|Who controls weapons
of mass destruction? What if we all did? What if each
person had within himself or herself the power to kill
indiscriminately? Would we all be Saddam Hussein's? Would
we all be the targets of America's wrath? I've seen and
used weapons of mass destruction in the battlefield as well in life.
So have most of us. Find out how we can end war by
neutralizing first our personal "weapons of mass destruction," and
then, once that is achieved, wipe them from the face of the earth.
8, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 514
My Reflections On Using Minor
Weapons Of Mass Destruction
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 8--War has but
one purpose--to kill or be killed. It's all about death. It's
end result is to create a feast for the maggots. It's about snuffing out life.
About carving notches in your rifle when you take another's life, or painting
a picture of the enemy's aircraft you shot down on your fuselage, or
racking up "KIAs" on a war room board so commanders can measure
the total blood spilled to see whose blood pool is the deepest.
War is about graveyards. It's about
bleached white bones in steaming battlefields picked clean by ants, vultures and other vermin who scoop up the flesh and recycle it.
The Beast of
War triumphs over the Graveyards of Warriors
We struggle to whitewash war's
ethical righteousness before it
launches, but once the bell sounds, the two forces leap from
their corners like starved Pit Bulls in a dog fight, every sinew of their body coiled to
strike deadly blows against the opponent before the opponent strikes
Like any animal in a life-and-death battle, a
eyes glaze over so that any ounce of humanity in the enemy is blinded
from sight. To allow compassion or empathy for the enemy is to flinch,
and in that flinch the enemy might well drive a bayonet or bullet into
the hesitant warrior's belly. A warrior is trained to see only "evil"
before him. The scales of war blind him to the fact the man
or woman he is about to kill may be a mother, father, son, brother,
sister, grandfather, grandmother, cousin, nephew or niece of humanity.
The rule is: "You kill the Beast of Terror or it kills
Only in war's aftermath--when the blood of
your victims sticks like glue to your hands, and the wet-blanket
of death chokes your nostrils, and the dead gaze of lifeless human
eyes stare into the nothingness--do you have time, if at all, to feel
sick, to sense the maggots of disgust crawling just under your skin,
wriggling into the space behind your eyes as you gaze upon the twisted remains
of your victims, as you search
their ripped and shredded bodies for papers or other forms of military intelligence. You
feel like a ghoul, a grave robber as you touch their cold flesh, trying not to let his or her face emboss itself
upon your mind. You try not to wonder about the lives of those your
bullets or bayonets just carved to death.
Skull map of
KILLINGs in Cambodia
It is ugly, especially when the mind takes pictures of
its wake. The pictures never go away.
But during battle, killing is as easy as breathing.
The mind disengages all its moral threads.
Compassion goes into blackout mode. The Beast of One's Terror is
unleashed. Its amoral nature reminds you to kill anything that moves.
It feeds you with the thrill of wanting life at the expense of
another's death. It makes you happy to kill.
In the most brutal sense, I was a paid killer. An
All warriors are.
I joined the United States Marine Corps
just prior to the Vietnam War to learn how to be the best warrior I
could be. When the war broke out, that meant I was a fully
trained killer of the most primal ilk--the ones who volunteer for the
worst of battle, who prefer the front lines of bloodshed rather the
security of some headquarters where others direct the war but never
come near a bullet.
Like most young men who aspire the "rites
of manhood," I saw the Marine Corps as an indemnification of my
masculinity as well as part of my duty to serve my country.
My step-father (who had adopted me when I was five years old), was a
career military man. I grew up with the belief that
serving one's country was an obligation, and anyone who refused to do
so was both a coward and a traitor
McKenzie, a young Marine, prepared for 'manhood'
I understood the few exceptions--the
conscientious objectors--but they still could serve a role as a
non-combatant. It was those who ducked their duty that I
despised, the ones who ran from war for selfish reasons and used
anti-war as a shield for their coward ness. I believed they were not
unlike the enemy, turncoats, Benedict Arnolds, fellow
travelers who burned and spat upon the American Flag.
So when war broke out and I was among the first
troops to land in Vietnam, I went with the same eagerness the young
Masai warrior does in Africa when he undergoes his rite of manhood and
enters the jungle alone with only a spear and is expected to
single-handedly kill a lion to prove his worth to the other men and
women of the village.
Warrior prepared for 'manhood'
The blood of others. It is the
baptism of manhood.
Prior to landing, the enemy had been
dehumanized sufficient enough for me and thousands of other Marines to
want only to kill them for they were the "evil" of the "evil axis of
communism." They were the ones who tortured and
maimed the innocent to bend them to their wills. They were the
ones who deprived the masses the right to Liberty and Freedom, and
stuffed down their throats the tyranny of totalitarianism.
Marines especially need little excuses to
kill. All Marine training is about killing, never about
thinking. To think is a battlefield crime. Thinking
involves hesitation, and to balk at a child running toward you because
of some inner compassion for children could mean one's instant death
when the child pulled the fuse on the satchel charge he or she was
carrying on his or her back. So you killed because it moved.
You killed because the human in your sights was in the "killing zone,"
which was simply anything your rifle pointed at.
The war in Iraq won't be any different than
Vietnam, or Korea, or Europe, or any ancient clash of Titans
millenniums ago such as when the Spartans and Persians fought to the
death in 480 B.C. It will be hand-to-hand combat, young
men and women killing young men and women, and anyone of any size or
shape who gets between them.
Bullets know no morality. They can't
distinguish between an innocent child and someone bent on lobbing a
grenade into your position. They can't stop at someone's
forehead and read their thoughts to see if mens rea exists
before smashing into the skull and corkscrewing through the gray
"Mass Destruction" used by the Military
War is all about death--more of the
enemies than our own until the sea of blood swells so deep that those
remaining few throw down their weapons and beg for mercy.
I think about my past participation
in war more
these days as I see the storm clouds close ranks and can hear the
bayonets of young Marines being sharpened as they grit their teeth and
try to press out of their minds any human qualities in their
enemy--the ones they have been trained to kill--the ones who stand
between them and their objectives.
These thoughts drive me back to more
than three decades ago when I was part of the use of "weapons of mass
destruction" and witnessed the holocaust they caused.
The unit I was with, the 2nd
Battalion 7th Marines of the First Marine Division, was commanded by
Lieutenant Colonel Leon Utter. He was a powerful leader who
inspired his men as Knute Rockne did his Notre Dame football team,
reminding us we were fighting for, and willing to die for, God,
Country and the United States Marine Corps.
He gave speeches to us before battle
as we knelt in a makeshift church. He would clutch the American
Flag and display its colors in his fist, reminding us the red in the
flag was the blood of warriors like us who fought and died for
Freedom, and the white was the purity of our cause.
Colonel Utter used the first weapons of
mass destruction in Vietnam, albeit they were minuscule in comparison
to those of today.
cu chi tunnels
He violated the Hague Convention by using
tear gas to clear tunnels. At the outset of the Vietnam War, the
use of such gas was banned. But Colonel Utter found the
Viet Cong hid in tunnels and used villagers as shields, hiding behind
the fact the only way we could get to them was to kill the innocent.
In a violation of orders, Utter chose the humane rather than primitive
choice. Rather than kill the innocent by throwing grenades into
tunnels and caves, he ordered us to use tear gas.
It gagged the enemy, forcing them to exit
their caves. Instead of killing them, we took them prisoner.
The communists screamed and ranted the United States was in violation
of the ban on chemical warfare. However humane the choice,
Colonel Utter was singled out as "chemical warrior."
Ultimately, the charges against him and the United States were
dropped. Tear gas was allowed for humane reasons, but the stigma
of its use clung to Colonel Utter's reputation. He had made the
first political faux pax of the war. There were many more
While tear gas was a humane alternative to
killing, napalm wasn't.
If one wants to think of a "weapon of mass
destruction" as one that indiscriminately kills everything in its
wake--the guilty as well as the innocent, the non-combatants as well
as combatants--then no more obvious a choice for such finger pointing
I still think it's beautiful.
the beauty and horror of napalm in Vietnam
Despite its ugly effect on all living
creatures and things in its path, nothing is more powerful than to see
it explode into great roiling balls of orange and black, braced by the
verdant green background of the jungle, and back lighted by azure
Southeast Asian skies.
As a U.S. Marine Combat
Correspondent, my dual role was to fight and kill first, then write
and preserve for history the battle second. I was a painter and
sculptor of war. I caught its beauty and horror through
the lens of my Nikonos, and carved its architecture with the sharp tip
my pen against my notepad.
Often when we were pinned down and it
seemed the end of us, air strikes would be called. Our jets
would sweep down and drop great silver oblong eggs full of napalm, and
the treeline would erupt as though the bowels of earth had been opened
exposing the core of molten lava from deep in its epicenter.
And the smell. It was
sickeningly sweet. The kerosene perfume sweeping over us
as it exploded meant the enemy was dead. It meant all life in
and around it had just been exhausted. Napalm sucks all the
oxygen from air as it burns, suffocating those who are not burned to a
I never gave much thought to how many
innocent people might be in its path, or all the living creatures who
vanished into crusted charred ashes after the fires stopped.
I was only glad that I was alive and that those who were about to kill
me and all my friends were no longer a threat. Who and
what else died in the process didn't concern me. At least, not
The sea of artillery casings testifies to the volume of artillery
fired back at the enemy. Khe Sanh, 1968
Then there was artillery. Ships
off shore as well as howitzer batteries on land, fired endless rounds
of explosives on selected targets. Often they included
villages where the innocent lived. No one knew whether the
innocent had abandoned the village. We only knew enemy fire came
from the target, and to remove the threat included obliterating it.
Anyone who has seen the photographs of World War
II after Allied bombing runs and the mass destruction of buildings
reduced to rubble, understands no one could ever say who was or was
not buried below. Mass destruction was the only
solution that worked at the time, as it will be in Baghdad.
Troops will not be able to wave a white flag and rush in to see who
isn't supposed to be there before they call in air strikes on a
building issuing enemy fire. The building will be
destroyed, and everything in it.
On a much smaller scale, I carried a personal
weapon of mass destruction. It was a shotgun. I went
on countless patrols and ambushes, and a friend suggested I carry the
shotgun. It had two special rounds. The first was loaded
with steel "toothpicks." The .12 gauge round contained
tightly packed steel needles that when shot would spin wildly through
the air and strike the enemy. Because they were small,
they had little killing power. But they created much pain.
In close jungle warfare, thick brush often hides
the enemy. Rooting the enemy out of a hidden position so
he or she becomes a viable target is the first goal. The
shards of steel would strike the enemy, forcing him to scream or stand
or move upon impact, reveling his position. The second
round in the shotgun was double ought buck, heavy lead that went in
like a quarter and exited like a watermelon.
The weapon was like artillery. It allowed you to
disorient the enemy and wound him enough so you could see him and kill
in Vietnam with minor weapon of mass destruction
Shotguns are minor weapons of mass destruction.
Then there were the little land mines. On
ambushes we carried them. If we got attacked and had to
disperse, we ran to a rally point, every man for himself.
The personal land mines were small buttons of explosives you threw
over your shoulder as you dashed. They contained enough
explosives so that the enemy chasing you upon stepping on them would
lose a toe or foot. It slowed them down so you could escape.
Again, the ones that remained became "weapons of mass destruction" for
the innocent who might stumble upon them by accident a day or week
later when the battle was finished and the people came back to work
We call our weapons of mass destruction
today "smart bombs" and "smart weapons," and pride ourselves on the
fact they have been designed to limit collateral deaths.
We try to civilize killing.
It is oxymoronic, but we still try.
But the warriors who are about to embark on
the horror of war know they cannot hesitate to use whatever force is
necessary to kill before being killed. Survival requires
the ability to do what needs to get done to secure the objective.
All the humanity training in the world will
not displace that primal thirst to survive when the bullets fly.
Like sharks in a feeding frenzy, warriors stop seeing faces or
recognize the difference between a man or woman, a child or adult in
the kill zone. It becomes about spilling blood--more of
theirs than ours.
Finally, there is one other weapon of mass
destruction I cannot forget. It is fire.
In Vietnam, in the early stages of the war, we
burned every village we went through that fired upon us.
We razed them to the ground, a symbol to the people that harboring the
enemy meant the destruction of their homes, their crops.
It was a brutal price to exact. I can still
see the stoic faces of the villagers as flames shot up from the top of
their thatched roofs, curling into a black stripe of smoke as their
homesteads were consumed.
Once Baghdad begins to burn, little can stop it.
Few firefighters will want to venture forward to
douse the flames for fear of being killed. It would be easy for
a trigger-happy warrior to mistake a fire hose for a weapon.
I have no idea about using "modern weapons"
today. I think the weapons are all the same. They
are bullets and bombs and fire-based igniters that burn things.
They are the tips of bayonets, and in some cases, bare hands used to
strangle the enemy to death in hand-to-hand combat.
I don't think much has changed over hundreds and
hundreds of years of war.
destruction of fire in Vietnam
America has it weapons of mass destruction just
as Baghdad has.
I'm quite certain nuclear weapons will be on-line, and
in a moment of desperation if all goes bad, there is a plan to sue
them as a last resort. Since the goal of war is the obliteration
of the enemy, it would be naive to think otherwise.
Right now, it's about bullets and bombs and bayonets
and bloody hands.
When war commences, it could be about anything.
There are no rules in war except to kill or be killed. Of
course, there is another option--retreat. But no one wants
to talk about that option.
Strangely, I can hear the Beast of Terror licking his
I know he doesn't prefer either side. His
preference is bloodshed. Whose blood is spilled, he doesn't
care. He just likes swimming in it.
He likes to blind human beings to their humanity, and
nothing feeds his wishes more than war. Humanity and war
cannot coexist, not fundamentally. There will be countless acts
of inhumanity delivered by both sides, and the measure of their
"horror" degree will be history and those who judge history. |
The anti-war mavens caw about the waste of war, as well
as its immorality. The hawks caw that without it, no one
In between, as many degrees as exist on a compass
wait to speak their piece. The moral compass on the Far
Anti-War Left is swings to One Degree and on the Far Right it fixes at
Three Hundred and Fifty-Nine Degrees. Only One Degree separates
the two radical views--one held by those human shields who are
offering their lives as protest to war, and the other to those who
won't blink an eye as our smart bombs blow the human shields to pieces
en route to Saddam Hussein's bunker.
The majority swivel back and forth on either
side. The Complacent are frozen at One Hundred and Eighty
Degrees, their heads buried so deep they are more interested in the
Michael Jackson interview with Barbara Walters than whether the sun
will rise and set on their children, or their Children's Children's
That's humanity. We are this
odd mixture of good and bad, right and wrong, Terrorist and Sentinel
of Vigilance, saint and sinner, warrior and human shield.
As a warrior, I chose to fight today
not with weapons of mass destruction, but with weapons of mass
construction. I prefer to believe that one day we might
all have our Moral Compass pointed at 360/0 Degrees, the point where
Hawks and Doves meet, where Saint and Sinner marry, were Good and Bad
morph into Vigilance.
We continue to resolve the conflicts
of human nature by war, and, in so doing, we continue to use "weapons
of mass destruction." When the bow and arrow replaced the
club, those who had the bows and arrows had weapons of mass
destruction in relation to the club. When guns replaced
swords, those who had them versus those who didn't were the Saddam
Hussein's of the world.
When America dropped the first
nuclear bomb, it was the Saddam Hussein.
Now, we are trying to stop war by
fighting war, as we have so many countless times in the past.
We bandy about the words: "weapons of mass
destruction" as though we forget an errant bullet isn't one, or, more
insidiously, the rapier tongue of a parent who lashes out at a child and
barks: "I wish you were never born," isn't as devastating to the
child as a cloud of biochemical poisons descending on troops in some
far distant land.
The back of an abusive parent's hand
can be a weapon of mass destruction when it swings out and smashes a
child or innocent member of the family against a wall.
The sexual organs or body of a child
molester is a "weapon of mass destruction" when it casts its ugliness
upon the innocent, the vulnerable.
A three-thousand pound vehicle driven
by a drunk driver careening toward a group of people standing on a
corner, or smashing head-on into a car filled with family members
returning from a picnic, is a weapon of mass destruction.
Over 20,000 Americans are killed this way alone each year.
Our own bad
thoughts are our "weapons of mass destruction
Then there are the ugliest of all
weapons of mass destruction--our Thoughts. When we are
frozen in our Fears, our Intimidations and our Complacencies, such
thoughts are as crippling and inhumane as biochemical or nuclear
attacks. They destroy us. They kill our self worth.
They suffocate our ability to stand up for ourselves, for others and
for the future.
The idea "I'm not good enough,"
or, "I'm not worthy enough," or, "I'm a victim," or, "I'm too fat,"
or, "I'm not as smart as," or, "I'm not as lucky as," all conspire as
artillery shells to smash our innocence to death, to pulverize us into
fragments so we become "nobody's," and "nothings."
We are destroyed.
This Triad of Terror--Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency--can drive us to the other side. It
can make us believe we're "better than others," or, "smarter than," or
"more privileged than," and cause us to elevate ourselves above the
masses so that we "use them" at our will and whim, immune to the "mass
destruction" we might cause.
The adage, "You don't
have to be nice to the people on the way up if you never plan on
coming down," applies in such cases.
Weapons of mass
destruction--whether bullets, bombs, nukes, biochemical's or our
thoughts and actions against others or ourselves--exist everywhere.
They are not the privy of war on military battlefields, they are at
the ends of our fingers and tongues, they secret themselves in our
When we think
of "weapons of mass destruction," we need to think about Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency. We need to see them for what
they are--the sources of all wars.
protect the children in future generations
To battle them, we need
to become Citizens of Vigilance. We need to build a
society in which we all look past our Beast of Terror at our Sentinel
of Vigilance. We need to see the safety and security of the
Children's Children's Children as the real victory, and stop our
rampant desire to fight for the "rights of today."
The only just war is the
one fought to protect the children in the future--not just ours, but
all children, from the injustices of Terror--from its Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency.
When we take and
subscribe to the Pledge of Vigilance, we are vowing to employ Courage
to replace Fear, Conviction to undermine Intimidation, and Right
Actions to move us forward against the gravity of Complacency.
We are neutralizing
the true weapons of mass destruction when we take the Vow of
Vigilance. We are defusing future war, and future death and
destruction by learning how to respect the present by committing to
When and if
the war with Iraq launches, I will not see bullets and bombs and ugly
weapons of war used to kill one another. I've seen them.
unites us to stand up against the Beast of War
Instead, I will see Fear attacking Fear, Intimidation
fighting Intimidation, and Complacency strangling Complacency.
It will be a war of Terror against Terror, resolving nothing,
for minuses fighting minuses add up to minuses.
If war is about ending war, then we will never end it,
for the Beast of Terror will never allow any war to end
Vigilance, however, will be the end to war.
When the Parents of Vigilance stand up and vow
within nations to protect their children and their Children's
Children's Children of all races, colors, creeds--then
the Beast of Terror will be on the run. Vigilance's
weapons of mass destruction--Courage, Conviction and Right
Action--will snuff out the Beast's oxygen as napalm sucks
life from the jungle. The Swords and Shields
of Vigilance that teach someone to stand up for future
generations will cut the legs off the Beast of Terror,
And, when humans learn to shift their thinking One Degree,
from Fear to Courage, from Intimidation to Conviction
and from Complacency to Right Actions for the Children'
s Children's Children, war will find a wall it cannot
surmount. Vigilance, the plus, will cancel
Terrorism, the minus.
The weapons of mass destruction will exist as long as
we ignore Vigilance.
They do not belong to Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il.
They belong to us, as long as we hold onto them, as long
as we let Fear, Intimidation and Complacency rule our
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