Watch closely as Christiane Amanpour, veteran war correspondent, interviews the director along with the lead role actor of Oscar nominated Danish film War. (link below)

You may observe, and I believe I did, that Christiane’s experiences reporting war first-hand seem to reflect and validate what the director tells her is the point he hoped to make with his film, namely that war is complex and human. His protagonist must make an impossible choice between saving his platoon or protecting noncombatant civilians. He chooses to save his troops (wouldn’t you?) which leads to death for the civilians. This is not the dramatic climax of the film; it only sets the stage for drama and tragedy yet to unfold.

Our nations’ wars place her soldiers in more no-win situations than those of us who stay safe at home ever realize. Nine years ago I met combat journalist Kevin Sites. Kevin was an embedded pool photographer with U.S. Marines in Falujah. As his platoon swept a mosque, one of the Marines shot and killed a wounded and defenseless Iraqi captive. How damaged was this young Marine when he fired on his defenseless captive? Kevin filed the story. In Kevin’s and his platoon mates’ cases too, this combat killing only set the stage for drama and tragedy to come.

On the day we met, Kevin told a group of 300 college students that the largest category of casualties in any war is noncombatants, they are not counted and surely not memorialized. They, the civilians and families, (their towns, infrastructure, economies and even governments), are what we often refer to as “collateral damage”. The soldiers we send to war carry unimaginable burdens home with them, if they do if fact come home. These burdens always change their lives and sometimes destroy their and other lives. I see little reason to doubt our surviving vets are truly part of the collateral damage our wars create.

A nation desiring hegemony, dominant influence or power, eventually pays a heavy price. Must America have, or use, the world’s most powerful military (by what — a factor of ten?) to be great? I think greatness lies elsewhere, in values such as charity and sharing opportunity with many.

Next time you listen to a Presidential candidate telling us how he or she will employ the men and women of our military to make America great again, I ask you to stop and think of collateral damage in its various forms. You might even want to think twice.

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