April 22, 2007

By Tacitus

My name is Josh Kim. I am currently a student at BYU pursuing a degree in History. From 2001 to 2005 I was on active duty with the U.S. Marines and took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was a singular event in my life and I am still uncertain as to whether or not it was a good experience for me. Never before in my life had I seen such poverty and destruction. It was definitely unlike any war film I had ever seen. What do I think about the Iraq War and all wars? I think that war is a necessary evil. I think that the Global War on Terrorism is a necessary evil; innocent people were attacked on September 11, 2001 by 19 hijackers who saw no distinction between civilian and military targets. The only way to stop people like these is to kill them.

The Book of Mormon teaches us that we not only have a right to defend ourselves but it is also our duty. It is our duty to defend our women and children. It is our duty to defend the freedom that affords us the right to worship as we please, to conduct our lives as we see fit. I believe that all avenues of diplomacy should be exhausted before making the decision to go to war and once you do go to war, you’d better be prepared to wage total war until victory is one. You can neither fight nor win a war on half-measures. I believe that the Iraq War is a mistake. It saddens me to see my country be so misled and so disrespected in the world.

There is a book called Starship Troopers which was written in the 1950s by late sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein. The film version, I must protest, is a horrid adaptation of the book; and that statement is no mere snobbery. The film only briefly touches upon philosophy and the debate on civic duty during peace and war. Much of the book is devoted to political and moral philosophy. The novel is on the reading list of nearly every branch of the Armed Forces and required reading for most military academies in the country. The book has been controversial for its perceived fascist tone. What I got out of the book is that there are things and principles worth fighting for and that everyone owes a duty to their nourishing society to help defend it. I believe that this defense should be shouldered equally by all segments of the population and not just by the willing few. There is a danger to any society when there is a growing emotional gap between those who serve in the military and those who do not. Military veterans feel that their peers who do not serve in the military are soft and vain narcissists. Military veterans are perceived to be either dupes or willing pawns of an illegal war. Neither is true. There must be a middle ground where the members of the Iraq War generation can come together in understanding and trust or else we risk repeating the Vietnam era in America.

I don’t believe that the Iraq War was necessary. It contradicts a longstanding policy of the U.S. in intervening only when there is an absolute vital interest or threat to national security. The Bush Administration mined for a reason to go to war. They embellished shoddy intelligence and bullied Parliamentarians into authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. When the original justification for war fell apart so did the support of the majority of Americans. I find it cynical for Bill O’Reilly or Oliver North to interview troops in Baghdad or Fallujah. Of course they are going to voice support of the President while in front of the cameras. Members of the military are punishable by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice if they contradict or saying anything derogatory about the President and his policies. If they are not court-martialed or disciplined they can expect a good butt chewing from their superiors. Many of the Marines I served with in Iraq in 2003 could not understand our presence in the region, particularly when there were no weapons of mass destruction. Now, many of them are against the war. They have voted with the feet. They have refused to reenlist, choosing to go on with their lives; the military must now spend at least $ 1 Billion in reenlistment incentives to retain personnel. The Army had to lower standards for enlistment in order to meet their quota. My fellow veterans and I feel that the sacrifices we made and the sacrifices of our fallen comrades have been squandered in an unworthy mission with no end in sight.

The Book of Mormon makes repeated mention of wars and rumors of wars in the latter days. I do not know if our time is indeed the latter days. Maybe it is a blanket term for all wars which take place after the end of the Nephite civilization. I do not know why wars break out nor do I know how this war figures in to the grand scheme of things. All I know is that while I cannot control the actions of kings and magistrates I can control my own actions. I am not a mere victim of circumstance. War is not a morass of immorality as one might think. There are differences between right and wrong, black and white.

When Giddianhi, the Gadianton leader, demanded that the Nephites surrender their cities over to the robbers, Lachoneus (The Chief Judge) responded by rallying and gathering his people together in the cities of Zarahemla and Bountiful. There they fortified themselves and fathered provisions because they knew that the robbers lived by plunder. Some of the Nephites wanted to go and destroy the robbers in their own lands but their chief captain Gidgiddoni, who happened to be a prophet, warned that if they went against the enemy in their own lands they would be destroyed. And so, they waited for the robbers to come out of their hiding places and mountain sanctuaries and when they did, they fell upon them with guerrilla like tactics that would make Vo Nguyen Giap proud.

I will end my wandering thoughts with a reference to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Brutus and his co-conspirators hoped that by killing Caesar they would end the tyranny and restore the Republic. Tragically, the new triumvirate would destroy Brutus and Cassius and it would be 13 more years of civil war between Antony and Octavius. By murdering Caesar, the conspirators created a great evil. Maybe the lesson here is that some things are better off left alone.


  1. I had such a hard time writing this week’s post. And really, I should’ve just given up and posted: “please see Sunday’s post by Tacitus.”

    I love the perspective that you are able to offer here on this subject. I’m also impressed and intrigued by your suggested lesson from all of this. That some things are better off left the way they were. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought.


  2. The only way to stop people like these is to kill them.

    Yes, of course, “there is no other way”.

    And all along, I thought the Book of Mormon had something else to say on the topic. My mistake.

  3. Tactus, thank you for your post and your perspective.

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