Kristin LaTour


Lecture 12: War Problems

“There is no fixed mathematical calculation for what is or isn’t an acceptable level of civilian casualties” Colonel Jim Hellis, U.S. Army War College.

If we are x, and y is others,
we can assume that our lives are of a higher value
because we follow the rules of war.
And our churches and skyscrapers
are more valuable than y’s since y uses theirs for cover.
So if our lives and buildings are more valuable,
we can use force against y until y is overcome
or shows itself as more equal to us.

Furthermore, let’s say that x equals one school full of children,
but we must add in z, the number of men with missiles hiding in the building too,
and subtract the number of our soldiers said men have killed.
And say the number of children is 25,
and the number of terrorists with missiles is 3,
and there are 10 dead soldiers.
And if we add in the cost to train each of those soldiers,
divide by the cosine of the arc of their lives,
and factor in their families’ grief and public opinion,
we arrive at 18,
which is also the age when those young soldiers could join the Army,
and there we have it.

We can bomb that school since the young men who were killed
cannot have died in vain and at such expense,
and since more will die if those 3 terrorists aren’t killed,
and since the children in the school will just grow up to become 25 more gunmen.

The questions you may have about the lives of innocent children
being more valuable than those of grown men,
about their eyes being more sad, their tears more wet, their parents more loving,
about how people feel guilt when they see a child bloodied, missing a hand or a leg
as he is carried from a bombed school,

the answer to all of these is no.

There is no assigned value for a child without hands.

I'm a poet living outside of Chicago in Aurora, IL. I teach at Joliet Jr. College, and am active in Chicago's poetry circles, especially by performing at open mics. I have two chapbooks, Red Beaver Lake, Minnesota published by Pudding house Press, and Blood published by Naked Mannequin press. My work has appeared in After Hours, Pearl, and online at and New Verse News.

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