The Fog of War

from The Magic Pond and other fables

A newlywed couple set up home in a village, where they hoped to live in bliss. But the village was on the border between two lands. Great lands, with languages and cultures, and music and festivals and gods – each of which were different, depending upon which land you chose to stand in.

Upon their wedding night the couple were awoken by the sound of distant cannon-fire. “No matter,” said the husband. “Sometimes you have to send a clear message.”

“Indeed,” agreed the wife. “You do, don’t you?” – just as a shell demolished their chicken house, and killed all their chickens, and their dog.

The next morning they surveyed the damage to their village. Many houses and buildings had been levelled.

“You see – ” said the husband to the other villagers – “Sometimes you just have to show people who’s boss.”

“I suppose so, yes,” they agreed. “You have to.”

The following night a plane flew over, and the villagers rushed to the church. The couple took their chances and stayed at home. The plane dropped an incendiary device, the church was burned to the ground. The following morning the survivors gathered together.

“Sometimes you have to be firm with people,” the husband reminded them.

“You do don’t you?” they agreed. “Very firm.”

Night after night the planes flew over, laying waste to the whole of the borderlands. The couple shivered in their basement and ate tinned food.

“We may be uncomfortable,” the husband conceded. “But sometimes you have to stick to your principles.”

“Absolutely,” his friends agreed – via shortwave radio.

Tanks rolled through the countryside; their nation was invaded. Their crops were burned, their livestock slaughtered, their homes destroyed.

“Sometimes you have to make your point,” the husband remarked to an occupying soldier.

“Exactly,” said the soldier. “Sums it up nicely.”

Members of the local resistance – including the wife’s brother and three of the husband’s cousins – were captured and executed in the village square. Those left alive were apoplectic with hysteria and grief.

“Well,” said the husband. “Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind.”

“I suppose so,” they agreed. “When you put it like that.”

In the capital, many miles away, the fighting was protracted. The invading power grew weary, and deployed a nuclear weapon. It was brighter than a thousand suns; by dawn the following morning the sky and the land and the people had turned the same shade of grey.

“You see,” said the husband with his dying breath – clinging to his dead wife’s body. “Sometimes, you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

They rose to their heaven. The founder of their church and the son of their god stood at the gates. There was a lengthy queue, but in time they gained admittance.

“I know you’re busy,” said the man to the son of the god. “But I feel I should explain that sometimes you have to do the right thing.”

“Don’t mention it,” said the son of the god. “It’s the fog of war, you know. I quite understand. Nobody to blame.”

Moral: Sometimes there really isn’t anything you can do about it.

© Adam Acidophilus 2013