KC: Introduction – Chapter 1
These parts must have stuck out to me while I was reading because I highlighted them:
“…there is a category of people who must somehow be set apart from the fury of battle…”
“Civilian is the word we now rely on to cradle and preserve the ancient idea that mercy, restraint, and protection should have a place in war.”
“…the enemy is not all the same.”
“…there has never been unanimity about this moral idea and its ethic of protection of war”
“…[civilians] too have come to see the whole enemy population as an equally legitimate military target… civilians have even been able to recognize themselves as acceptable targets.”
This quote above made me particularly sad (I drew a sad face in the margins) because it’s almost like these civilians, these ‘innocents’ and people that ‘are to be shown mercy’ (page 1) have more or less accepted their fate; they’ve accepted the fact that they’re expendable simply because of their existence as part of a targeted population.
“The whole question of war in modern society is now discussed mainly in terms of what it will mean for civilian casualties.”
“…subject of civilians in war is neither simple nor unanimous.”
“…most warring parties do not see civilians as humanitarian agencies might like them to. Either they do not find civilians particularly innocent or they decide that, innocent or not, killing them is useful, necessary or inevitable in their wars.”
“…if we do not understand… then we cannot hope to argue against [anti-civilian ideologies] effectively.”
I’ve realized that the best way for me to process and analyze all of this content (currently, at least) is to do kind of a live-reaction-type-thing/take notes via blog post so I guess I’ll try that and see how it goes:
SO this whole “attacks and atrocities against civilians” is not a new thing. Genocide: A World History talks more about this, but all of that mass murder and conflict in biblical times could easily be classified as genocide. I’ll write more about that in the other reflection. I’m feeling anger, I think, because I’m realizing through reading this “some commentators speak today as if civilian suffering or the intentional killing of civilian populations is a novelty” but even just within the first week of this course (two classes, to be exact) I’ve learned about several previously unfamiliar conflicts. I didn’t learn much about them, granted, just that they existed, but the fact that so much of history (specifically these massacres of people and entire cultures) has been glazed over into “war” is infuriating.
I think that I’m more angry that I didn’t know about them than the fact that this material wasn’t taught to me; I’d like to think I’m culturally aware or at least somewhat conscious of our nations’ and other nations’ respective histories but I’ve come to recognize that this course is going to be a wake-up call to how ignorant I’ve been (and how ignorant I am) to what’s going on in the world.
I’ve gotten off-track and ranted about how little I know about current and past events and I’m going to try and get back to the relevant topic.
“Above all, this is a book about intention and suffering; identity and ambiguity; tolerance and compassion”
I don’t know, that’s just kind of nice. The tolerance and compassion part. I think I’m setting myself up for disappointment when I start to have nightmares about this book’s content. I’m preparing myself for emotional ruin.
Part 1: Different Attitudes to War
Chapter 1: Limited Warfare and its Rivals
June 1990: Massacre in Bakedu; I highlighted this: “The commander shouted at the cowering people in the ‘palava hut’ and said: ‘You, together with your belongings, belong to us. We will kill you because you are Mandingo people, strangers and not citizens'” (10).
I think the most well-known genocide is the Holocaust (I double checked and asked my suite-mate, my roommate and her boyfriend to confirm) and Adolf Hitler’s hate for Jewish people (and members of the LGBTQ+ population, physically and mentally disabled people, gypsies, Poles and other Slavic people, Jehova’s Witnesses and members of political opposition groups) was based on his idea that they were inferior to the Aryan race. His plan (however twisted and wrong; I’m 100% NOT defending Hitler) to kill everyone that was “racially inferior”, he believed, was in the best interest of his people. All of this is just to say that this popular genocide had some ideology behind it.
This massacre in Bakedu, however, was based on solely the fact that those killed were “Mandingo people, strangers and not citizens” (10). Just the fact that they were different made the perpetrators so (angry? Dominating? Afraid?) that they were willing to kill everyone of the race- men, women, children- everyone. (That’s another point made in the introduction: “Women and children, the elderly, unarmed men, farmers, doctors and religious ministers- all have often been considered as sacred, nonthreatening or useful in some way. Often, these people have been described as innocent. Their blood should not be shed. They should be given safe passage and help. In short, they are to be shown mercy” which I always questioned in watching old movies- I’m getting off topic again, but I’ll finish the thought. I remember one time in particular, I was watching Titanic and all of the women and children were being saved first and I remember thinking “that’s not fair- they don’t deserve to live any more than the men do” but then just accepted it as a social construct: women and children were more valuable. That’s how I perceived it at the time, at least.)
Also, a quote in chapter 1 really pissed me off: “Others throughout history have not just recognized war’s indiscriminate cruelty as an inevitable, necessary and uncontrollable evil. They have gone further to idealize the wholesale violence of war as cleansing and creative, so allowing no ambivalence in their philosophy of war” (25). CLEANSING and CREATIVE. I’m sitting here, in the HCC writing this blog post and wanting to SCREAM because CLEANSING is a word that middle-aged white mothers use when describing their new diet and CREATIVE is a word that elementary school art teachers use when they can’t think of anything nicer to say about their students work. These are not words to describe war and cruelty and murder. I guess that’s kind of the point of this sentence; the point being that some people today have this view and that’s how they’ve justified war, even though they’re wrong.
Not gonna lie, these posts could be a whole lot longer if I didn’t procrastinate and I had more time. But since I do, and I don’t, I’ll leave you with my undeveloped thoughts about only some sections of this reading.
I’m going to wait to put up these questions until I get them back from my professor because I can’t remember them and, not gonna lie, I don’t want to have to think of anything else.