Plague of War, Fog of War

Peace Advocate April 2022

Peloponnesian War

By Robert Cable

For the Smedley Butler Brigade,
Chapter Nine of Veterans for Peace,
Greater Boston, Massachusetts, USA

War is a plague, mass sickness of mankind,
A Black Death born of fear-infected mind,
Greed-sickened soul or hate-invaded heart.
Such moral pathogens cause wars to start.
Rage for revenge then multiplies the deaths.
War’s mad momentum ends myriads of breaths.
Right now, cruel conflict ravages Ukraine—
Cursed heritage from ancient Abel, Cain,
Mad fratricide, two brothers of one mother
Conflict to such extent one kills the other.
That precedent continues to this day,
As angered humans fellow humans slay.

When nations tragically resort to war,
Each works to forge in other lands rapport.
From warring nations, places far from here,
Conflicting stories urgently appear:
A narrative, a counter-narrative.
And both presume to be imperative.
“Believe our tragic, truthful tale you must.
Our acts are justified. Our cause is just.”
Such is the tenor of opposing calls
To watchers worldwide whom grim war enthralls
And guess who is the hero of each story?
Who, sinless victim for whom we feel sorry?
As falsehoods furthered history’s pogroms,
A war of words accompanies war’s bombs.
War hardens hearts and human reason blinds.
A fog of war confuses most men’s minds
As enemies exchange their savage blame,
Harsh allegations, each with counter claim,
Each accusation answered by denial,
Fierce verbal prosecution without trial.
Mendacity competes with counter lie,
Audacious lie against outraged reply.
Fake news contends with even faker news.
False views vie for belief with falser views.
As propaganda matches propaganda,
Each side airs “culpatory” memoranda.
Belief in “our side” usually prevails,
But “their side” always countervails.
Spinoza wrote, “To know all, to forgive
All is.” Stop spite and let each other live.
No one knows everything; most know far less—
And dislike to forgive, we must confess.
Since total knowledge is impossible,
We need to struggle with the possible,
With partial knowledge of two warring sides,
And do our best to judge their bona fides.
Both warring parties plead with urgent voice.
Which noisy narrative will be our choice?
Our real choice though is this—EXISTENCE OR
WORLDWIDE DEMISE in final atom war.
Complete no-brainer, this, it seems to me.
But evidently, many disagree.

The fog of war begins in smog of peace,
Both dimming truth—our vaunted Golden Fleece.
In papers, on TV, we daily view
Commercial messages not wholly true,
The worth of words depends on their effect.
Whatever sells a product gets respect.
Our government, corporatocracy,
Is always boasting of democracy.
But do we people rule? Does money rule?
Words made to help us learn are used to fool.
Facts, unfortunately, aren’t ironclad.
With words, it’s easy changing “good” to “bad”
And “bad” to “good,” for reasons undisclosed.
Truth often differs from the facts supposed.
Temptation waits to bend words to our will,
And falsehood can be weaponized to kill.
Dishonesty is part of human life
And quickly mobilized in case of strife.
This peacetime dearth of truth expands in war—
Death dealt for issues not worth fighting for.

War correspondents should be on the spot.
These days, however, they are mostly not.
They’re safe and sound in office of The Times
And Pravda, contemplating far-off crimes.
Mass media are unreliable.
For them, the facts seem all too pliable,
Press room reports always deniable,
Press claims not always verifiable.
For business, though, this “news” is viable.
In war, reality is friable!
Most people really want to tell the truth—
Which they don’t always know, to tell the truth.
Intention and ability are not the same.
Mistaken minds, as liars, we can’t blame.
Truth may be too abstruse to comprehend
And, furthermore, susceptible to bend.
Some folks, afraid of truth, don’t want to know;
And some, opposed to truth, will sometimes go
To shameful lengths to hide, distort, deny
True facts that come before the public eye.
Mistakes and lies in war and peace have one impact—
Misguiding us in thinking how we will react.

Most partisans are far removed from war.
They read, they hear; but they don’t witness gore.
Thank God for that—that they are safe, unscathed.
They’re, nonetheless, in propaganda bathed.
So, they will often rush to aid one foe
Despite the paucity of what they know.
This but prolongs a war that ought to end
With dialogue done urgently to mend
The split between those adversaries, so
Stark carnage, death, destruction do not grow.

War weapons made require that they be sold
Year after year—a fertile source of gold.
Fertility of blood-soaked battlefields
Huge crops of cash (and blood-red poppies) yields.
If money is your aim, who can resist
To profit from a conflict? Who desist?
Thankfully, most folks do. Some others, no.
For them, war profits are the way to go.
If we prepare for war, we will get war.
Prepare for peace instead. Yes, war no more!
Prevent it by incentivizing peace.
From humankind our curse of war release!
War’s a catastrophe unnecessary,
To our better natures most contrary!

All people in this world are family.
We could live all together happily.
But any family member may fall sick
In mind as well as body. And Old Nick
Can sicken minds with greed, extreme ambition,
Unjustified offense, undue suspicion,
Excessive pride, ignorant selfishness,
Resentment, anger, impulse to aggress,
Apparent madness—real madness, in fact,
Inducing us to self-destructive act,
Epitome of which is deadly war,
Mankind’s insanity. What is it for?
Just death, destruction, suffering—and gold.
Yes, greed has been one motive as of old.

But God created Earth with all we need
For all to have a good life. Human greed
Brings sickness, madness, misery for most—
But fortune for a greedy few who boast
Of wealth and power beyond the normal need,
Sick souls from whose control we must be freed.
How can we cure them of the greed disease?
How set their greedy, troubled hearts at ease?
How can we remedy their sickened souls?
How change their lust for gold, their warfare goals?
Pray they regain a wholesome sanity,
Learn to enjoy their mere humanity.

We know that “Man proposes, God disposes.”
God gave us happy days of wine and roses.
Enjoy those common blessings and the rest,
Rejecting lust for more—for war, La Peste.
Misguided men have made mad war a norm,
A fault we absolutely must reform,
Must guarantee that deadly battles cease,
Must change from crazy war to normal peace.
This mission is essential for mankind.
We must no more by warfare be defined.
The “power of a thousand suns” is God’s.
In human hands, for death what are the odds?
Existence or worldwide demise in war—
That’s not what our Creator made us for!
Peace now! Peace evermore! Peace, blessed peace
Will give to future generations renewed lease
On life, sweet life, God’s precious gift of life,
Which won’t go on as long as war is rife.
You readers, hearers, women, children, men
Who live in war’s dark shadow, say “Amen!”

© Robert Cable, Spring Equinox, 03/20/2022