KC: Chapters 2-3

KC: Chapters 2-3

Part 2: Seven Spheres of Civilian Suffering
Chapter 2: Killing, Injury, and Rape

This is going to be a doozy. In December 1998, war broke out in the Republic of Congo. This war is “a typical and largely unreported contemporary war” (37) which just makes me sad. (the fact that lots of contemporary war, or war at all, goes unreported and unrecognized.)

Some fun statistics:

  • 65 percent of families interviewed “said that they had been attacked by rebel militia when they were fleeing and then again by government militia when they were returning”
  • 57 percent “told how they were held against their will by the Ninja militia who used them as cover, or human shields, by moving and camping with them in order to deter and confuse government troops
  • 48 percent said that “at least one member of their family had died during this time”- MSF calculated that 34 percent of deaths were children under 5 years old
  • 56 percent “had died of malnutrition, while 31 percent died from disease and other causes”
  • 13 percent of people met violent deaths


Rape horrifies me. I don’t know anyone to whom it’s not horrifying, but I just thought I’d say it. There are more statistics in here that I’m not going to cite because I feel like I’m cheating by using so much verbatim in my post, but there was a lot of rape, fam.

Here I’ll try and condense the “Seven spheres of civilian suffering”:

  • direct, personal violence (killing, wounding, torturing)
  • sexual violence, rape, and sexual exploitation
  • spatial suffering from forced and restricted movement
  • impoverishment arising from crises in the first three
  • famine and disease as a result of impoverishment and destitution
  • emotional suffering as a result of all of the above
  • post-war suffering

Not all people affected by war were killed in war. I know that’s kind of an obvious statement because not everyone that served was killed (Veteran’s Day) but there’s some significant emotional and psychological damage that most of us can’t even begin to comprehend. Thankfully.

Genocide and Mass Killing

Here’s another point that sticks out to me: “In many wars, a critical part of a broader political war aim has often been the intention to eradicate a people or reduce them to such a degree that the will never again post a significant threat” (41). I guess that’s a legit concern, wanting to take someone out just enough that you don’t have to worry about them again. I just want everyone to get along. The whole idea that person A has to take person B out just so A doesn’t have to worry about B anymore makes me sad. I just want A and B to communicate and be friends forever. (I posted my location on the political compass on my regular blog. Check out how aggressively progressive I am!)

Here’s a point I should probably make before I get too out of control. Here’s a quote to briefly preface: “Genocide, with its determination to exterminate completely, is relatively rare in human history. Massacre is not. Killing civilians en masse has always been a part of war without the necessary intention of exterminating a race or class” (46). I think that before this post I’ve used massacre, mass murder, genocide, and killing all interchangeably. I’ll do my best to stop doing that.

Massacre has often been used:

  • to “select out and kill particular categories of people within a civilian population” (particularly men) (51).
  • “as a means of political purging in wars” (52).


Also, I’m about to list off in bullet-form very large numbers that all point to a certain number of casualties- killed or wounded. I’m not going to describe exactly what they’re associated with because shit, I don’t have that kind of time. I just feel like I need to recognize in some way all of these people that died just because humans are really shitty.

  • 250
  • 1654
  • 889
  • 560000
  • 45000
  • 70000
  • 135000
  • 100000
  • 140000
  • 70000
  • 15000
  • 1.5 million
  • 20000
  • 1.1 million
  • 500000

Goddamn, that’s a shitload of people.

Something that’s comforting (I’m sad that this is comforting) is this quote on page 58: “If civilians have always been, and continue to be, intentionally exterminated or massacred they have also always been caught in the cross-fire. As the fight has closed in around them they have often become its victims even if this was not the intention of one or both of the armed forces concerned.” That’s good, I guess. Not all civilians are intentionally harmed. Oh, but here’s a sad (and totally real) thing: “Civilian suffering in violent attacks should not be stereotyped as death alone. Wounding and life-long injuries often outnumber civilian deaths” (59). So, like I said before (however painfully obvious) not all people affected by war were killed in war.

Oh good, another fun fact: “Torture is also a consistent part of civilian suffering” (59). Honestly, I just feel like torture is so fucking unnecessary. I mean, yeah, one could argue that torture is the only way to get information out of terrorists or some bullshit like that but I’m a big advocate of human rights and, fuck, there just has to be a better way. I mean, look at me, criticizing people for doing shitty things and having absolutely no alternative except to “just be friends” but that’s just where I am right now.

Rape and Sexual Violence

I’m really tired so I’m not going to try and quote something and then reflect on it (Jesus Christ, I still have so much to do) but basically there’s a lot of rape and it’s a really common thing and it has been for a long long time: “an ancient and customary evil” (60). This St. Augustine guy is urging all of these women that have been violated in a way that so many of us could never understand to “feel no shame,” and “encouraging them instead to cherish the purity of their souls over the violence so cruelly visited upon their bodies by others and through no fault of their own,” (61) which at first made me really mad because honestly, who the hell is he to tell them what not to feel?  But then there’s this quote: “Augustine’s words of comfort may be typically rigorous and philosophical, but behind them we can sense the desperate feelings of the women whom he is trying to reassure and prevent from killing themselves”. I’m trying my best here to use what my 12th grade English teacher taught us about Claim, Evidence, Warrant, but all I have is evidence and some loose opinions. Please forgive me, Mrs. Henly. I miss your guidance.

“Rape and sexual violence are not a feature of every war,” (61) which is nice, I guess. However,

  • Rape is often policy in war
  • Similar ethnic policies and slogans have driven systematic rape in many other wars where it was intended to overlay one people’s identity with another
  • Rape is also used as an explicit terror tactic to clear an area and make people flee
  • More casually, rape can be permitted explicitly or implicitly as part of the booty, rewards, or pleasures of war in many military cultures
  • Rape is typically very public in war
  • Either way, because of such deliberate policies and an ease of opportunity, rape can fast become a strategy, a habit and a norm in war (wtf)

Some lady named Charlotte Lindsay “has pointed out that the principle of spectacle is central to rape as a method of war. Involuntary ‘spectators’ like husbands, children and community members are usually forced to watch the gang rape or sexual torture of their loved ones and neighbors. The purpose of such spectacles is to dishonour, humiliate and terrorize (I’m angry right now because why isn’t Slim using the oxford comma? Isn’t that horrible? That I’m talking about rape and I’m angered by the lack of oxford commas? Am I already desensitized?) by showing the absolute power of the enemy to invade and dominate even the most intimate of spaces. This can be used to make people flee or to subjugate them into a sense of utter powerlessness in the face of an absolute conqueror. And, of course, it can also work to mobilize a determination for resistance and vengeance” (63).

Also, rape isn’t just physical and psychological and it’s not confined to the immediate victim, which sucks ass. I have a lot more to write and I’m getting sad so I’m going to skip the rest of this chapter like any good student would.

Chapter 3: Movement, Impoverishment, Famine, Disease and Distress

So, apparently, these patterns of suffering (mentioned in the title of the chapter) typically kill more civilians than weapons-based violence. Like my website title says, it’s lit.

Movement and Space

I didn’t really think, earlier, that this was such a big deal. And I guess I still don’t think it’s on the same level as straight-up murder or sexual violence but “people’s ability to move freely is inevitably or deliberately restricted, or horrifically and drastically extended by flight and exile” which sucks.

Oh, here’s a good quote that seems to cover a lot: “Flight can mean survival but, very often, flight is also the first step on a fast and slippery slope towards separation, impoverishment, destitution, exploitation and disease” (AGAIN with the oxford comma) (74). And another: “Forced population transfer does not always aim to kill and destroy. Sometimes it aims merely to weaken and contain” (77). I’ll quote again: “In all these different experiences of relocation and spatial suffering, Civilian populations have moved with varying degrees of force, voluntarism and choice” (85). “These different experiences” is referring to all of the examples before that quote that I conveniently didn’t include.

I might come back to all of these posts later when I have more time, but right now I don’t so I’m just blazing through all of these chapters. Forgive me, readers. I know you’re out there. This chapter goes on forever, my God. Now we’re talking about slave labour, which is cool.


The fourth sphere of civilian suffering! We’ve made, it, friends.

Okay, so from what I’ve gathered scanning and absolutely not reading the first few paragraphs, this guy Reginald Green from the 1980’s did some research in war deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and concluded that in Africa’s wars “lack of food and of medical services, combine with the physical stress of flight, kill about twenty times as many human beings as do bombs, bullets, and cold steel” which reveals this: “most people die from war rather than in battle” (91). Wow, Slim. That’s deep.

Livelihoods Approach (just some wisdom to have for the future): it’s usually a loss of livelihood rather than a bullet that kills people in war

There’s 100% way more to this chapter than I’ve typed or am going to type but I’m pretty sure I’m still in chapter 3 and I want to die and it’s 1:15am so we’re going to move on here.

Famine and Disease

  • Often the greatest killer of civilians
  • Starvation and exhaustion from destitution and flight often kill civilians in very large numbers
  • People’s access to effective healthcare is often greatly reduced in war
  • This is interesting: “If disease can be carried and accelerated within a civilian population by the destitution and impoverishment of war, it can also be carried directly to civilians by warring parties themselves” (101). I guess I never really thought about it too hard but we learned in middle school that Christopher Columbus (my main man who murdered and raped and destroyed a bunch of people and a culture, great guy overall 10/10 would recommend) and all of his little explorer friends came over and did kill a bunch of people in cold blood but also brought over diseases that Native Americans just weren’t prepared for which killed a bunch of them in not-cold-blood. Fun stuff.
  • Oh, but here on page 102 (I should have read ahead) Slim says “while the extraordinary disease power of the conquistadores was inadvertent, spreading disease can also be a deliberate method of war” so there goes that. Germ warfare exists and all is right in the world.
  • Jesus Christ, Chapter 3 is long.
  • I’ve heard the term “scorched earth policy” in other history classes (I didn’t pay any kind of attention) and apparently that means “torching people’s crops, grazing lands, stores and homesteads so that they starve and move” which is great

Emotional Suffering

I definitely didn’t think about this before, and it’s interesting: “Indignity is a particular source of pain. The indignity of being dressed in rags, unwashed and dependent on others is powerfully felt. Sometimes enemy actions are deliberate attacks upon the dignity of a group” (111). I think I’d be incredibly affected by indignity- relying on people or even giving people any kind of power over me – not necessarily in a submissive way, like, “here, control my food intake or the clothes I wear” but even just “help me sweep the room” or “how do you complete this math problem” – is really difficult. That level of dependence and also the constant awareness of that level of dependence would really fuck me up.

Also, here Slim is talking about fear and uncertainty which I can relate to. I mean, the “fear of going about [their] daily lives in such a violent and volatile environment” (112) isn’t even close to the same thing as not knowing what’s for dinner, for example, or being stressed about the outcome of an exam, but those little things stress me out and I don’t even want to think about how I would handle that higher level of “emotional suffering.”

I’ve never had to handle “the stress of survival itself,” thank God; “first during the struggle to survive during the war and then, thereafter, in the long challenge of living the rest of one’s life as a survivor” (114). I’m going to have nightmares tonight, y’all.

Post-War Suffering

It seems this is the seventh and final (main) form of civilian suffering, and I’m so glad. That sounds bad but, guys, it’s late. I’m ready for sleep. (I feel like a horrible person saying that because here I am reading about genocide and murder and suffering and I’m just thinking about my warm, comfortable bed. Mmmm, and a hot shower. That sounds nice. Anyway, “emotionally, the suffering of war can obviously continue for the rest of a person’s life to some degree” (115). Retweet, Slim. Retweet.

  • Self-loathing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Resentment
  • Hatred
  • Anger
  • Desire to hurt
  • Long-term opportunity costs
  • Low social opportunities and employment prospects
  • Relative anarchy of many societies immediately after war

Now, here, at the end of part 2 and chapter 3, Slim leaves us with this: “This part of the book has looked at the many ways in which civilians suffer and examined how much of this suffering  is a deliberate part of the strategy or cruelty of war. It is intentional. The next three chapters of the book examine the various reasons and ideologies which justify and encourage the killing and suffering of civilians. If Part Two of the book has looked at how civilian suffering happens, Part Three analyses why it happens” (119).

I think I’m going to make Chapters 4-6 a separate post, even though it’s part of the same assignment. It’ll be a new day and a new Deborah, so I think it deserves a new post. Get excited, y’all. Tomorrow (later today, in a desperate work effort before class) I’ll write all about how fucked up people are (and why they want people to suffer).


  • Why is rape so common in war? Is it just because it’s an option and it’s degrading? Something else? (I answered this question myself after I actually did the reading, LOL)
  • Why (and how) is movement and space on the same level as killing and rape and stuff? I get that it’s bad and it sucks but I feel like moving/displacement is relatively tame, comparatively
  • How is this whole thing (war and genocide and mass murder in general) so anarchical? Is there no real higher power here trying to keep things in control and balance power?