"You Don't Play with Blood"
I don't know the exact number of soldiers that have been killed since the beginning of the Four Day War that began on April 2, 2016. Although even one is too many, the number of dead hovers somewhere around 100. It might not be a staggering figure in the context of much larger conflicts exploding around the world, but for us it is.
After spending a few short days in Karabakh, the overwhelming sensation I felt was the disquieting, almost mournful silence. I'm not sure how to describe it...how do you characterize silence or loss or despair?
How do you begin to console a mother who has lost her 18-year-old son? How does a father begin to grapple with the pain of having survived the first war only to lose his boy to a new one? Too many people lost sons, brothers, husbands, friends. Others held their breath as their loved ones left for the front to volunteer. Countless parents continue living with the agony of knowing that their children are serving at some of the most dangerous frontline positions along the Karabakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact.
In the midst of this almost collective anguish, we rallied around our soldiers and army. We began fundraising campaigns, including collection of supplies ranging in everything from raincoats to cigarettes to candy. School children wrote letters of encouragement and gratitude. University students began translating official news in a multitude of languages. Fathers left for the frontlines to be with their sons...
And it became apparent that we weren't ready. We, the people, weren't ready to deal with a new war and the losses it entailed and the shortcomings of our political and military leadership were laid bare for all to see. While those in positions of power were busy amassing their personal fortunes, building extravagant homes for themselves and their families, they failed us, the people, and even more tragically, the soldiers, on every possible level - morally, politically, militarily, diplomatically.
Your luxury cars and fat bank accounts, your shopping trips to Paris, Dubai and Moscow, your expensive jewelry, your personal chapels that you have constructed on your exorbitant plots of land will not buy you a place in heaven. Quite the opposite, they will only incur the wrath of the people you proclaim to serve. Serve. That is a word you will never understand because you deem it your right to shit on everything and everyone instead of fulfilling the calling of your esteemed offices - that is to serve THE PEOPLE.
And we, the people, are perhaps just as culpable. We have granted you the levers of your absolute power. We have lived in our bubbles of perceived existence and pretended to be doing good, doing our 'thing,' but by doing so we allowed you to continue to expand your power and riches because we were getting along; our tolerance for abuse knows no limitations just as your greed and indifference knows no limitations.
The one thing, the most important thing that you forgot, however, is that "you don't play with blood" as a veteran said to me in Stepanakert. Yes, that's right. You, us, all of us have the blood of those boys on our hands. It's time for you to leave and for us, the ordinary people, to take ownership of this country. You see, when you steal from state coffers, you steal bullets that would have helped save a life. When you don't pay your taxes, you steal military equipment that would have prevented the 'adversary' from taking over strategically 'unimportant' posts. When you divert funds from state programs for personal gain, you steal a future. You are no longer capable to lead us, not that you ever were. You may steal our votes, but you can no longer steal the truth. You no longer have the moral authority.
Instead of preparing the country for peace, you kept preparing us for war. You kept the Karabakh conflict hanging over our heads; any sign of domestic turmoil against corruption or injustice that permeates every aspect of our daily lives and you pulled the Karabakh card. Remember people, you said, we have enemies at the gate, don't rock the boat. But when that war came, you were found to be sorely lacking and the boys, ah those boys, paid the price.
The real heroes of this war are not the military or political elite. The real heroes are those men and boys who valiantly kept the border from collapsing. Your charade is over gentlemen and it's time for you to leave.