I take no side in the latest Middle East dust-up. Of course, “dust-up” is almost an insulting term considered some 4000 people — mostly innocents — have died in the Israeli-Hamas War.
It’s not that I take no side in any war. For instance, I’m four-square in favor of Ukraine kicking the living shit out of the Russian invaders in their war. These two wars are the ones we, in this holy land, pay exclusive attention to. Your neighbors and relatives’ll wring their hands and moan about what a horrible and dangerous world we live in based only on their knowledge of those two conflicts while remaining unaware that some 110 wars, as defined by international law, are raging to one extent or another around the globe.
That’s right: one freaking hundred and ten wars are turning tens of thousands of soldiers into hamburger and hundreds of thousands, even millions, of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, dear friends, and acquaintances into grieving, juddering wrecks.
These numbers come from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. The postgraduate school in Switzerland monitors all the shooting wars going on across this mad planet, a hobby that keeps its faculty and students busier than celebrity gossip mongers, if that can be possible. The Geneva Academy finds that the hottest spots in the world are Africa and, natch, the Middle East where, together, some 45 wars are flaring as you read this. The vast majority of us don’t give the slightest damn about bloodshed in Africa, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the continuous flow of oil, precious metals, or other resources that allow us to play incessantly with electronic devices, scoot around in our cars, sink our retirement savings into, or hoard to keep out of Chinese hands. By such means, we can pretend that all is well outside our borders until, as occurred nearly two weeks ago, thugs and hoodlums started whacking the crap out of each other with moms, babies, nurses, doctors, professors, sanitation workers, cabaret singers, poets, and other bystanders suffering a shockingly outsized share of the bodily damage.
Well, maybe not so shockingly. Consider the fact that in World War II, the crème de la crème of organized human slaughter, the estimated number of deaths ranges from 45 to 85 million. Nobody could ever really pin that number down because, well, our technology was so good and the ferocity with which we used it so over the top that entire big cities were wiped off the map. It would have been as if Houston or Chicago were leveled, with countless Louisvilles, Oklahoma Cities, Sacramentos, Newarks, Albuquerques, and more disappearing under clouds of thick, black smoke. Sure, millions of soldiers died but their number was dwarfed by the incineration and butchering of just plain folks. Census and identification records similarly were scorched into ash so who knows how many people ceased to be in Dresden or Nagasaki.
Again, not that I particularly blame the Allies for unleashing their murderous fury. The Axis Powers were vicious, sociopathic mass murderers who had to be stopped and the only hammers we had against them were rifles, cannons, tanks and, ultimately, atomic bombs. But avid homicidal maniacs like Britain’s Air Marshall Arthur “Bomber” Harris and the US Army Air Corps’ Gen. Curtis LeMay both acknowledged their side had to win, otherwise each would be strung up as war criminals had the contest turned out differently. The lesson? If you want to win a war, your generals had better be more bloodthirsty than their generals.
As stated in this global communications colossus time and again, it’s my deeply held belief that we humans love the hell out of war. It excites us, moves us, even tumesces many of us in certain anatomical locales. Speaking of world war, the Great War, which necessarily had to be renamed World War I, was America’s first big foray into international mayhem. Being that our non-indigenous populace at the time hadn’t experienced waves of foreign troops sweeping across our soil, ravaging our homes, plundering our goods, and raping a large swath of our citizenry, the song “Over There” became a huge hit, parades for departing troops were held in most big cities, young men longed to enlist, and their moms and lovers urged them on to become heroes. Next thing anybody knew, thousands of American soldiers were being shipped back, armless, legless, paralyzed, poison gassed, filled with shrapnel and bullets, and mentally and emotionally crippled by the blood and guts they’d witnessed.
Well, anybody should have. Only we humans like to forget all the lessons of war just as soon as the latest war is ended. Then we go back to romanticizing it, even cherishing it.
That’s certainly what the young warriors of Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces do — and have done for decades. And it’s what we did when Vietnam was gradually becoming a recognizable term in 1964 and ’65. Both Hamas and the IDF can cite atrocities and provocations by the other side as justification for their martial zeal. Many Palestinians have been trying to destroy Israel and eliminate Jews in the Middle East since before the Hebrew homeland was established in 1947. And Israelis, the Holocaust still fresh in their memories, respond to every insult or attack in a manner that makes the original offense resemble a mosquito bite, Israel’s message being, Don’t fuck with us or we’ll fuck back with you times ten.
All wars are justified by the warring parties. All wars are fought for god and freedom. Yep, even the Nazis and the militarists of Japan told their respective people the blood they were about to shed was a task blessed by god and that liberty would be the reward.
Hitler and Goebbels said so. Tojo said so. Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and every other leader urging his country to take up arms said so. Says so.
What Hamas did was indefensible. What Israel is doing in return is similarly so. Neither side needs me to endorse it.