Saturday, September 15, 2007


This week the Indian government put forward an official position that the Hindu god Rama isn’t real. Specifically, it told a court that development should be allowed to go ahead in Adam’s Bridge, a chain of shoals linking India and Sri Lanka, because it is a natural formation and was not built by Lord Rama with an army of monkeys.

Pro-war politicians like to talk about “honor.” Actually, not Bush so much, but Cheney and, especially, McCain. At the Petraeus hearing on Tuesday, McCain said, “All of us want our troops to come home, but we should want them to return to us with honor, the honor of victory that is due all of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

While “honor” seems to be important to war supporters, I’m not really sure what they mean when they use the word. Perhaps in McCain’s case the word means nothing: he seems increasingly to be using words in ways that are intended to convey an impression of meaning, rather than to convey actual meaning. For example, in the sentence I just quoted (which presumably he prepared in advance), the reference to the “ultimate sacrifice” seems to say that he wants American troops to return only when they are 1) victorious, and 2) dead. If that is not what he meant, and I’m guessing it isn’t, then we must assume that he just strung some grand-sounding phrases – “honor of victory,” “the ultimate sacrifice” – together willy nilly, in much the same way that I’ll use any excuse to use the phrase “willy nilly” (or “army of monkeys”).

But to return to honor (as opposed to returning with honor), is McCain saying that whether or not honor accrues to individual troops is dependent on whether the war is fought to “victory” or not? Doesn’t seem quite fair. Someone really should ask him to define his terms more clearly.

I know what you’re all asking at this point: did Rama’s monkey army return with monkey honor?

Yes it did.

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