There are no good wars

Ken Burns’ new film series depicts America in World War II.

Ken Burns’ “The War,” a seven-part documentary on World War II, will premiere this Sunday on PBS.

The topic is not new to American television or film. However, Burns’ documentary will specifically look at the experience of the soldier, his family and his home. “The War” is not glorified by politicians’ words or generals’ campaigns. Instead, the individual cost of war is examined.

Even at a time when there is defined good and defined evil, as in World War II, no war is good – war is only necessary.

Events in the war, from the Pacific to Europe, are told through the experiences of U.S. citizens at home and in combat from Waterbury, Conn., Mobile, Ala., Sacramento, Calif. and Luverne, Minn. These experiences are universal and occur in the United States today.

“The War” is not a political film – it is very personal – but it is the personal that draws parallels with the current Iraq War. The mothers are the same. The fathers are the same. And the soldiers are the same. Towns continue to mourn a soldier’s death and celebrate his or her return. It is still small towns that sacrifice the most in wartime for the United States.

This constant in American history represents both the worst and best of our country. It is the worst because war is still waged and the necessity of war is now questioned. It is the best because the soldier and his or her sacrifice are still valued.

“History is a set of questions we in the present ask of the past,” Burns said in an interview. “It is informed by our anxieties, by our failures, by our successes, by our hopes, by our wishes, by all the questions we have.”

It is important for Americans to view Burns’ film. Just as his “Civil War” documentary, “The War” is an aspect of the American identity. Wars define entire eras and shape a people. The Iraq War will be no different. It is history that can prevent or cause wars – for when history is forgotten and questions are not asked, peace is impossible.