“All wars are boyish and are fought by boys.”
Herman Melville, Battlepieces and Aspects of War, 1941

In 1985, I went to Nicaragua with several clergy and lay persons during the Sandinista and Contra battles to learn about the superb ecumenical organization that was a crucial help to those caught in the war.

We got relatively close to the combat zones and met a 13-year-old baby-face boy in a military uniform cradling an AKA weapon. After we came to know him we asked how he lost one of his fingers. He said it was shot off but he was happy it wasn’t his trigger finger. He began training when he was 12 years old.

There may not be many 13-year-old baby-faced Muslim militants on the Mid-East battle fields but if so, have our GI’s had to kill youngsters face-to-face, kids who signed on due to religious commitments or loyalty to their country? Do we want to know? We were horrified to learn about the babies who were gassed in Syria but what if a few of those man-child militants were pulverized by drones? How many of them were slain during the strafing of the airfield by a recent assault? Many of those young teenagers are only a few years older than those precious babies.

Have we owned up to the numbers of fatalities of tweens over the 16 years we have invaded Mid-East states? I have never had to engage with face-to-face battles while serving as a naval reservist for a number of years. We sailors hardly knew where our gun mounts were located.

So, why am I questioning how we fight our enemies? I guess it has a lot to do with having five grandkids in their early to mid- teens, and a couple of them are baby-faced.


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