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The Language of Honor

Posted By Grim • [September 12, 2012]

One of the stories our Human Terrain Teams collected in Iraq goes like this:  Once upon a time, in the days of the black tents in the desert, there was a family made up of a young man, his elderly father, and their women and children.  One day the young man discovered that one of their goats had been stolen.  His father advised him to take revenge, but the young man wasn't quite sure who had stolen it, so he did nothing.  The next day, one of his sons was killed.  The father urged him to revenge, but the son wasn't sure who was guilty, so he did nothing.  The third day, the enemy returned and killed his other sons, raped his daughters, and murdered his wife.  When he came to his father, he found the old man in tears.  The old man said, "This is all because you didn't avenge the goat."

The point of the story ought to be plain enough.  Yesterday's attacks were an act of misguided vengeance -- pointed at us, but really in response to this movie.  Muslims who felt their religion had been insulted (as, indeed, it had been -- the director's intent is quite clear) took revenge.  Because we were not at fault, however, the harm done to us does not balance but rather upsets the scale.  We now have an obligation of honor to settle the score and avenge the harm done to our flag, and the murder of our ambassador.

If we do not do this the consequences will be terrible.  It is fine to do it through the law:  the Libyan government has apologized for the attacks in its country, and if they are willing to work with us to find and hang the murderers, so be it.  If the law fails to work, however, we must avenge our flag and our ambassador in any case.  At minimum someone must die for the murder of our ambassador, in a clear and public way.

The language of honor is a language of deeds, not always a language of words.  An obligation has been imposed upon us.  If we want peace, we must see to our honor.  It is only in that way that we can ensure the respect upon which peace in the Middle East is ever based.  A peace between warriors is the only peace there is to be had.


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