Weeds in the Garden of Mankind


"The Awful Fact", Terrorists Must Be Killed

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

- Isaac Asimov

I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done.
Far from it.  We must kill 300,000 I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them.

- General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1864

Source: FlickerLab

by George F Will

America's Civil War provides many analogies by which we measure - and sometimes misunderstand - today's military developments, and American ways of waging war.  Because facets of the Afghanistan operations - real-time intelligence, stealthy aircraft, precision munitions - are so modern, we miss the fact that the war requires an American tradition of warmaking that has a 19th century pedigree.  And the bloody uprisings by fanatical Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners underscore the pertinence of Sherman's understanding of how to define victory over an intensely motivated enemy.

When military operations in Afghanistan began, just four weeks after 11 September and three weeks after General Tommy Franks was told to begin planning attacks, some critics were quick to say the operations did not begin quickly enough.  Then they said the tempo of operations was too torpid.  Critics compared Franks - and Colin Powell, ever mindful of allies' sensibilities - to General George McClellan.  One of President Lincoln's commanders, McClellan was notoriously reluctant to close with Confederate forces, the strength of which he consistently overestimated.  This drove Lincoln to distraction, and to sarcasm about hoping to "borrow" the Army if McClellan was not using it.

Sherman, an energetic user of the Army, believed its principal use against the Confederacy was not to occupy territory but to destroy enemy personnel.  His reason for believing this has contemporary resonance during a war against fanatics, many of whom come from the privileged strata of corrupt and exploitative societies.  Long before secession, Sherman despised the South for its caste and class systems.  In 1843, when stationed in South Carolina, he wrote: "This state, their aristocracy ... their patriarchal chivalry and glory - all trash.  No people in America are so poor in reality, no people so poorly provided with the comforts of life."

So why did the Confederate army, composed mostly of poor whites, fight for a social system beneficial only to a tiny landed minority?  Partly because of the elan of its martial elite, those whom Sherman called "young bloods" who were "brave, fine riders, bold to rashness and dangerous in every sense."  Sherman, writes professor Victor Davis Hanson in his book The Soul of Battle, considered the Confederacy "a motley conglomeration of distrustful factions."  Sherman thought the really dangerous faction - dangerous during the war, and potentially afterward - consisted of what Hanson calls "young zealots, men between 18 and 40 who often formed the cavalry of the South and were led by rabid knights like Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joseph Wheeler and Jeb Stuart.  These fanatics ... were the children of the wealthy, excellent horsemen, full of youthful vigour and insolence."

The South, although militarily weak, "fielded," Hanson says, "individual warriors who were among the most gallant and deadly in the entire history of warfare."  Hence what Sherman called "the awful fact": victory required "that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright."

Donald Rumsfeld says his preference is for al-Qaida fighters to surrender rather than fight to the death: "It ends it faster.  It's less expensive."  However, is surrender really less expensive in the long run?  It is a reasonable surmise that a reformed terrorist is a very rare terrorist, and that the rate of recidivism will be high among terrorists who are forced to surrender but continue to believe they are doing God's will when they commit mass murder of infidels.  So, as far as is consistent with the rules of war and the husbanding of the lives of US military personnel, US strategy should maximise fatalities among the enemy, rather than expedite the quickest possible cessation of hostilities.

Many Americans will vehemently reject any analogy between Confederate and al-Qaida elites.  But Sherman might have felt vindicated by a postwar letter from one former Confederate general to another, D H Hill to Jubal Early:

Why has the South become so toadyish & sycophantic?  I think it is because the best and noblest were killed off during the war.

Will is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, based in Washington, DC.

Source: chron.com 28 December 2001

US Clouds Iraqi Civilian Deaths

by Derrick Z Jackson

Whenever reporters asked about civilian deaths in the invasion of Iraq, US military officials reflexively plunged into a numbing prattle about the precision of our weaponry, precaution to avoid needless carnage, and promises to investigate possible mistakes.  In late March, after an American missile hit a marketplace in Baghdad and killed plenty of people - Iraqi officials said 58 - Major General Victor Renuart of Central Command said: "With every one of those circumstances, we ask the component ... who may have had forces involved, whether it's land, sea, or air, to do an investigation, and that takes a number of days to do that.  The air component in this case is completing his review.  We think that will be complete within the next day or so.  And as soon as ... the review is completed, we'll make that available.  As to what do we determine to be the cause, I think certainly there are a number of possibilities.  We want to make sure that if in fact there was an error on our part, that we found that out and made that available."

A couple of days later, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the deputy director of operations for Central Command, said: "There is an ongoing investigation; still I think we are starting to come to a high degree of closure on it.  We are still accounting for every weapon system that we released into the Baghdad area.  And once we've gotten to closure on that, I think we will be able to say one way or another what role we may have played, or not."  On April 1, Brooks was asked by a reporter if he could give a date to give the results of the investigation.  Brooks responded by saying: "Well, I can't give you a date.  I mean, it takes as long as it takes.  And it ought to be thorough.  We're not going to waste time with them, but we are going to be thorough about the work that's being done...  Our designs are to minimise the casualties to civilians as much as we can.  We'd like to see that be zero.  That is not something that's ever been achieved in warfare.  We believe our efforts have driven it as low as it has ever been driven in warfare."

Two and a half months after the prattle, we now have the terrible truth.  There never was an investigation.  That fact was embedded (pun intended) in an Associated Press report this week that it has so far counted 3,240 Iraqi civilians killed in the invasion, including nearly 1,900 in Baghdad.  The AP quoted Central Command spokesman John Morgan confirming the nonexistence of an investigation.  Americans should be shocked that journalists are piecing together a history of the war that our military is trying to bury with the bodies.

The AP report said it took pains to exclude from its count all records of hospital deaths that did not distinguish between civilians and soldiers.  it also noted that many other victims didn't die in hospitals but were lost in the rubble or buried immediately, according to Islamic custom.  As a result, it said, "hundreds, possibly thousands of victims in the largest cities and most intense battles aren't reflected in the total."  The numbers are ominous, since in the 1991 Gulf War, 3,500 civilians died in the fighting, and in the months after, 111,000 Iraqis died from the destruction of the nation's health care and transportation infrastructure, according to Beth Osborne Daponte, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

On Monday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked whether he personally felt any remorse over the mounting number of civilian deaths given that no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found.  Fleischer did not speak about the people killed by American missiles.  All he said was: "I think when you take a look at all the mass graves that have been discovered all around Iraq, I think the world breathes a sigh of relief that a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein, who had no regard for human rights, has been removed from power so that the Iraqi people can at long last have a life and build a future that's based on freedom and opportunity, not on tyranny."  Fleischer said that even before the AP figures were widely known.  This is a White House in clear denial.  The world and even many Iraqis may breathe sighs of relief right now, but things will change dramatically if the White House and the Pentagon keep choking on lies and deceptions.

Americans were outraged when 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11.  Now, between Afghanistan and Iraq, our vengeance has killed way more than that.  We rightly demanded that the world care about our innocent dead.  Now we wrongly ignore the people we killed.  We not only bombed innocent people, we bombed our own innocence.

Source: commondreams.org  Boston Globe Friday 13 June 2003 © Globe Newspaper Company

War May Have Killed 10,000 Civilians, Researchers Say

by Simon Jeffery

At least 5,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion of Iraq, an independent research group has claimed.  As more evidence is collated, it says, the figure could reach 10,000.  Iraq Body Count (IBC), a volunteer group of British and US academics and researchers, compiled statistics on civilian casualties from media reports and estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 civilians died in the conflict.  Its latest report compares those figures with 14 other counts, most of them taken in Iraq, which, it says, bear out its findings.  Researchers from several groups have visited hospitals and mortuaries in Iraq and interviewed relatives of the dead; some are conducting surveys in the main cities.  Three completed studies suggest that between 1,700 and 2,356 civilians died in the battle for Baghdad alone.

John Sloboda, professor of psychology at Keele University and an IBC report author, said the studies in Iraq backed up his group's figures.  "One of the things we have been criticised for is quoting journalists who are quoting other people.  But what we are now finding is that whenever the teams go into Iraq and do a detailed check of the data we had through the press, not only is our data accurate but [it is] often on the low side.  The totality is now producing an unassailable sense that there were a hell of a lot of civilian deaths in Iraq."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said he had not seen anything to substantiate the report's figures.  "During the conflict we took great pains to minimise casualties among civilians.  We targeted [the] military.  So it is very difficult for us to give any guidance or credence to a set of figures that suggest there was x number of civilian casualties."  IBC's total includes a figure of at least 3,240 civilian deaths published this week by the Associated Press news agency, which was based on a survey of 60 Iraqi hospitals from March 20 to April 20, when the fighting was declining.  But many other bodies were either buried quickly in line with Islamic custom or lost under rubble.  Prof Sloboda said there was nothing in principle to stop a total count being made using forensic science methods similar to those used to calculate the death toll from the September 11 attack: it was a question of political will and resources.  He said even an incomplete record of civilian deaths was worth compiling, to assist in paying reparations and in assessing the claim before the war that there would be few civilian casualties.

Lieutenant Colonel James Cassella, a US defence department spokesman, said the Pentagon had not counted civilian deaths because its efforts had been focused on defeating enemy forces rather than aiming at civilians.  He said that under international law the US was not liable to pay compensation for "injuries or damage occurring during lawful combat operations".  The Iraqi authorities estimated that 2,278 civilians died in the 1991 Gulf war.

Source: guardian.co.uk The Guardian Friday 13 June 13 2003

Update: 12 January 2004: The "official" (reported) toll for Iraqi civilian deaths is about 17,000.  However, the British medical journal Lancet puts the unofficial toll at roughly 100,000.

Uprooting Terrorism

by Frank Maurovich

Maryknoll missioners who have worked in the Holy Land were as shocked and revolted as anyone by the barbarity of September's terrorist attacks that claimed so many innocent lives.  While those missioners agree nothing can justify such annihilation, they are painfully aware from firsthand experience why deep-seated hatred can spillover into such fanaticism.  Those missioners who worked for years in the West Bank are repelled by the attacks of Palestinian Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists against innocent Israelis but also by the less visible ongoing repression of innocent Palestinians by the Israeli occupation, reprisals and expanding settlements on the West Bank and Gaza.  While admitting the complexity of negotiations amid growing mutual hatred over 50 years, the missioners would agree with the host of analysts who see a more evenhanded US role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an indispensable step in reducing the world's terrorist threat.

But even if that conflict were resolved tomorrow, missioners know the threat would not disappear.  Archbishop Renato Martino, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, explains why: "Though poverty is not by itself the cause of terrorism, we cannot successfully combat terrorism if we do not address the worsening disparities between the rich and poor.  We must recognise that global disparity is fundamentally incompatible with global security."

Those who distort religion to justify terrorism are culpable, but Martino insists we dig deeper to find the roots of terrorism.  "The North," the archbishop says, "containing 20% of the world's population, controls 80% of the wealth and resources; the South, with 80% of the population, has only 20%.  This is not only unjust; it is a threat to the stability of the planet."

The United States, for example, with 5% of the world's population burns a quarter of the global daily consumption of 76 million barrels of oil.  The major supplier of that oil is Saudi Arabia, where US troops are stationed to protect a despotic monarchy that allows neither democracy nor religious freedom.  Obviously, a foreign policy that proclaims freedom and democracy at home but fails to promote it abroad can sow seeds of hatred.

Peace at home depends on justice throughout our world.  That is why missioners hope the coalition of world powers, led by the United States, will work as aggressively to narrow the gap between the world's well-off people and the destitute as it does fighting to bring terrorists to justice.  In doing so, our world will be responding to the plea of Pope John Paul II, who prayed that "this inhuman (terrorist) act will awaken in the hearts of people a firm resolve to reject the ways of violence (in order) to combat everything that sows hatred and division within the human family."

In promoting justice for the impoverished of the world, we will find peace and, Anglican Bishop Peter Forster tells us, discover God in the process.  The prelate from Chester, England, a theologian who served as fraternal delegate to the recent Roman Catholic Bishops' Synod, said during a prayer meeting in Rome, "If the 10th century has taught us anything, it is that if God is to be found, God will be found in the midst of suffering and poverty, just as he suffered for us on the cross.  God is in New York and Washington.  He is also in Afghanistan.  God is especially wifh those who suffer from lack of resources, with those many thousands who die in obscurity and poverty every day."

Source: January 2001 Maryknoll newsletter (which I found lying on the ground)

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