Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

April, 2003

The Light Side of the Shadow

One of the things that amazes me is the use of language in creating and defining reality. In a recent report about the war in Iraq, I heard a reporter quoting some U.S. officials about their disgust with the Iraqi regime and its total disregard for the "Rules of War". And I have no doubt that the officials in Baghdad may have expressed similar sentiments about their U.S. counterparts.

And so I started thinking again. Going back to the Stone Age, the first tribe picked up rocks and sticks and started ambushing an animal until they hunted it down, and had a feast. What were the rules of hunting at that time? Was it not unfair for the animal to be outnumbered and attacked by a group of armed individuals? Did the animal ever stand a chance?

Coming forward in mythic history, one of the "Rules of War" was to send the most powerful and most courageous heroes (or sometimes generals, or even kings) of each army, and engage them in a one-to-one wrestling match or combat, where the winner of this contest would determine the outcome of the war. But then one day, one army, with total disregard for the "Rules of War" outnumbered and attacked the other army and obliterated them and became the victor.

For a long time, the weapons of war were bows and arrows and swords and spears, until using technology, somebody broke that rule and equipped their army with rifles and canons. And so the story goes on and on to bombs, and bigger bombs, and different kinds of bombs, etc.

The element of surprise, technology, ingenuity, breaking away from the norm, doing the unexpected… and generally breaking the "Rules of War" have always been a part of battles from the first incidence of violence among men.

So what does it mean to break the "Rules of War"? What rules? And who sets these rules? Hasn’t the story always been that the conqueror has used "strategy and ingenuity", but the conquered has been "cunning" and has "disobeyed the Rules" – that were presumably defined and set by the victor?

If we contemplate wars and their causes more deeply, we will realize that war is nothing more than giving up on the goodness and creativity of the human spirit, a resignation that manifests itself as the ultimate form of censorship - just as terrorism is nothing more than the illegitimate child of failed compassion, lashing out desperately and indiscriminately.

There is only one "Rule of War" – to defeat the enemy at all costs. And if this cost includes death and destruction by unleashing bombs of any kind, so be it. And if it requires the creation of vocabulary and use of sanitized terminology to win over the minds of friends and foes, so be it. And if it is achieved by destruction the of the enemy’s dignity through captivation, torture, or anything else that one can imagine, so be it. This is the only "Rule of War" – to win, to reach the desired end, through any necessary or unnecessary means.

Perhaps this war has given us cause and pause to think, ponder and contemplate. To recognize the inhumanity of senseless violence, the destruction of innocence, the birth of cynicism, and the alienation of ourselves from of our souls.

Perhaps indeed there is no way out of the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" except to go through it.

Perhaps through this divine irony, we shall discover the Light Side of the Shadow.

© Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
April 2003

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