There is a bit of a dispute over who originally said it or what the original wording was, but one thing all rational people can agree on is the veracity of the statement that “the first casualty of war is the truth.”
For so many people, the present conflict in Ukraine started the moment Russian troops entered the country. But, as with all issues of borders and self-determination, the truth is that there is a history to the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and that history certainly predates February 24, 2022.
Every person in the world who is trying to follow these events is at a huge disadvantage as to what the real story is. Over 2,500 years ago the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote, “All warfare is based on deception.” Imagine what this brilliant military mind could have done with modern social media and state-influenced news services.
It is no coincidence that the father of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Besides getting women to smoke cigarettes by denoting the cancer sticks as “torches of freedom,” Bernays solidified his name in the world of propaganda when he helped the United Fruit Company with their CIA-backed coup in Guatemala in 1954.
The importance of psychological warfare cannot be underestimated, and therefore it is just as much an enemy of peace as are armored cars, tanks and guns. One person’s “news” is another person’s “disinformation”. One country’s “war crime” is another country’s “false flag”.
Thinking people, especially thinking Christian people, need to approach situations like this with great caution. It is important to focus our attention on what weapons Christ has given to us to fight this war against truth.
The greatest of these weapons is the Eucharist. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a prayer to be recited after the reception of the Eucharist, and in it he states, “May it [the Eucharist] be a helmet of faith and a shield of good will.” Faith and good will. Two essentials of a good and holy life that are in great need during times of international crisis. So essential are they, that they are the targets of propaganda.
Faith and good will can go a long way in bringing peace to a violent and bellicose world. Global leaders who do not approach each other with these two virtues are not worthy of the good people whom they are called to serve and to protect. And the people of Ukraine and Russia, the people of Crimea and Belarus, the people of Luhansk and Donetsk are good people caught in the line of fire of bullets, bombs, and lies.
Lent, which begins this week, is a time to bind ourselves more closely to the Cross of Christ through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time to refocus our attention on Jesus as He manifests Himself in those who are the least of our sisters and brothers. Lent is a time to recommit ourselves to loving our neighbor and praying for our enemies. And Lent is therefore a time to remember that the enemy is also our neighbor, our sister or brother, the face of Jesus manifested in our lives.
During this time of Lent and military strife let us turn to our Blessed Mother, who holds her Son in her arms. Let us focus our gaze upon the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, known in the Orthodox Church as the Virgin Theotokos
(“God bearer”) of the Passion, and let us pray for faith and for good will, for honesty and integrity, and for the humility needed to make the sacrifices so necessary to bringing peace to our fragile and wounded world.