It’s a hawk catch phrase -goes without saying for everyone else. The ultimate expression of mitigation for any war effort, endeavoring to negate any criticism that might involve a weighing of consequences with the utility of the aggression.
I picked up a copy of July’s Greenfuse, a free monthly put out by anarcho-green activist Paul Encimer and friends. You won’t find Greenfuse online, but it is freely distributed at bohemian type places around the northcoast. It’s a bit narrow in ideological scope for my taste, but it has some compelling writing and maintains a countercultural aesthetic that’s probably going to be lost in a generation or two sans some new mass revival of an appreciation for homegrown culture.
Anyway, you’ll find some compelling prose this month, with a piece in particular grabbing my attention. Page 6, Orphaned in Gaza, by Sami Abu Salem, a resident of Jabalia Refugee Camp. He writes about a family with guests eating lunch with children playing when an Israeli rocket hit their home, ending lives and destroying the collective life of the family forever.
It is just an old house at the northern edge of Kahan Younis, in the south Gaza STrip. Its asbestos ceiling, wrinkled wall, and old wooden doors ridden with holes reflect the cruel poverty of Abdelqader Ahmed, 57.
His 80-year-old mother, Fadhiyya Ahmed, spent yesterday in one of her favorite pastimes – being with her family. Sons, daughters, grandsons, and sons-in-law gathered around her, celebrating the return of her son Zakariyya from Saudi Arabia.
The family and their guests were eating lunch when an Israeli rocket slammed into the house. Zakariyya, 45, in whose honor the family had gathered, was instantly killed, as was his pregnant sister Fatima, 37. Fatima’s 18-month-old son, Khaled, was critically wounded and carried to the hospital. Another relative, Shaima, 25, and pregnant, was critically wounded in the attack.
I respect the principled pacifism that opposes all war. We need more people with that level of faith. I don’t have it. From my view, at this point in our social and biological evolution, we remain a violent species. We don’t just have to fight. We like to fight. We’re going to fight. And sometimes, we have to fight. Certainly, the fight was justified 65 years ago in response to Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
And certainly, there are stories much like the one above about that fight. Stories of similar suffering perpetrated by the “good guys.” Sometimes deliberately. Millions of such stories actually if you consider Hiroshima, Nagasakai, Dresden, Tokyo, etc. “War is Hell.” The hawk will remind you that suffering is inevitable in war, but war is sometimes necessary – and that perhaps it is irresponsible of the dove to bring up the suffering in opposition to the war. Suffering being inevitable, the suffering is thus irrelevant to the discussion of whether the aggression itself is just and appropriate. We can discuss maybe whether the particular acts were necessary to the justice of the objective, but we cannot criticize the overall actions. There are bad apples, and we do our best to root out the Lt. Callys and Abu Ghraib guards. But don’t link the suffering and crimes to the overall war effort.
Insane from my point of view, but then I live on a different planet apparently. Why suffering should be excluded from the scale in weighing the utility of the aggression with the consequences is beyond me. Maybe the suffering is inherently on a magnitude of scale that we could almost never justify a war unless we could show that the suffering by the omission of the aggression would be worse. Would more Israelis be dying right now if the Ahmed house hadn’t been destroyed? We certainly can’t prove that. I can understand the difficulty of the hawk perspective. Better to not talk about it, or respond with stories about suffering on the other side, particularly as the result of murderous deliberation. Get the blood boiling. Whom did the Ahmeds vote for anyway?
He said that Fatima was talking and laughing with her sister, whiile their children yelled and played and the family talked all around. Suddenly everything was turned upside down. The rocket hit the house; he did not see anything because of huge clouds of dust until people carried him to the hospital.
“It is an unendurable life. We had been waiting for this nice moment for three years, but the Israelis turned it into a bloody moment. We can not bear such a life.”
Were the Israeli attacks justified? The situation there is filled with complexity and confusion – I don’t know what reasonable people in Israel or Palestine can do. I can’t judge whether acts are immoral or unnecessary, except when they can be shown to be deliberate efforts to kill with no broader strategy. I don’t think the Israelis meant to destroy this family. I do know that the act left the world a slightly more dangerous place for Israelis – however many survivors may have been converted to warriors. I hope for Israel’s sake that the utility of the attacks outweigh at least that consideration. It’s hard for me to imagine that it outweighs the humanitarian consideration. But I haven’t lost a son or daughter to a suicide bomber in a teen dance club either.
How much value do the Ahmed survivors place on life now?