|F-22 fighters delivering death, destruction and dismemberment|
Sadly, we have come to accept drone, rocket and other air strikes as antiseptic and routine, the equivalent of just another hit in a video game. Civilian casualties are seen as “collateral damage”, and enemy fighters we kill are dehumanized, not seen as equally precious to God and to their civilian families.
When Fascist planes dropped bombs resulting in the deaths of large numbers of noncombatants in the 1937 Spanish Civil War, there was a worldwide outcry. Pablo Picasso did his famous painting “Guernica” in protest, and governments around the world denounced the tactic as an act of terrorism.
As late as September 1, 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decried the "inhuman barbarism" of such bombings which "sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman," and "profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity".
But in a very short period of time Hitler’s strategy won the day, and Allied forces in World War II engaged in wholesale saturation bombings of German populations. Soon thereafter President Truman gave orders to completely obliterate two Japanese cities with atomic bombs.
In February, 2003, at the 58th anniversary of the fire bombing of Dresden, German survivors of that 1945 firestorm joined with survivors of the bombing of Guernica to issue the following appeal:
“As our television sets show bombers preparing for war against Iraq, we survivors of Guernica and Dresden recall our own helplessness and horror when we were flung into the inferno of bombing—we saw people killed. Suffocated. Crushed. Incinerated. Mothers trying to protect their children with only their bodies. Old people with no strength left to flee from the flames. These pictures are still alive in our memory, and our accounts capture indelibly what we went through.
“For decades we—and survivors from many other nations—have been scarred by the horror, loss and injuries we experienced in the wars of the 20th century. Today we see that the beginnings of the 21st century are also marked by suffering and destruction. On behalf of all the victims of war throughout the world we express our sympathy and solidarity with all those affected by the terror of September 11 in the USA and the war in Afghanistan.
“But is that very suffering now also to be inflicted upon the people of Iraq? Must thousands more die in a rain of bombs, must cities and villages be destroyed and cultural treasures obliterated?”
Their voices went unheeded, and now we are again resorting to extreme “shock and awe” tactics in order to degrade and destroy terrorists we ourselves have helped create.
While civilians are not being deliberately targeted in our fight against ISIS, President Obama is using the same violent war tactics as his predecessors. In the words of anti-war activist David Swanson, “He can get away with some abuses and worse and be forgiven because he engages in wars more eloquently and reluctantly. But the people who die in the wars are just as dead...”
Following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center the U.S. experienced an outpouring of sympathy and support from all over the world, including many of the Muslim nations with whom we are now in conflict. We could have resorted to waging peace on a massive scale, working to make sure that perpetrators of 911 kinds of violence were degraded and disenfranchised.
Instead we chose revenge. And now we are reaping the brutal consequences.