We are not here to sing, We're here to kill the dove

by Petros Evdokas

I had to report in for military duty this morning. In the last few days I've been deprived of sleep and a virus threw me into trembling chills and feverish hallucinations yesterday. I woke up this morning too early, very reluctant. Nauseous, and sick in my bones. Almost incapable of getting dressed. The effort to locate my combat boots and uniform was exhausting. Couldn't find my underwear.

The automatic rifle they'd given me to keep at home is no longer here because of my travels abroad - they keep it at the base. I'm so grateful - I probably would not be able to lift or carry it. Do I still count as "able to bear arms?"

Nausea brings up interesting feelings toward the military.

In the process of getting ready I thought I'd try to "lighten up the mood" and focus, listen to some music. Found an audio cassette from a long time ago. It went into the slot, I pushed the button and ...a cataclysm of tears threw me back on the bed, my chest crumbling with an earthquake. Oh,

Her Voice, a siren calling out to souls floating on the winds, speared me and fixed my attention to the words:

"Why all these bugles crying
for squads of young men drilled
To kill and to be killed
and waiting by this train

Why the orders loud and hoarse,
why the engine's groaning cough
As it strains to drag us off
into the holocaust

Why crowds who sing and cry
and shout and fling us flowers
And trade their right for ours
to murder and to die

. The dove has torn her wings so no more songs of love
. We are not here to sing, we're here to kill the dove

Why has this moment come
when childhood has to die
When hope shrinks to a sigh
and speech into a drum

Why are they pale and still,
young boys trained overnight
Conscripts forced to fight
and dressed in grey to kill

These rain clouds massing tight,
this trainload battle bound
This moving burial ground
sent thundering toward the night

Why statues towering brave
above the last defeat
Old word and lies repeat
across the new made grave

Why the same still birth
that victory always brought
These hoards of glory bought
by men with mouths of earth

Dead ash without a spark
where cities glittered bright
For guns probe every light
and crush it in the dark

And why your face undone
with jagged lines of tears
That gave in those first years
all peace I ever won

Your body in the gloom,
the platform fading back
Your shadow on the track,
a flower on a tomb

And why these days ahead
when I must let you cry
And live prepared to die
as if our love were dead

. The dove has torn her wings so no more songs of love
. We are not here to sing, we're here to kill the dove."

La Colombe / The Dove

The song is named La Colombe/ The Dove. It was written by Jacques Brel and translated by Alasdair Clayre, recorded by Judy Collins in 1966.

Judy Collins' voice rips me apart.

Was it a mistake to play this music? Did I disable my "military morale" before I even got to the base?

I managed to get dressed. Realized I had the wrong shirt-jacket on, and went through another frantic search for the proper one which includes the insignia of rank and branch of service. Without them, I'm just another old fart with a bald spot in a camouflage "hunting suit". In case of war I'm supposed to be leading others,

"squads of young men drilled
To kill and to be killed"

- the "glorious" insignia on my jacket are the ticket to dispensing my duties. I found the correct jacket and took off speeding, as Jim Morisson says, to get to the other side of the morning. I never found it.

In case of war my duties are to direct artillery fire on the forces of the dreaded Opponent, the army that's invaded and occupying our country. There's enough firepower in our unit to destroy small towns, and entire sections of cities. It's horrible to think in these terms. But it helps to keep a sense of moral perspective attuned to our moral obligations. It's also misleading to think in these terms, because our targets are not towns and cities, but tanks, aeroplanes, naval forces and other artillery units. Still, there are human beings in those tanks, living breathing individuals with lives and families, with dreams and desires.

When I find myself in nauseating moods like this my thoughts and gratitude return to Terzakis, my old instructor from Artillery School. Like many of us in that period, he was in the democratic underground resistance that was active within the military. He was also a Pacifist. During special sessions in class Terzakis used to teach us some "covert" techniques for using artillery fire in ways that can prevent and avoid unnecessary killing even in the midst of warfare, ways that can reduce or avoid enemy casualties while still accomplishing our mission. I practice those scenarios in my head, I pray that I will never have to use them, and I'm grateful to know these things are possible and that I have the knowledge to do that if it ever becomes necessary. Preserving the enemy's life while accomplishing the mission may sound like lunacy but it serves a higher mission, and it's one tactic in the much wider warfare that's now tearing apart the world - as my Bahai'i friends say it's "warfare on Earth because there's warfare in Heaven". Our tactics must be appropriate.

Thinking in these terms - even with nausea - might be morally comforting. But in some ways it's also ridiculous. Beyond morals, in terms of modern military reality, the combined firepower of the entire army in which I serve is equal to a slingshot; our situation is that of an ant facing an elephant. The enemy has enough firepower to destroy the whole country in a few days and to kill everyone in it.

Our weapons are old, almost symbolic. Some "high tech" weapon systems exist, but they depend on other technologies and commerce which are not viable or sustainable in case of war (like electricity, or imported fuel!), while for political reasons the Command refuses to draw up defence plans based on low-tech reality, or on flexible tactics of decentralized autonomous units, which are more appropriate to a defensive peoples' war. Some of us call this treason, and see it entrenched at the highest levels of the military~political hierarchy.

Ridiculous, hopeless, pathetic, but it's all true. And yet we serve: in case of hostilities some people need to hold the line by any means available, defend what we can, do everything possible to delay the enemy advance and hold on for as long as possible to give enough time for our families and loved ones, civilians and non-combatants to be evacuated to some sort of safety. If it can be found.

It bothers me that the conflict with the dreaded Opponent may have to come to military force again - my personal participation in the operations of an engine that purposefully produces death and mayhem is extremely distressing. Even if there's a good reason to prepare a defence, it's still a horror. An abomination.

Even with all of its inadequacies, disorganization, pathetically small size and political deficiencies it might become necessary to mobilize that engine of death. And as I said, there's enough firepower to destroy small towns, and entire sections of cities:
but I have friends and comrades among the "enemy" forces.

Just like me, they serve on the other side across the line. They wake up on terrible mornings too, and put on their combat uniforms to train and practice for terrible things - the business of killing - just like I do. Some of them are in the reserves, like myself, and some of them are full-time soldiers, like I used to be. Some of their loved ones and family members are my friends, too - we're all active together in the Peace and Anti-War movement. The movement work we do together across the lines is still not strong enough to produce results for a lasting Peace - so we are cursed to work together for Peace while we train separately for war.

I'm older than most of the people in our communities who are under arms. I'm "Grandpa" at the base, older than my unit's commanding officer, older than the division commander. Some of my associates say I should bribe someone or use influence to try to get out of service, like many other people have done. I worry about this.

The military I serve in is no longer trapped with racist and nationalist ideology as it used to be decades ago. It doesn't even have a militarist spirit - it can hardly conjure an "esprit de corps". It's very down to earth, almost democratic - or at least tolerant - and on the whole it's very humane compared to what it used to be just after the war in '74 that resulted in a total devastation of the country. During that period people like me within the military were singled out for torture, abuse and punishment of all sorts, and that led to some deaths, suicides, murders and heavy injuries. Now there's a whole new era, hardly anyone remembers those days. Nobody who serves in this military wants war.

There's a very pacific and matter- of- fact approach to service that keeps the military away from poisonous ideologies. It's not a revolutionary people's army by any stretch of the imagination, but in comparison to most armies under capitalist colonial "democracies" it's one of the most humane and lenient assemblages under arms, with overtones of medieval and middleastern laid back attitudes and some common sense ...along with total disorganization and extreme inefficiency.

And yet, despite the progressive character of the rank and file soldiers and even most of the military leadership, the politicians who are at the head of the Government and those across "on the other side", those who lead the dreaded Opponent, are mostly irresponsible, clumsy, willful instruments of foreign imperialists and opportunist servants of the local ruling classes - they could and might lead us into conflict and war easily.

There's been no shooting for decades. Our "opposing" populations have managed to keep a friendly tone toward each other despite racist provocations and efforts to stir up nationalism by provocateurs and adventurists. But there's war and conflict all around us in the Middle East now. The global Empire is itching to destabilize and pull more and more countries into eternal warfare. Those in our country who lead the various political and military forces on both sides of the minefields can not be trusted. They might trigger an incident that can easily lead to military operations, if it suits their ruling class masters and if our populations can be swayed toward hatred again.

Hatred is easy to manufacture.

So I worry about leaving the service. I'm happy knowing that there are Peace activists - my comrades - who serve in the enemy camp, as I serve on this side. Their presence, in case of hostilities, will help reduce or prevent atrocities, might save lives, might keep the military honest and bound to its code of honour. Same on this side. If war breaks out, there are people like myself in every unit of the military. Everyone will do their best to protect civilians, to reduce the slaughter. But it's not enough.

Invasion and occupation breeds injustice. Without Justice there will be no Peace. It's an axiom, a self-evident truth that has been valid for as long as humans have lived on the planet. Our comrades on the other side across the minefields oppose the military occupation of the country by the authorities that rule above them. They are active in the pro-democracy movement, they are actively working to oust the military government. They oppose the racist ethnic cleansing that has kept our country divided. They oppose the illegal settlement of the country which is altering the demography and balance of populations in violation of the Geneva Convention. But their voices are not enough. Their actions are not strong enough yet to make a difference. Occasional assassinations, threats, bombings and other acts of state-sponsored terrorism originating from overt and covert ("deep state") actions by those in power keep the dissidents mostly disempowered. In a way, they are very much in the same situation as the Peace and Justice activists within Israel and within the US. Honorable, brave, humane, but not yet able to reverse the military power or the genocidal policies of their governments.

So I keep serving.
And live prepared to die
as if our love were dead

Oh, the nausea...

...Why all these bugles crying
for squads of young men drilled
To kill and to be killed

. The dove has torn her wings so no more songs of love
. We are not here to sing, we're here to kill the dove.

Petros Evdokas
member of the KaliMerhaba
TurkoHellenic BiCommunal friendship group,