful negotiations so children like that little child in the pillow case would still be alive. I wonder why military experts talk about war like it’s a game of chess instead of a slaughter of soldiers, children, and civilians.

If outwitting the enemy is so strategically fascinating, then why don’t all the military experts put on army helmets and dig themselves under the sewers in Gaza to carry out their game plans?

Former president Dwight Eisenhower said, “I hate war, as only one who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

I wonder how old was the child in the bloody pillowcase. Two months? A few weeks, perhaps? One thing is for certain, he or she died at an age of beautiful innocence, something all children are born with until they grow up and some are taught to hate and even taught to kill.

Author Albert Camus said this about war: “Stupidity has a way of getting its way, as we should see if we weren’t so wrapped up in ourselves.”

Two countries fighting since the end of the 19th century is a colossal example of how a war that never ends continues to leave mothers holding their dead babies.

I wonder if the men who wage this endless war would gladly let their own children die if in return, they could celebrate a glorious victory. Author John Steinbeck wrote, “War is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”

What if we asked all the mothers of young children in Israel and those from Palestine and from Russia and from the Ukraine if they might come together to find peaceful resolutions to ending their conflicts because men have failed for so long to do so.

Somebody once said, “If you really want to engage in war, send your own children to fight it.” Yes, let a grade school Russian boy look into the eyes of an 8-year-old Ukranian girl and let’s ask him if he’d rather shoot her to death or go to the playground with her and swing on the swings.

According to a site called the American Experience, the American Civil War had the largest number of soldiers die under the age of 18. Here’s a description of the brutalities these not yet adults had within their theater of war.

“It’s hard to imagine the horrors teenage soldiers experienced. They charged through hailstorms of bullets while the bodies of their friends fell all around them. They listened as wounded men pleaded for their mothers, for a drink of water, or for death to come. They assisted surgeons, standing by as they sawed off mangled arms and legs - often without an anesthetic. They endured the horrors of Andersonville, a Confederate prison in which thousands of Union men died of starvation and disease. They were killed in battle or suffered physical and mental wounds that they would carry for the rest of their lives.”

Television commentator Andy Rooney said, “In the United States alone, we spend seven times as much on war as we do on education ... On Memorial Day, we should honor those who have died at war, but we should dedicate this day, not so much to their memory, but for the search for a way to end the idiocy of the wars that killed them.”

I had the privilege of interviewing World War II Bronze Star recipient Clarence Smoyer of Lehighton for this newspaper a few years ago. He disabled seven German tanks and saw men engulfed in fire and burned to death and we might think what a tough guy Clarence was. Not so, I learned. He told me he was haunted for over 70 years by his shooting down a German car in which an innocent young woman was killed.

At age 89, Clarence went back to Germany, found her grave, and asked her for forgiveness. When I asked him if his time spent at war was worth his efforts, he looked at me with his 93-year-old eyes and said, “Not at all. War is sending young men to die for the sake of the old men who declare it.”

I wonder what the soldier who fired the shell that killed the pillowcase child would think if he was given the chance to see the bloody corpse. What if the Russian pilot ordered to drop bombs on a Ukrainian school could look down upon the children he murdered before he flew his plane back home and hugged his young son and daughter?

A child who’s not old enough to walk who’s killed in war might have been a teacher, a scientist, or a doctor. No matter now, but if these countries continue to fight for months or years as military experts have predicted, another bothersome problem will arise soon enough.

They’re going to run out of pillowcases.

Rich Strack can be reached at richiesadie11@gmail.com