October, 2003

June 5th, 1944, dawned as a beautifully crisp and clear English morning. Somewhere in the remote countryside, the Commander of the Third Army, Lieutenant General George S. Patton strode purposefully onto a platform specially constructed for the occasion, surveyed the sea of soldiers stretching out into the distance and delivered what was to become a much quoted speech. In that colorful oration interspersed generously with crude profanities, Patton forcefully emphasized the premise that

 “no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country”.

In making this assertion, Patton was merely articulating what has always been an American imperative: nothing was worth dying for. America was a land gifted by God to those that had made the perilous transoceanic journey. America was built into a democracy where a person had the freedom and liberty to pursue his or her dreams. America was a land where these noble values were guaranteed by the founding fathers, enshrined in its Constitution. For one to be able to savor these wondrous gifts, both divine and human, it was necessary that one remain alive! Hence death was something to be avoided at all costs; nothing was worth dying for. Indeed, quite the contrary. One was to strive as hard as possible to remain alive, pursue the American dream and, as one pursued this goal, it was perfectly acceptable to kill a multitude of “other poor dumb bastards”.

And, this, in its crude yet elegant simplicity, is the flawed philosophy that has been the cornerstone of the American thought and strategy in every field of human endeavor, military or political, on the battlefield or at the ballot box, in a football stadium or within a corporate boardroom. It is preached and practiced in each and every sphere. Spanning the globe from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, across Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Encompassing Bhopal, India and Waco,Texas. Enshrined in Watergate, Enron, anywhere and everywhere, past and present.

Survive at all costs, kill the other poor dumb bastards.

The fear of dying, the fear of ending up in a body bag, this is the fear that makes America insecure and thus unable to realize its vision of world leadership. So powerful and pervasive is this sentiment that anyone willing to die for his or her country or cause is considered a freak, an abnormality, a terrorist!

Ironically, this definition of terrorist is not far off the mark; the individual that does not mind dying for a cause, a belief, or for one’s nation does indeed strike terror in the hearts of those that believe that remaining alive is the ultimate aim.

What scares America is not the fact that the twin towers came crashing down; far worse disasters have been weathered heroically by Americans. It is the realization that a group of young, healthy, educated, and seemingly normal individuals having a perfectly viable option of leading fulfilling lives elected to kill themselves and a whole lot of other innocent victims in the dastardly attacks of September 11, 2001. How could anyone do so? Why would people behave so irrationally? This is terrifying.

What scares America is not a frail and unimpressive Osama bin Laden wandering about the barren wastes of Afghanistan, AK47 in hand; it is his forsaking a huge fortune and a life of luxury to live in caves and fight for a cause, however misguided that cause may be that is scary. This illogicality is terror.

What scares America is not the Bali bombing and its aftermath; the Americans have repeatedly demonstrated an ability of living through far worse calamities. It is the smiling, indeed, mocking expression of an unrepentant Indonesian as he is awarded the death sentence. It is incomprehensible that someone would take such disastrous news so cheerfully. This is petrifying.

What scares America is not a bomb going off on a Israeli bus; it is the suicidal bomber that undertakes that sadly pathetic mission that sends a chill down the spine. That a person can willingly volunteer to undertake such a mission is scary. And when that person happens to be a pretty young girl in her teens with a full life in front of her, this is doubly frightening. This is terrorism, pure and unadulterated.

True, life is indeed precious and all rational human beings try and cling to it, even in the most adverse of circumstances. But then it logically follows that sacrificing this most precious asset for one’s beliefs and values has to be the ultimate tribute. The ultimate offering. It is an unfortunate fact that for nations to survive, for a people to leave their footprint upon the sands of time, this definitive sacrifice has to be made when necessary. If a nation and its people are not prepared to make this ultimate sacrifice then they must be prepared to see an erosion of their principles, values and beliefs. True, they shall remain alive but, remaining alive, they are destined to die “a thousand deaths”.

The American philosophy of letting “other bastards die” is extremely pedestrian and demonstrably false, destined for failure. It is in direct conflict with the traditional values espoused by Man over the ages. Values that were most eloquently paraphrased by Thomas Macaulay well over a century and half ago: 

“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his Gods.”

For as long as a Nation and its people are loathe to make the ultimate sacrifice, enduring victory shall remain elusive. So shall enduring freedom.

This is the lesson that history has taught repeatedly. Most have understood and assimilated this somber message, some however have either failed to comprehend or have forgotten. For those that belong to the latter category, it shall need to be learnt all over again.

It is unavoidable, inescapable. The bell has rung. Class is now in session.Iraqis the classroom. Playing truant is not an option.

Bringing in “other bastards” to die for an American cause can only make matters worse.