Friday, April 1, 2011

War And Innocent Life

So this past Monday, during the social time after my prayer meeting, I got into a discussion with three of the guys about the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and about war in general. 

It was as if something had come over me. I was making these bold, passionate statements instead of my usual calm, carefully nuanced ones. I was making simple, elegant points instead of tripping over my own complicated logic, which is more the norm for me (especially in verbal conversations). Talking afterward with one of the ladies who had been listening, she told me, "Stay on your soapbox". I think it was the Spirit moving in me, so I'm going to put a spiel about this up on my blog, too.


So here's the thing. It really, really matters when innocent civilians get killed. Killing one innocent civilian is, yes, just as evil as aborting one innocent baby. Because it's the same thing. It doesn't matter if you come from a family with a long military tradition and you've always been taught that you do whatever you need to do in war, that there's no way to wage a war without killing civilians, and we should just accept that and get over it. There are families out there, too, who think that abortion is just fine. That doesn't make it right.

You think there's no way to wage a war justly anyhow, so it doesn't matter? I tell you, yes there is a right way to do it. And one of the requirements for doing it right is this. That you have to do every. possible. thing. to make sure that no innocent civilians get killed. I feel that I cannot emphasize this enough. Everything in your power. EVERYTHING.

War is like self-defense. When someone attacks you, you're allowed to fight back. All those soldiers out there - they're attacking you. It's ok if you fight back. It's NOT ok if you start killing someone who wasn't attacking you. Civilians are not soldiers. It doesn't matter if they support the regime that is attacking you. It doesn't matter if they voted for Hitler. It doesn't matter if they donated money to Stalin. If they're "spiritually attacking" you, fine. Attack them back spiritually. With prayer. You don't get to use physical force or kill someone unless they are attacking you - physically attacking you - first. If Ralph points a gun at you, you don't get to shoot his friend Tom who's standing by cheering him on, because Tom isn't attacking you.

Yes, the Vietnam war offered an exception to the idea that civilians are not soldiers. Knowing that even kids might have bombs strapped to them is horrible and I'm not going to judge anyone who shot a kid to defend themselves. But that's an exception. That's not how most of our wars have been fought, and we can't act as if that were the norm where it's not

The atom bomb - that was unjustifiable. We dropped an atom bomb on cities. Cities! Cities full of women and children and elderly, normal folks going about their business as best they could. And we killed them. And not in a quick and simple way, either, but in a way that left many of them in painful, lingering deaths over the course of a couple months. Imagine for a second that, after we invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had dropped a nuclear bomb on Savannah, Georgia. Let's even say that there was a military base stationed in or around the city. We would all be pretty horrified, wouldn't we? We wouldn't say, "Oh, this is awful, but it's war, and he was justified. He was probably even trying to save lives by ending the war sooner by showing us how powerful and dedicated he is so we wouldn't keep fighting. And there was a military base there, so it was a valid military target, even though hundreds of thousands of civilians died." Yet that's the way people talk about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It's lunacy. Don't think this way, people!

Do you think this is just about the atom bomb? It's not. It's not even mostly about the atom bomb. That's done. It already happened and there isn't anything we can do to change it. But guess what? This problem is still going on. 

What, you say? You don't believe that America has a problem with killing innocent civilians? Let me refer you to the article that I had looked at the morning before I got into a debate about all this: The Kill Team Photos. I think I got through two photos before they were too graphic for me. Or maybe you should go read some of those Wikileaks documents about what our soldiers do. Yes, Assange appears to be an arrogant jerk, and yes, national security should be respected. But you know what? It's a lot like the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandal. The reporters may be biased jerks out to paint you in the worst light possible. But when they show up this nasty thing that's going on, you shouldn't dither around accusing them and insisting they shouldn't have made it public. The most important thing is to, as my brother put it after seeing some of the Wikileaks publications, "stop being evil". Stop letting the soldiers get away with killing civilians. Stop dropping bombs on areas where civilians are likely to be. Pay attention to the civilians. Don't dismiss them as beneath your notice.

Need more convincing? Try these estimates of Iraqi deaths. The Wikileaks estimates are the smallest ones there, and the civilian deaths are over half of the total death count. That means that for every soldier or terrorist we kill, we've killed at least one civilian, too, if not three. Picture if you were living in enemy-occupied territory, and your brother Paul was part of the resistance movement. So a soldier breaks in, kills Paul, and then shoots your brother Mack, too, even though Mack wasn't part of the resistance or doing anything other than trying to go to work and live his life. No wonder they hate us. We treat them like crap.

And Iraq and Afghanistan isn't the only recent issue. Americans want to rejoice over our intervention in Libya. We're the good guys coming to the side of the oppressed people who are just trying to get rid of their evil dictator, right? Err... perhaps it's not so simple. Aside from the possibility that the fighting is more of a civil war between two tribes that don't like each other instead of a fight against an oppressive regime, there is the fact that our intervention is putting civilians at risk. Here's a quote from the article I read today:
Even so, the Vatican has to consider what it’s hearing from [the Catholics in Libya] -- including a warning from the Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, that the NATO bombing is endangering civilians. For instance, he reported on Wednesday that two hospitals have been damaged and their patients sent into shock. [Source]

Hear that, you Americans? This isn't "that barbaric Ghadafi is bombing a hospital, see how uncivilized he is."... this is NATO bombing a hospital. Us. We're doing it. We're the bad guys. That wasn't a target? So what. We still damaged it.

Read that whole article yet? It says the Pope is concerned about civilian deaths. Hear that, my Catholic friends?  The Pope is worried about civilians dying in Libya. Don't you think, oh, maybe, that it's our job to follow his lead and do anything we can to prevent civilian deaths?

I'm not being a pacifist here. I'm not saying we shouldn't be intervening in Libya. I'm saying that we need to do every single thing that we possibly can to avoid civilian deaths. And we aren't doing that right now.

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