The Dissident

Lover of philosophy, politics, and spirituality

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When We Talk About War, Why Not Discuss Collateral Damage?

collateral damage: noun : deaths, injuries, and damage to the property of people who are not in the military that happens as a result of the fighting in a war.

In WWI there was a ten-to-one ratio of military personnel killed versus civilians, whereas in WWII that ratio became 60 percent civilians, 40 percent military. Since WWII, a vast majority of the people who have gotten killed in wars have been civilians. Gino Strada, the Italian war surgeon who has operated on war victims all over the world these last 10 years, estimates that 90 percent are civilians, and one-third are children.

And by the way, I don’t want to insist on the distinction between innocent civilians and soldiers who are not innocent. The Iraqi soldiers whom we crushed with bulldozers, toward the end of the First Gulf War in 1991, in that way were they not innocent? The U.S. Army just buried them; hundreds and hundreds of them. What of the Iraqi soldiers the United States mowed down in the so called Turkey Shoot as they were retreating already defeated? Who were these soldiers on the other side? They weren’t Saddam Hussein. They were just poor young men who had been conscripted.

I suggest that the history of bombing – and no one has bombed more than this nation – is a history of endless atrocities, all calmly explained by deceptive and deadly language like “accident,” “military targets,” and “collateral damage.”

Indeed in both WWIII and in Vietnam, the historical record shows that there was a deliberate decision to target civilians in order to destroy morale of the enemy: hence the firebombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, the B-52’s over Hanoi, the jet bombers over peaceful villages in the Vietnam courtside. When some argue that we can engage on “limited military action” without “an excessive use of force,” they are ignoring the history of bombing. The momentum of war rides roughshod over limits.

 

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