The faces of war » Manila Bulletin News



Grace M. Pulido Tan

By Grace M. Pulido Tan


It’s been a horrible week, frightening, and gory.  The Maute siege of Marawi, the Manchester bombing, shootings and killings everywhere.  The declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the continuing war on drugs.  North Korea firing a missile, car bombs in Afghanistan.  Cyberattacks.  The list goes on and on, all in a week or so.

Will there be no let-up?  Is this really the new normal?   Dead bodies sprawled on deserted streets, agonizing exodus of “bakwits” out of conflict areas, soldiers in full battle gear engaged in combat, burning buildings and vehicles, refugees in cramped shelters scrambling for basic necessities …

And the children, the multitude of them getting killed, oppressed, suffering innocently; the helpless and hapless parents putting up a brave front nevertheless, desperately trying to move on. These have been a daily fare on TV, integral scenes from one big reality show that puts every telenovela to shame.  These are the faces of war staring at all of us on the face.

So how did we get here and what are we to do?   I don’t know; and neither do I know if martial law is the solution, at least to the raging war in Marawi.  Experts galore have weighed in on the whys and the wherefores, and a whole gamut of perspectives and opinions continue to fill media spaces. World leaders shuttle from summit to summit meetings in a bid to stem the tide, but recent events clearly show that we are nowhere in the road to peace and security.

On second thought, and this is a qualified opinion at best, I think that the material components of these rapidly escalating and intensifying wars are poverty and moral bankruptcy.   Conflicts are either escalating in poorer parts of the world, including the Philippines, or are perpetrated and fostered by poorer members of community.  Out-of-school youths and the jobless are prime targets for recruitment into the “cause;” not only are their minds peculiarly malleable by reason of age but also by the paucity of formal, mainstream education by reason of poverty.

Look also at the battle gear of our fearless soldiers.  Are they wearing proper combat boots and Kevlar helmets, for example?  Do they receive sufficient nutrition to withstand battle and fatigue?  Are they equipped with superior arms and ancillary equipment? To win a war, even the bravest and committed  armies need to be amply funded by the state.

But while the budget of our armed forces has been tremendously beefed up in recent years, we have also seen the equally tremendous leakage primarily through corruption in both subtle and not too subtle ways which various COA audits have exposed.  Moral bankruptcy, clearly.

To defeat the culture of death and terror, it looks like the war we really must wage and win is a war against poverty and corruption.  When no one feels left out, when all his basic needs are met, when his taxpayer’s money is properly spent for his betterment, when his heart and mind is ennobled by good education instead of propaganda, who wants to stare at the horrific faces of war?

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