Happy 2011. This may seem odd, but as this new year begins, I have been thinking about war. Come October this year the US will have been at war in Afghanistan for 10 years. Do you remember that the operation in Afghanistan, now referred to as Operation Enduring Freedom, was originally called Operation Infinite Justice? Of course the US invasion grew out of the September 2001 World Trade Center attacks, another 10 year anniversary we can anticipate this year.
War and The Iliad containing essays by Simone Weil, Rachel Bespaloff and a response by Hermann Broch. Weil and Bespaloff were meditating on war and it's effect on the human spirit from their perspective as refugees from the Nazi invasion of France. Weil writes, "The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force." And a bit later, "To define force--it is that x that turns anybody subjected to it into a thing." The national tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 turned the US into a thing, a machine bent on vengeance. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have turned those countries and peoples into objects, frequently piles of rubbles and corpses but also machines bent on vengeance. Midway through her essay Weil suggests, "Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates."
These attempts at retribution have yielded neither Infinite Justice nor Enduring Freedom. More apt would be Infinite Destruction and Enduring Grief. For a musical take on this, and how distant we make ourselves from the destruction of war, check out Pretty Good Day by Loudon Wainwright III.