In the final installment of my journal from the Oslo Freedom Forum last week, I said something about Leymah Gbowee and the Liberian civil war. Actually, there have been two such wars — two civil wars in Liberia. This was the second (1999). And I wrote,
“I remember my American-history teacher in 8th grade: saying, with a tremulous voice, that there was no war like civil war — that it was the worst thing in the world.”
A reader writes me,
. . . I have been nursing my way through Shelby Foote’s trilogy, and I can’t imagine anyone reading it and disputing the judgment that a civil war is the worst thing in the world. But of course, there was a very famous claim to the contrary at the height of Watergate, when Senator Ervin pronounced from the chair of the investigating committee that he had come to regard Watergate as a greater tragedy than the Civil War. That was insane.
Yes — a touch hyperbolic, at a minimum. What “Senator Sam” said, specifically, was,
“I used to think that the Civil War was our country’s greatest tragedy, but I do remember that there were some redeeming features in the Civil War in that there was some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed on both sides. I see no redeeming features in Watergate.”
When I hear about the depravities of civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere, I can hardly believe what the mind of man can imagine, and what he can do. As for our own civil war: yes, worse even than Watergate. (Even than Chappaquiddick!)