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The Dove or the Sword
Commander Graves stood silently looking out over the valley like a gargoyle. The valley was lit with the lights of the city it contained and the military base farther down the river. Sounds of city-life drifted up to him confirming his fears about that night. A lone soldier ran up the trail to the overlook where he was standing.
“Sir!” barked the soldier as he snapped to attention.
“Speak sergeant,” ordered Graves.
“The charges have been placed and the dam is
ready to be blown.” Stated the sergeant, then he reverently took out a detonator and placed it in the Commanders hand.
Graves stared down at the detonator. It was a simple looking device somewhere along the lines of a electric toy car controller, but it only had two buttons on it, a red one and a green.
It seemed so harmless but the Commander knew better than that; he held the future of the war in his hands. The red button would blow up the charges and kill millions of people, while the green button would disable them. He had requested this configuration on the slight chance a different solution could be found that would still cripple the Chinese army but let the civilians live. He thought back to just a few months before when the world had been at peace and none of this was his responsibility.
He stared out the window out over the base where he had been assigned. Everywhere soldiers, pilots, and engineers ran around like so many lemmings in response to the news that had just been delivered. After months of tense political meetings China had finally launched its long awaited campaign against America and the other nations of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). There was a loud knock at the door. “Come in,” Graves called softly.
The door opened with a faint squeak and a soldier walked in with a dispatch in his hand. He snapped to attention and said. “This just came from the Pentagon sir.”
“Thank you soldier. You can just put it on the desk.” He replied without looking.
The door clicked as the private left. Graves turned and examined his reflection in the rooms one mirror. His face was strong but it was fixed in a permanent frown. His steely black hair only served to make the gaze from his stormy gray eyes even more intense. He sighed and turned to pick up the notice.
“Dear Commander Graves,” the message began “as you are no doubt aware China has launched its beginning offensive against America. The situation has been analyzed and it has been concluded that we have neither the men or firepower to resist China’s overwhelmingly massive forces. In light of this it has been decided that the war will essentially come down to these early days. We need to strike a blow against them that will leave them reeling with fear and shock. We need a decisive strike that will eliminate a large portion of their forces. The 5th and 6th Chinese armies are gathering in the Yangtze River area to consolidate before attacking. They must be eliminated by any means necessary. To accomplish this task you will be given one platoon of men to infiltrate deep into enemy territory and you are to blow up the Three Gorges Dam by use of charges on the foundations. This will eliminate both armies and destroy many industrial centers clustered in the area. Your mission is of the upmost importance and secrecy. Tell no one what you are doing or where you are going. You will leave at 1300 hours tomorrow. Good luck Commander. You hold the fate of the world in your hands.”
Commander Graves sat for awhile in shock. To destroy the Three Gorges Dam? That was insane! It would kill millions of innocent civilians as well as destroy the economy of all the regions surrounding it, but even as he thought this he knew that it was a masterstroke. They had picked the one spot in the country that would cause the most damage and devastation. He glanced at the clock on his desk. It read 2200 hours. Graves sighed as he looked down at the memo, then he called to the private outside the door and began to issue orders to get the men briefed and prepared for departure.
Graves looked back out over the valley towards the dam. It stood tall against the sky like an ominous sentinel as the citizens in the valley below continued with their business unaware of the imminent disaster. ‘Was this really what it came down to?’ he wondered. ‘We are supposed to be the civilized ones, always fighting fair and trying to limit the loss of life.’ Commander Graves thought of his predicament. On one hand he had been taught his entire life that nothing warrants the death of millions of innocent victims to achieve, but if he did not destroy the dam the Chinese regime would sweep across the world bringing the free nations to their knees before the onslaught. He agonized over his choice. His orders were clear; there was to be no mercy shown to them. But at the same time Graves couldn’t help but think that they were humans too and had a right to live same as anyone else.
“Sir” the soldier prompted, “are you alright?”
“Yes sergeant I’m fine,” Commander Graves responded, “just thinking, that’s all.”
“Permission to speak sir?” the sergeant asked.
“Permission granted.” Stated Graves flatly.
“Sir, with all due respect it is not our place to question our orders, we can only do as we are told and hope that eventually it will turn out to have been the right thing to do.” said the sergeant bluntly.
“No your quite right sergeant,” Graves said, “but sometimes I have to wonder if any one human has the right to extinguish millions of lives over a silly political dispute.”
“I wouldn’t know sir,” replied the sergeant, “I can only trust that somewhere out there is a god who is willing to forgive the actions committed on the orders of another.”
Graves looked down at the remote and considered the dilemma again. He looked back across the valley towards the dam. He closed his eyes and without another thought brought his finger down on the button.