Article Overview:   Can Peace and War co-exist?  Are they one inside the other?  Can they be turned inside out?  When the bullets fly, and death sits on a warrior's shoulder, can the Butterfly of Peace bring solace?   Find out.


Sunday--March 30, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 564
The Peace Of War

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 30--There is Peace in War.   It comes in a strange ways.   As we face the war in Iraq, we mighty wonder if any warrior ever knows the taste of peace during war.   I can only tell you I did, for one brief moment in time.

Butterflies of Peace

       Every warrior needs a moment of peace in the middle of his or her war.   To reflect.  To shut one's eyes, inhale deeply, exhale slowly.   Peace balances the madness of war.
      I remember my Butterflies of Peace. 
     Oh, I remember how beautiful they were.
      The helicopters had just dropped us into a hot LZ (landing zone.)   We had to jump from the choppers because they didn't want to land.   It was about a four to five-foot leap into tall, razor sharp elephant grass that rose up like green spears waving in wake of the chopper's prop.   
       Bullets were flying everywhere.  I leaped and landed on a pile of rocks.  Under the rich, green elephant grass with its sharp cutting edges, was sheer granite.  I cried out.   Then the bullets started smashing through the grass, scything their way toward me.    Marines leaping from choppers make good targets.

I was dropped into a hot Landing Zone

       I belly crawled forward.    The LZ was a bad one because the grass was neck high.   You were a great target for the Viet Cong when you attempted to get your bearings and stood up.
       I crouched up to see where we were supposed to rally and caught flashes of other Marines moving in that direction, bobbing up and down, trying to lay down fire against the enemy in the treeline on the hill above.
      Wading through the elephant grass was like wading ashore at Tarawa.   You weren't quite sure you were ever going to hit the beach.   The rocks beneath our feet made it hard to walk with any stability, and virtually impossible to run without falling face down.    A bullet almost seemed more attractive than smashing your own brains in by falling.
      I inched forward.    Finally, I hit the end of the elephant grass and solid earth, dirt, soil.   At least I would have some traction, I thought.  
      The hail of bullets forced us to crawl.    Looking up meant sticking your head in the kill zone.   I fired my rifle and crawled, almost blindly forward and up the slight incline.  Once we reached the crest of the hill we'd have an edge.
       I was inching forward and ran into a thick snarl of vines near the base of a tree.    It was like barbed wire.   I had to go around it or through it.   It was thick, twisted roots of the vine maze wrapping themselves around one another, knitting a wall, a fortress of vegetation daring any to pass.

Mired in elephant grass

        I crawled down a few yards and saw a hole in the vines.   It was large enough for my body, a cave carved through the vines.    I got edgy.  I'd heard stories of guys on patrol crawling up face-to-face with a wild tiger.  It looked like some large animal had made the hole the door to its lair.
       The bullets crashed through the vines.  Up ahead, a Viet Cong machine gunner was racking the earth, hoping to catch as many of us as possible.   The vine cave wouldn't offer much protection, maybe deflect a bullet slightly if it hit a thick vine just right, but it wasn't any foxhole or natural flack jacket.
       I decided to crawl into the opening rather than go around.

    As I entered, the light dimmed.   There were shafts of light oozing through the twists and turns of the vines, but they were diffused by leaves and vegetation above.   I pulled out my .45 and leveled it, unsure what I might encounter.   A tiger?  A snake?  A V.C.?
       Then the magic happened.
        The "cave" inside was formed by two walls of vines for an "A".    Inside, it was like a house, not large enough for a guy my size, but habitable for a tiger, or even for smaller people.   There was, however, no signs of any human ever having been there.
       I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye, and then another, and another.   Suddenly the stillness and sallow cast of golden light defusing through the leaves illuminated the scene.   There were thousands of butterflies, all different sizes and shapes.

     Magnificently painted butterflies peacefully fluttered in the cave

       Some were magnificently colored, others were painted  bright red against black markings, as though stenciled by the hand of God Himself or Herself.
       There were phosphorescent ones, yellow ones, and brown ones, and black and grey, with orange "eyes" peering from their wings as they seemed to fan the air just for me.

       Few can understand the magic of that moment unless they have been in a similar situation.   Outside, the world was going to hell.   Outside the nest of beautiful butterflies flittering above my head, lighting on my hands and shoulders, was a world of madness and brutality.   Outside human beings were trying to kill one another as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.   Life had little meaning outside the butterfly nest.

A respite from war

        But here, for that incredible moment of beauty and peace, I forgot there was a war just a few feet away.  I forgot others were trying to kill me and I to kill them.   I forgot about the booby traps and mines and enemy snipers and endless moments of Fear, Intimidation and sometimes Complacency that attack us all as war drags on.
       My butterfly nest was my respite from war.
       In the background, I could hear the bullets zinging past  and mortars going off.   I could hear commands being shouted and corpsmen being called.   There were the dead and wounded maybe not more than a few feet from me, but here I was, for an eternal moment, locked in the time, in a place of peace, inside the womb of nature, in her sanctuary.
       My ears went deaf to the sounds of war. I rolled over on my back, half my body in the vines, the other half out.   To an observer, I would look dead.

Sunlight touched the butterflies' wings

      I elected to take one minute out of war.    As I lay back, I laced my fingers behind my head and looked up at the butterflies fluttering through the haze of light.   The sunlight touched their wings and ignited the particles of dust floating about.   I imagined it as pixie dust, sprinkled by some fairy who lived inside the vines, waiting for soldiers of war to pass by, to remind them that peace was more powerful than war, that the world was so full of magic there was no need to destroy it with violence.
       Then I thought about God.  Maybe I was dead and didn't know it.   Maybe I was mortally wounded and my half-in half-out body symbolized the confusion St. Peter had about my qualifications to enter Heaven, and the butterflies were angels, checking me out, fluttering in my mind to see what I was made of.

What message were the butterflies delivering?

       Finally, I just let my mind relax.   I took in deep breaths, inhaling slowly, exhaling just as languidly.     A butterfly landed on my nose.  Another on my elbow, others upon my chest.   They seemed so distant, so nonplussed by it all.    What does a butterfly know of war, I thought?
       But it did.


The butterfly effect


       I   knew about the butterfly effect.  That somewhere in the world a butterfly hovering over a still pond creates a disturbance upon the water surface, and that it grew and grew as it moved across the sea, until it was a great tidal wave smashing upon the shores of distant lands.
      Bottom line, everything is a cause of some effect.  
      What was the butterflies' purpose I thought.
      What message were they delivering?
      I knew it was time for me to go when I wanted to just stay there, to pull my legs in and curl up in a fetal position, put my head on my helmet and wait until all the violence had passed.  Maybe, I would morph into a butterfly.  Maybe, I wondered, all the butterflies there had once been warriors who, over the eons of wars, had stumbled into the mass of vines and been transformed.    What color would I become? 
        I liked the black and red.

The Rules of War applied to butterflies even angel butterflies

     "Gotta go," I said, rolling over on my elbows and looking up.  It was Heaven.  It was Nature's Heaven.  It was a Sanctuary of Solace.

   I took a deep breath and crawled out backwards.  I chose not to cut a hole to exit.  It would be like desecrating a church.  The Rules of War applied to butterflies as well as to man-made monuments.
         We won the battle.   Our Marine jets swooped in and laid napalm on the enemy machine guns.   We charged.   The earth stank of kerosene.    I looked at the scarred earth, the twisted burned bodies of the enemy.
         It was very odd.
         I felt nothing over the death of the humans.
         I only felt sadness that maybe some butterflies hiding in a nest of vines had been scorched.



Mar. 29--Anti-Americanism:  Saddam's Great Weapon Of Mass Destruction

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