May 17, 2004

Horror Is In The Eye Of The Beholder?

"We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan's power to make war." (August 9, 1945) "...and I'd do it again." --Harry Truman
I was going to write a long post tonight about the history of civilian casualties during warfare. But I think I'll just post a quicky...

The targetting of innocent bystanders in a war has, throughout history, been seen as a barbaric practice.
It was a taboo, universally acknowledged as unconscionable, until World War II.

Hitler had bombed Guernica Spain and, suddenly, all bets were off.
The bombing of London by the Nazis and of Tokyo by the US -- and the war-ending bombing of Berlin -- were seen as neccessary to winning the war.
That the killing of civilian men women and children, in the interest of the bigger picture, was a no-no, is both an old and new concept.
But it had conveniently been forgotten during WWII.

There's an excellent overview HERE.

The more I think about this the more I think I'm beginning to understand the Muslim reticence to outwardly condemning Islamist terrorists. Terrorising the population at-large with blitzkrieg was beginning to seem like a useful stategy toward forcing governments to give up the fight for the sake of the innocent.

The presumed humanity of the enemy was a weapon to use against them.

But, we've always been disgusted with the idea of bombing cities - even as we did it. We excused the horror, temporarily, on the grounds that the stakes were just that high. The hugeness of the threat determined how willing we were to accept the death of hundreds of thousands of defenseless men, women and children.

Once precision-guided missles and "smart bombs" became usable the debate began to shift toward "collateral damage" again. By the waning years of the Cold War strategists weren't taliking about cities burning up so much as missile silos burning up. The term "military targets" was coming back into vogue.
(I have no links here; only my own memories of the period.)

We have smart bombs; the enemy, in this current war, has small bombs and stealth. The question for them is not "Is killing innocent civilians wrong?", but; "What the hell ELSE are we gonna do?"
When the stakes are that high: the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians may seem like an acceptable price to pay to preserve your very Way of Life.

The wanton slaughter of a city's population is abhorant to us because we know that we have the ability to defeat an army by more sophisticated means; the PR and philosophical hit, if we targetted civilians, would be too devistating to bear. (We could never show our face on the world stage again.)
But, to "armies" that possess less sophisticated means, the destruction of a city is an excusable horror because the stakes are just that high.

Or, to put it even more pompously: The degree to which the killing of civilians is intollerable
is proportionate to the degree to which their deaths are unprofitable.

Am I wondering if it's hypocritical to defend the bombing of Hiroshima while condemning the beheading of Nick Berg?
But I think I may be finding an answer.

We struggle to decide between which we value more: the win or loss, or how the game is played.
Therein may lay the difference between us and them.

We're brought up and taught that it's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game. Most Middle Easterners (and I have this on good authority -- I'm not speaking out of my ass again) are taught to hate Jews.

Most Muslims only hate Americans when they think about how America supports Israel.

I don't think that it's America that Islamists hate. I don't even think that Islamists give a crap about our decadant culture infesting theirs (maybe they even see us as a guilty pleasure).
I'm thinking, more and more, that Islamists hate America soley because she has delivered a Jewish homeland in the midland of Islam.
(And that the very idea that a "seperation of Church and state" is unimaginable to most Middle Eastern Muslims.)

I remember a report in the fall of 2000; just running up to the election. A conversation going on in a gathering place some city in Jordan I think. Bush or Gore? Whaddaya think?
Even though Bill Clinton was reasonably popular in the region a majority were willing to take a chance on Bush.
George Bush? The son of the man who'd attacked Iraq?!
Yep. Even though they despise "Western Imperialism" they had only one thing foremost on their minds: If Gore was elected then the Vice-President would be a Jew.
This, more than anything, illustrates the root of the problem in the Middle East. It's not about sex and violence; it's about sects and violins. (ouch! sorry!)

It might be ironic that America was founded on the principle of religious freedom and is hated by States that think we're out to destroy their own religious Freedom.
No, wait. Only Alanis Morrisette would call that ironic.

Well, I said I wasn't gonna post a long one and I seem to have blathered on again...
I'll just slink away now and maybe re-read this and fix everything I've f'd up and conclude with something that I've forgotten to say.

UPDATE: Oh yeah! What I'd forgotten to say...:
Terrorists. They target your Mom.
Kill them.

Posted by Tuning Spork at May 17, 2004 09:56 PM
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