Monday, 12 July 2010

‘Collateral damage’ joins mainstream modern warfare

In the old days, wars were fought with honour. Soldiers met on appointed battlefields and fought until one army was victorious. The losers surrendered and to the victor went the spoils. Undoubtedly, there were incidents of looting, pillaging and other unsavoury stuff that soldiers are apt to do during wars.
However, by and large, civilians continued with their dreary lives in villages and hamlets. Only their 'masters' changed as armies won and lost wars on battlefields.

Yes, then as now, it was said that 'all's fair in love and war.' In the old days perhaps that meant bribing someone inside a walled city to open the city gates, poisoning the king or buying the loyalty of a general. Today, it more likely refers to the justified killing of civilians as part of a broader war effort.
Whether one speaks of suicide bombers or UN mandated stabilization forces erroneously killing civilians, such conclusions are not merely based on anecdotal evidence. (Although the daily newspapers sufficiently portray the horrific amount of civilian suffering in today's war zones.)
In her 1999 book 'New and Old Wars,' Mary Kaldor reveals the facts underlying the dreadful trend in modern warfare. In the early part of the twentieth century, almost 90% of all were casualties were soldiers. Of all the casualties in World War Two, 50% were civilians. (Dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki coupled with allied air force bombing raids on 'strategic' targets in Germany during the last few years of the war started racking up the civilian numbers.) Today, more than 50% of wartime casualties are civilian.*
The mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion at Nagasaki. Within four months of its detonation, the bomb resulted in the deaths of 60,000 - 80,000 people in the city

Dropping bombs on civilian areas by air force planes as done during World War Two is one thing. Killing civilians by uniformed, disciplined soldiers during engagements with rebel groups is another. However, the worst of the lot is intentionally killing 'soft' civilian targets by suicide bombers, intending to browbeat populations into submission.
(It's irrelevant whether the suicide attack takes place in Tel Aviv, Kabul or Pakistan's tribal areas – by targeting civilians such attacks are morally and religiously unjustifiable.)
Sadly, the way warfare has been transformed into 'total warfare' leaves little doubt that civilian deaths will continue to dominate warfare for many years to come.
Warfare, like everything else in the digital age, has been 'democratized.' The front lines are no longer manned by soldiers but by unwitting civilians. Unfortunately, neither bombs nor bullets discriminate when choosing victims for death.  

*The data is referenced in Loretta Napoleoni's book, 'Terror Inc.' published in 2003.

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