Catholic News Service
Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to fire a rocket toward forces loyal to Syria President Bashar Assad in Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, April 5.
Catholic News Service
Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to fire a rocket toward forces loyal to Syria President Bashar Assad in Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, April 5.
War: What is it good for? According to the Edwin Starr protest song of 1970: "Absolutely nothing." Did Starr get it right?

War not only kills enemy combatants, but it is also responsible for collateral damage, and that can include and has included people who are definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Consider the people who went into a market in the Middle East or in the Balkans or in Southeast Asia on the wrong day in the wrong year.

They didn't live to find the right day or the right year. They were erased from the earth, becoming a statistic, a casualty of war, i.e., collateral damage. Innocent people die when drone strikes miss targets, unexpectedly snuffing out the lives of noncombatants.

War is an act of aggression that one group or country perpetrates on another. Ask El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, residents about drug wars on their borders and the consequences of those wars. Where is the justice in people being killed amid gangs fighting for supremacy to sell illegal drugs?

When one country wages war against another, that country construes the act as reasonable or justifiable aggression. Our Catholic response to any war must be thoughtful and prayerful, even when we do not control the situation.

Country leaders send people to war with the expectation that some of them will die, and those with "boots on the ground" have probably had no say at all in whether they would volunteer to be sacrificed.

Someone, in some safe place, has determined what acceptable collateral damage would be, i.e., how many people would probably die so that the desired outcome or goal is reached. More often than not, that outcome is never reached.

How many mothers were asked if they were willing to sacrifice their sons or daughters in a war in a foreign land? Short answer? None.

How many Vietnamese or Iraqi or any families willingly accepted the carnage that was visited on their land, the years of illnesses that are still causing pain and suffering because of chemicals used in warfare in a distant land? I imagine the same answer applies: None.

War devastates countries -- the so-called winners and losers alike -- and tears families apart. In a sense, we all become part of the collateral damage of war. We all lose even if it looks like we won, and in the last few "wars," no one has been the declared the winner.

We waged war in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, but we didn't "win" any war. We eventually left, pulling out fast as in Saigon or slowly as in Iraq, but we didn't win anything for anybody. In this country, we are and will continue to pay the terrible costs of war for years to come.

Families must knit themselves back together after a loved one is killed, wounded or psychologically damaged through post-traumatic stress disorder. That remains the same in the countries where the wars were waged.

People die. It's a fact of life. Anyone can say that, but the manner in which people are asked or required to die must be more self-directed than the death that comes from one person trying to kill another. History is rife with examples of terrible choices made in the name of saving mankind from itself.

As Catholic Christians, we need to discover our power. We, in fact, are the "deciders," especially if enough of us come together to make our will known to those who say they would govern wisely and fairly even when they don't.

When we use Scripture as our guide rather than the strategies of war, we have a far better chance of really winning peace and providing a safe future for intact families.