War and Peace

July 27, 2012
By x-gal BRONZE, Clovis, California
x-gal BRONZE, Clovis, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

In the heart of Dublin, surrounded by the ruins of a once glorious country, was a crude, worn-out tent – cleverly concealed beneath some rubbles and debris. It was a dull and misty morning. The sun peeped from the eastern horizon. A thin ray of sunlight filtered into the tent and onto a sleeping figure. He was dressed in ragged, brown apparel with the tricolor of the Irish flag pinned to his chest. The IRA uniform. The ripped sleeve on his right arm revealed a bloody bandage. However, his face was not of a stern, calloused veteran. It was twitched with pain and agony instead, as if he was having a nightmare. His hair was plastered to his head and his hands were clenched into tight fists.

Suddenly, he leaped from his bunk, breathing hard. This abrupt motion stung his injured forearm. He groaned and fell sideways. There, beside his hand, was a 2 by 4 inch military ID. It had the picture of a young man whose face roughly resembled that of the veteran. Underneath it was his name, written in bold-faced letters: Coleman Dubshlaine. “My dear brother,” the veteran whispered. “I killed my brother.” A silent tear caressed his cheek.

He was having second thoughts about the war and his role in it. His father had been a staunch Catholic and hence a vicious supporter of the IRA. The soldier recalled how his father would go out every morning in his plush army uniform with a gun strapped to his waist. Every evening he came back home and proclaimed about successful strategies, petrol bombs, and the number of dead Protestants – bringing plunders from the victims’ houses as proof. Then he would sit his family around the fireplace and lead the family prayer. Strangely, every time the soldier opened the Bible, he came to the same page. The Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not kill…thou shalt not steal…thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s possession. He was confused by the hypocrisy by which his family and the rest of the country lived in. He never understood the purpose of all this violence. His father had said, “Those Protestants, they are different from us.”
Yet, I never understood the difference. According to the history channel on TV, both religious groups were based on Jesus and the Bible.

Every time he watched the news, he was greeted with gloomy scenes of death and destruction. He himself was terrified to go outside, with bombs exploding right at his door step. However, his father assured him that these were glorious times. He told of the heroic deeds of his father and his efforts to preserve his homeland. He claims that he is doing this for the children of Ireland, so that they can have a better future. However, his father does not understand that the he and the other children will only have tales of grief, death, and destruction. What if the war goes on and on until the land itself is impoverished, until there is nothing to preserve? Then there won’t be a tomorrow to celebrate. However, he never voiced his fears to his father. He just wanted his father to be happy and proud about him. So he joined the IRA army after his father was wounded. And a few days before was his first kill; his own brother.

He quickly wiped his face and wondered how long he had been in this crude shelter. A day? Or two? He remembered being chased by the Unionists. Unfortunately, he ran into the enemy camp. They open fired at him. He had dodged the first few bullets. However, he slipped and fell in a ditch. Thinking that he was dead, they left. He made a crude shelter out of whatever he had and then might have become unconscious. So, he was still in the enemy’s campsite. He would have to be extra careful.

He got up and started climbing out of the ditch. Then cautiously he walked a few yards to his right. Suddenly, he spotted a British soldier standing in front of a tent with a machine gun. All he had was a small revolver. Either he had to shoot the soldier or he would have to go back to where he was and walk in the opposite direction. If he shot him, then the other soldiers in the tent would surely find him and kill him. So he decided to proceed with his alternative choice. As he took a step backwards, he stepped on some dried leaves and made a crunching noise. He froze. “Whose there,” asked the enemy. The veteran tried to crouch, but the movement was spotted by the enemy and he fired. The bullet whizzed past his ear. He cursed and fired back. Suddenly, five men started running towards him. He tried to outrun them. It was a bad move. They fired at him. He was hit in the leg and he fell forward. But, then he heard gun shots from the opposite direction. His pursuers fell right beside him, dead.

“Get up,” ordered a short, portly man. He was from the IRA and there was a whole regiment behind him. A few Protestant UVFs came out of the camp to see what all the commotion was about. Both the group started firing at each other as somebody dragged the veteran to safety.

The battle was over in less than five minutes. All of the enemies were either dead or badly injured. The IRA had only a few casualties. “Come on, we’ve got a long ways to go,” said the portly man. “Safe for now,” muttered the veteran. All the thoughts about the Ten Commandments, love, and peace seemed forgotten. “This is war,” the veteran thought. There is no rationality here. There is only the prey and the predator.

The author's comments:
This piece was inspired by Liam O' Flaherty's story "The Sniper." It portrays the thoughts of a soldier during the "Troubles" - a turbulent period in Ireland, plagued by religious upheavals.

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