Going to war is no joke and must not be rushed into. Yet what if the World War II Allies had acted early and bombed the Nazi concentration camps? How many lives would have been saved? Or, for that matter, how many more would have died? These are strategic questions that often undermine humanitarian concerns. Toward the end of the war, even knowing about the many death camps, the Allies refused to divert its war machine to aid in humanitarian rescue.
The Allies are again faced with a strategic versus humanitarian decision. Should a war-weary nation — the United States — make a punitive strike (war by any other name) against Syria for using outlawed chemical weapons against its own citizens? Should the President, without backing from the UN, NATO and the US congress be the punisher? Charles Blow, writing in Saturday’s New York Times, asks the questions that confound all people of conscience. His column reminded me of one of the most astute antiwar songs of the Vietnam era, Phil Ochs’ (1940–1976) “I Ain’t Marching Anymore.” I thought it might be sobering to read and hear the lyrics during this critical moment of when strategy, conscience and humanity are in conflict.
Oh I marched to the battle of New OrleansAt the end of the early British warThe young land started growingThe young blood started flowingBut I ain’t marchin’ anymore
For I’ve killed my share of IndiansIn a thousand different fightsI was there at the Little Big HornI heard many men lying I saw many more dyingBut I ain’t marchin’ anymore
It’s always the old to lead us to the warIt’s always the young to fallNow look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gunTell me is it worth it all
For I stole California from the Mexican landFought in the bloody Civil WarYes I even killed my brothersAnd so many others But I ain’t marchin’ anymore
For I marched to the battles of the German trenchIn a war that was bound to end all warsOh I must have killed a million menAnd now they want me back againBut I ain’t marchin’ anymore
For I flew the final mission in the Japanese skySet off the mighty mushroom roarWhen I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learningThat I ain’t marchin’ anymore
Now the labor leader’s screamin’when they close the missile plants,United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore,Call it “Peace” or call it “Treason,”Call it “Love” or call it “Reason,”But I ain’t marchin’ any more,No I ain’t marchin’ any more
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