I wonder if many politicians had experienced the hell of war would they be so ready to send troops into battle? Band of Brothers is an incredible series, and speaks about lots of issues. Episode 9 is perhaps one of the most harrowing and moving episodes of a TV series I’ve seen for a long time. It explores the effect of war and combat on the people involved, on a very obvious level when ‘Easy’ company discover a concentration camp but on a number of other levels including Nixon’s battle with the bottle. In an early scene a new replacement – O’Keefe – is shocked to see two French troops execute three German prisoners. Perconte and the others shrug their shoulders and go on with the journey, yet later Perconte tears into O’Keefe for wanting combat when the veterans are tired of combat, of the fear, the killing, and watching their friends die. I was really struck how violence breaks us inside, in some cases numbing consciences.
I remember protesting at anti-Iraq war marches in Belfast, but gave little thought to the effects of that deployment on those who fought. Yes I’ve lamented the huge loss of civilian life but never really considered the troops worthy of my compassion – they sign up for it after all. Watching Band of Brothers – although a different context – has made me realise that my commitment to non-violence must include a commitment to all the victims of violence – including the troops who serve in war zones. Watching the emotional and mental brokenness – especially in episode 7 when Buck Compton just can’t take any more of watching his friends get killed – made me realise just how much care and support soldiers need in the challenge to reintegrate back into ‘civilian’ life. In the UK alone it is estimated that 20,000 former soldiers in the justice system. Maybe those of us who campaign against war also need to campaign that those who carry out those wars on behalf of the politicians in comfortable offices aren’t discarded when they return.
This also means the church needs to be a place of healing for all who are broken as a result of violence, something the Crossfire trust has been trying to do for all ‘sides’ in the troubles in NI.