Article Overview:   What do you tell a six-year-old boy about the "will" to go to war?   How do you liken war to climbing a rock in Central Park, or relate the war in Iraq to a child's father being arrested for protesting war?  


Tuesday--March 18, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 552
The Will To Fight or Protest A War And How Climbing A Rock In Central Park Relates
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 18-- Yesterday, while the dogs of war barked, growled and snarled, I took my six-year-old grandson rock climbing in Central Park.  It seemed the appropriate thing to do on the eve of war.

Watching the St. Patrick's Day Parade In front of the S-N apartments on Fifth Avenue

        My wife and I linked up with our daughter and her husband's Irish family next to the clock in front of the exclusive Sherry-Netherland apartments on Fifth Avenue (room rates start at $325 and soar to a $1,000 a night).  The prosperous location faces Central Park on the east side of Manhattan.  It is just a half-block away from FAO Swartz and across the plaza where horse-drawn carts take tourists on $35 plus-tip-rides, stands the elegant Plaza Hotel.  It is, without doubt, a prime spot for a penniless TerrorHunter such as myself to watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  It is also a rich tradition my son-in-law's Irish family members have honored for fifty years.
       War against Terrorism, not parades, however, was on my mind.  I draw a distinction between "war" in general  and  a "War against Terrorism."  The word war without modification means senseless violence.  It evokes random killing of people with no justification, and shrouds the mind with sheer ugliness of human nature.  A War Against Terrorism however focuses on the point of violence.   It is to rid the world of a threat that looms over all.  Today, for example, Saddam Hussein's son stated Iraq would retaliate against the the families of the warriors who fought, their uncles, aunts, cousins, their grandchildren and all their progeny.
      So I spit that hair war, separating it from nondescript war to the one that falls from the thick hide of the Beast of Terror.  And, it forces me to think about the "will" of war, and my grandchildren.

A body of flags refreshed the monotony of green

       Yesterday, for example, I didn't want to go to the St. Patrick Day Parade. I had war on my mind. Plus, nothing is more boring to me than to watch hundreds of bands and groups marching  inch by inch up Fifth Avenue as hoards of people dressed in green with shamrocks painted on their faces hoot and cheer for the Irish, even though I am of Scotch-Irish-Norwegian descent.  My mother's father was a McPherron who drank, smoked and told tales in tune with the best of any Irish.   At the last minute, I  decided we should go to the parade so we could "kidnap" the grandchildren and enjoy Central Park's beauty.  That would be a good excuse to escape the throngs of people jamming the streets.  My instincts also told me to protect the kids.  A huge crowd of over 2 million on the eve of war seemed like too juicy a target for a Terrorist. 

       Fortunately, when we arrived at the clock next to Sherry-Netherland, our daughter wanted to take the kids to one of the many playgrounds deftly carved into the heart of Central Park. I couldn't burst through the crowd fast enough.  One playground near the Central Park Children's Zoo has an incredible stone slide. The kids swirl down it as though it were a sluice designed by Walt Disney.  
       Time and politics stops dead at the playground, for one's only concern when watching children play is their personal safety and their social manners.  Your mind is consumed with watching them so they do not get hurt by others. You also watch their manners to make sure they are fair to the smaller children as they excitedly jockey for another turn to tumble down the exhilarating slide.
        The United Nations might learn something from watching children play, I thought. 
        Next to the playground are giant (for kids) granite rocks that erupt throughout the park.  The rocks are nature's playground, especially for our grandson who is into rock climbing.   Six-year-old Matt  is not a group sport kid.  He likes self challenges.  He's into his second stint of rock climbing classes at Chelsea Piers, where a forty-foot rock wall is housed inside the Field House.  The wall offers young and old a training ground for scaling mother nature's monoliths that rise out of her crust and spear up into the sky as reminders there is one in charge of the world more powerful than any king, tyrant, prime minister or president.  Rock climbing is a humbling experience.

Sliding at Central Park

       When I was a young man, I climbed with members of the Southern California Rock Climbing Association.   We scaled sheer cliffs, hanging hundreds of feet above jagged precipices.   I was a novice and my fellow climbers experts.  They taught me how to deal with Fear and Intimidation, for nothing is more scary than hanging by your fingertips above certain death while trying to pretend it doesn't exist.    Plus, it is motivational--you have no place to go up.
        I am proud my grandson is willing to test his Fears and Intimidations on the rocks of life.  They are symbolic of learning inner strength and force the "will," the psyche of the self, to override the reality of one's mental Fear and the Intimidations.  Rock climbing is character building.
       After sliding countless times, Matt wanted to tackle the rocks.  I got permission from his mother.  We found a great hulk of granite and he began to scurry up it.  I cautioned him to move slowly, insuring he had the handholds and footholds.   Impatience is not a virtue in climbing, for the rock has been there for eons and the human desire to race up it falls in conflict with Nature's timetable, often resulting in mistakes and falls.  There is a concert necessary between the fragile human body and mind and immovable stone that must be played for one to master the rock with the least danger.  I wanted him to "tune in" to that relationship, which is founded in patience.

Matt's class at Chelsea Piers

       I stood below him to break any fall and offered my suggestions as he picked harder and harder climbing paths.   One cantilevered, so he was climbing blind, unable to see where the next handhold or foothold was.  I urged him to use his fingers as "eyes," and his toes as "fingers."  The week before he had learned to climb blindfolded at Chelsea Piers, to use his instincts rather than his brain to bring him to the top, to become "one with the rock."
        "I hope I don't break anything," he said softly as he worked himself down.   He froze for a moment, unsure of his footing.  I saw a ledge a few inches from his right foot and reminded him to use his "toes" as "fingers."  He slowly lowered his body until his toe caught the lip of the rock, stabilizing his descent.  
         I wanted to talk to him about war.   I knew it was on his mind.  Earlier, he had mentioned his father wasn't at the parade yet because he was protesting war.   My son-in-law and daughter are anti-war advocates, peaceful protestors who are members of the Catholic Worker, an organization that demonstrates against all forms of violence.

The top of the mountain

          I wanted to tell Matt that war was sometimes necessary, although never "right."   But I do not engage the children in conversations to force my viewpoints upon them, only to answer their questions as truthfully as I can.    A few weeks ago when Matt had blurted out on the bus after rock climbing, "Who's going to win the war with Iraq?," I stated, "Nobody wins in war, Matt."  Matt's father had been there when I said it, and nodded, then reaffirmed my answer to his son.
        Even though I am a warrior, and have fought in bloody battles, I am not an advocate of it per se as I often think anti-war protestors seem to do.   I fought as all Americans have fought before me, to protect other people's rights to freedom against tyranny and oppression.    Despite all the rattling of dissenters that Iraq is a war for oil, to secure American economic interests or to salve the ego of a Texan President who wants to hurl the United States into  vendetta against Saddam Hussein for trying to assassinate his father, all that is simply myopic vision from my viewpoint.   Historically, Americans fight wars not to conquer nations, but to free them from the claws, jaws and fangs of the Beast of Terror who seeks to strip a people of their basic rights to freedom, and rules with a hammer while all the people are treated as nails.  Our legacy has been to fight the Beast of Terror in war, to drive him from the lands he dominates and then to retreat to our own homeland rather than dictate the future of nations we have freed.  
        Iraq is no different.   Its 23 million people will be free of tyranny once Saddam Hussein is gone.  In the wake of our war against Terrorism, hopefully will rise a government far more fair and far more just to the rights of the people.   Unfortunately, the cost of that installation of freedom will be blood, both of the warriors who fight it and the innocent who get caught in its crossfire.  That is the sadness of war.
       I wanted to tell my grandson that America is not bad because it goes to war to fight the Beast of Terror.  I wanted to tell him that nations who fight wars to bring Terrorism are bad, but not those who seek to destroy the Beast.  I wanted him to understand the difference. 

        I wanted to tell him that America's dead and wounded account for 1,750,000 over the past nearly 100 years since the first World War we fought in to keep Europe free.   From WWI through the Persian Gulf War, nearly 2 million Americans have been killed or wounded fighting for others in lands thousands of miles away from American soil--all designed not to conquer those nations and impose freedom upon them, but to free them from leadership that Terrorized the rights of the people and future generations.  I wanted him to know in World War I our casualties were 320,000; and in WWII to free Europe from tyranny we suffered 1,079,162 casualties, nearly 1 percent of our total population at the time;  and in Korea, 140,200; in Vietnam, 211,556 and the Gulf War, 766.   I wanted him to know we had gone to the far corners of the earth to die for others, and that our "will" to offer others what we enjoy a human rights far exceeded our desire to selfishly consume those rights while others suffered.   I wanted to tell him we weren't perfect in our ways, or that we didn't make mistakes, but that our intentions were never to leave a people less safe or less endowed with human rights as a result of any conflict we entered.
       I wanted him to also know that we did not annex any one of those nations, or enslave any of the people as servants to America, but instead, helped them reconstruct their lands in such a way that even today some of those lands we helped free had the right of choice to turn against us in the United Nations, and make America appear as though it were some bellicose beast seeking to destroy peace.  I wanted him to know that even though our former allies were painting us to be Beasts of Terror, that we weren't, and to remind him that "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."
      When you are alone with your grandson, you are filled with a desire to let him see the world as you see it.  But, you check your tongue. You remember that it isn't your job to direct your views upon the child.   If the child wants your knowledge he or she will ask for it.   To impose would be a violation of the trust his parents give me to be alone with him.
      Matt wasn't concerned with war or its philosophy.  He simply wanted me to protect and instruct him in the art of climbing rocks.  I looked at what he was doing as the act of a young warrior, learning how to face the Beast of his own Terror on the battlefield of Central Park by climbing a great rock, one that made him tremble at times when his foot couldn't find a place to support his weight, or when his fingertips began to tremble as he struggled to inch himself up or down learning to trust himself as he grew more confident in his skills of facing his Fears.
      "Don't hug the rock, Matt," I instructed.  "Let it talk to you.  Let it tell you what to do.  Feel it."

Quick learner

       In climbing, as in life,  there is a danger of getting too close to the rock.  One's weight is driven downward putting too much pressure on the hands.   The key is to keep your weight vectored into the rock by angling the body away from it. In life, no matter what our views, we must be willing to step back away from our righteous thinking and look at the other viewpoint.   From seeing all sides of an issue we can make better decisions and not be blinded to truths larger than ourselves.  Matt is a quick learner.  He can see other views and listened to my advice.  He pushed away from the rock and worked himself down one face and took off to find another more challenging one.
        I knew his father was protesting the war at the United Nations. Later, I would find that his father had been arrested along with 45 other protestors in front of the U.S. Mission.  I openly proud of his father as a warrior for peace.  I consider a man or woman willing to go to jail for his beliefs has as much courage and conviction as I in mine to go to war against the Beast of Terror.  One of the great warriors of modern times, I believe, is Mohammed Ali who sacrificed his prime boxing years rather than go to war.   I only object to those who protest without a willingness to pay the price of protesting.  My son-in-law is not an armchair protester.  He protests daily and lives a life of sacrifice to marginalized people.  He has traveled to Israel during the height of conflict and risked his life in foreign lands, including El Salvador where he thrown in prison for protesting the Terrorization of villagers and deported.   Unlike many who shove a sign up one day and run to Starbucks and don the hat of safety and security the next, Matt's father lives on the battlefields of protest.
           Matt, I knew, was being trained to have the right to chose whether he wanted to protest and go to jail, or to suit up in military uniform and fight an enemy.  Our older daughter's sister is a federal special agent, who is the opposite.   She walks the streets daily armed to fight Criminal Terrorists.   America offers such choices to its children that most nations don't allow.  Our family expresses the polarity of choice, as many do in free nations.
        In Iraq, however, I knew there was one choice for the children--Saddam Hussein's.  That choice was simple--do what the Butcher of Baghdad said or suffer prison, torture, rape or deadly gas.   I knew Saddam had killed his grandchildren's fathers and dragged their bodies through Baghdad for challenging his father-in-law.  
        Quite the opposite happened yesterday. My son-in-law was handcuffed, cited and released.  He later joined us at the St. Patrick's Day Parade with scrapes on his wrists from the cuffs, but he wasn't beaten or tortured, and the leader of the parade didn't drag his body up Fifth Avenue, or threaten to rape his wife and kill and his children if he didn't submit to America's will of supporting the war. He commented he and the arresting officer had shaken hands when they parted company.
       Later that night I watched President Bush talk in which he issued a 48-hour deadline to Saddam.   He spoke about not the "authority" to fight the Beast of Terror, but rather the "will" to fight him.
       I let his words sink in.
       My grandson didn't have the legal authority to climb a rock that frightened him, but he had the "will" to.   My son-in-law didn't have the legal authority to protest where he did, but he had the "will" to stand up for his beliefs.   In my day, I didn't have the authority to fight a war for the freedom of the Vietnamese by some people's standards, but I had the "will" to fight, and, more importantly, the "willingness" to die for their right to be free from tyranny.  Even though that war failed in defeating the Beast of Terror, it didn't fail in proving the willingness of the warriors to die for the right of others to be free.  I did witness the first democratic election in Vietnam, and for that, I am grateful.
       America is currently being charged with the crime of "preemption" against the Beast of Terror.  Critics claim America has no right to preempt a war, to engage a known Terrorist of the People in conflict, one who has defied the world regarding his stockpiling and manufacturing and wanton use of weapons of mass destruction.   They don't want to remember in 1996 he dragged his son-in-laws bodies through Baghdad because they had delivered to the U.N. proof of Saddam's wanton development of such weapons.

Saddam is like a volcanic mountain that can erupt and  injure our Children's, Children's Children at will.

      The world is saying America has no right to climb a rock that teeters precariously over the world as a symbol of Fear, Intimidation and utter Complacency, a nation that has bullied the United Nations into a frenzy of compromise and a nation that stands as a model to other tyrant nations that no one has the guts to climb it and conquer the evil that threatens us from within.
       Iraq is an evil volcano.  It can erupt at any moment, inuring not only our children, but he children of the world.  But, to some, as long as it is dormant, they want to leave it alone.   U.N. weapons inspectors have met with constant challenges to dig out the answers to Iraq's mysteries of where the weapons of mass destruction are stuffed in the core of its volcano.  The hide-and-seek game Saddam plays turned the U.N. into a toothless entity.
        Now, that the U.S. has elected to stop the Complacency and act, it is suffering indictment by the world that it is a warmonger nation, seeking to act out of selfish interests that fly in the face of diplomacy and peaceful intent.
       But is it?
       Would it be right for me to tell my grandson that America should sit back and not challenge the cruelty Iraqi leaders issue upon its children, or, to allow its threat of biochemical and nuclear violence to go unchecked?      Would it be right for me to tell my grandson that it was okay to ignore someone building a bomb in Central Park designed to kill all the children until everyone in the city agreed it was okay for me to stop him from building it?
       What would I teach my grandson?

Matt's father has the right to protest war

     Matt's grandfather is not for war, but he is for the will to fight tyranny, and to set an example for other Beasts of Terror like Saddam Hussein around the world that if they choose to threaten the security of Matt, and other children like him, such despots will suffer the sting of America's wrath.
       But I am not narrow in my thinking.  I am also for Matt's father having the right to protest war, and would die for his right to stand up against bloodshed.  Without the right to oppose, there is no freedom.  Plus, I see little difference between the willingness to go to war against Terrorism and the willingness to be arrested for protesting war in general.  Both are acts of Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children.  Both prove to a young boy like Matt that people must act in accordance with the conscience, and that in a free land, the right to have opposite views is the heartbeat of freedom.  But in both cases, for such acts to be just, both must be willing to sacrifice their personal security for their beliefs.  No pain, no gain.

Going to war is like rock climbing - it forces one to face  Fear with Courage

The United Nations is not such an example.  It refuses to offer a penalty if Saddam Hussein does not disarm.  The United States refuses to accept such Complacency for it tells all despots that there is no penalty attached to Crimes of Terrorism.  Few nations have the legacy of America to send its young men and women to die for others in distant lands.   We have the blood of nearly 2 million American casualties recording our willingness to die facing the Beast of Terror in lands not our own, and have yet to annex any of them.   We are global Terror Protestors, we do it with words and with bullets.
       Today, we sit on the eve of war.
       What do I tell Matt about it?  How do I explain the tension between anti-war and War Against Terrorism.
       If he asks, I will tell him it is like climbing a rock.
       It is about facing one's Fear with Courage, battling one's Intimidations with Convictions, and overcoming one's Complacency with Right Actions.  And it can be done by protesting war's violent nature, or choosing to fight against the Beast of Terror who seeks to bring violence upon others.
       I would tell him for those who chose to fight the Beast of Terror, it is about freeing the children in Iraq so they can protest war like his daddy did without having to go to jail or be beaten or killed because he did.  I would tell one day he can choose to be a Warrior for Peace by protesting against violence, or a Warrior for Peace by fighting the Beast of Terror. 
       I would tell him the beauty of America is that we have the "will to make a  choice."   That we can sit back and wait until the rock tumbles on our heads, or, we can climb it before it does.


Mar. 17--The Moment Of Truth--Putting Teeth In The Barking Dog

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