Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Soldier's Declaration

Last night I saw a production of Stephen MacDonald's play, "Not About Heroes," about the friendship between two great war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, who meet during WWI in a hospital for "nerve cases," i.e. the loony bin. Sassoon was sent after writing the statement below; Owen was sent by his captain following a particularly traumatic episode. It was an impressive production, but, more importantly, it introduced me to Siegfried Sassoon's brilliant declaration, one which should be copied and sent to every general, captain, lieutenant, cook, driver, and newspaper editor in the land. Sassoon's timeless sentiment couldn't be more true today, which is to say, I detest Donald Rumsfeld.
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A Soldier's Declaration

By SIEGFRIED SASSOON

I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.

I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.

Siegfried L. Sassoon, July 1917
This written 87 years ago, and it needs be said again? Will we never learn our lesson?