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Those Poor Souls

by: Luke Cummings –

Here I sit, looking around me at all the yelling and arguing and celebrating and doomsday-prophesying and finger-pointing and speculating, and I’m only thinking, “Those poor souls.”

President Trump shocked the world on August 6th when he authorized a missile attack on an airfield whose occupants had allegedly launched chemical attacks on citizens just the day before. Some in the media claim that this was a classic kneejerk reaction by a president drowning in a pool of self-perceived machismo; that he just saw videos of the attacks on television and pushed a button, while all his advisors sat around with their hands tied and their mouths gagged.

Let’s put this nonsensical ramble to bed and remember that a US president isn’t a dictator sitting in his throne waving his hand to commit his armies to war . . . he’s more of a manager, with a massive team of experts telling him about every single option and every single possible outcome. More than likely, the US not only had the grid coordinates for this Syrian airfield already saved into its database, but they probably had plans for covert and full-scale ground attacks already drawn up. While it may be only a show of political gamesmanship, this was a decisive, strategic decision that could possibly have multiple repercussions, all of which will be weighed and considered. Doesn’t the president need authorization from congress to start a war? Technically, this isn’t a war (yet). And let’s not forget that the former president did the same thing multiple times with drones instead of missiles from destroyers. The name of the game hasn’t changed, only the player. As far as an actual war with Russia and its Middle Eastern allies goes, it’s too early to tell.

That brings me to the other side of this: Trump fans are celebrating this as a strong move which will take the US back to its height of prowess and command over the world. There are memes mocking Assad and expressing hopefulness of a larger conflict with Syria. Absent from all of their rambling and hooraying is any mindfulness of the men and women who will have to take on the burdens of such a conflict. War is not what it is in the movies; it doesn’t end with credits and you high-fiving your buddies as you drop your half-empty popcorn bucket into the garbage and drive home in your car to your soft, warm bed. Its effects can be felt for generations. Families lose loved ones, both to death and to mental injuries. Participants lose limbs and friends. Scars are formed on hearts, tears are formed between neural synapses. Behaviors are altered, affecting children, and those children’s children, and their children. War brings lasting pain, suffering, and grief. We should never be quick to dive headlong into war, nor should we be smiling about it when it happens. It is surely inevitable, and sometimes necessary, but it is never a good thing.

And so, I return to my first thought of those poor souls. I sit on the fence between a man who wants to protect the innocent humans around the world who writhe under the boots of vicious leaders, and a man who has seen so many suffer from the effects of war and would rather we as a nation crawl into a self-preserving hole. I’ve been to third-world countries, ones so plagued by poverty and war that death is a welcomed visitor. I feel for those men, women, and children of Syria who, after being smothered by a nerve agent, convulsed on the ground and defecated on themselves until they suffocated to death. I am convicted that we as a rich, powerful, advantaged nation must have some responsibility to help those kinds of people around the world who can’t help themselves.

But, we can’t help everyone, and at what point does it become too detrimental to our own people? We are seeing thousands of veterans and their families struggling within a system that promised to care for them but can’t quite seem to accomplish it. They followed orders to “help” people around the world, now who’s going to come to their aid? Mental problems, inadequate care, and suicides are all epidemics in the community of men and women who carry out our nation’s dirty work.

At the end of the day, there’s no telling where this action will lead, but it is unquestionably a first step in the escalation toward larger conflicts, and the situation in the region just became ten times more delicate. Politicians around the world will always play their strategic-relation game, following the logical path of what’s in their best interest, but when the bullets quit flying, the concussions of the bombs fade to silence, the blood dries, and the dust settles, who suffers the most?

Those poor souls.

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