FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What War Looks Like

 

As preparations for the invasion of Iraq continue, the talk is all about morality, strategy, evidence, and costs. We are told that we are going to have a just war, to liberate the people of Iraq, to bring democracy and freedom to the repressed people of that nation. We watch military ‘experts’ on TV share their immense knowledge of weapons and warfare, and we marvel at the advanced technology of the armed forces.

What is curiously absent from all the discussion is any visceral sense of what the attack will be like in real terms, from the point of view of the people who will actually be there. Instead, the language is soothing, referring to surgical strikes and collateral damage. Take for example, this January 26th report (by Andrew West of the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia):

“The US intends to shatter Iraq “physically, emotionally and psychologically” by raining down on its people as many as 800 cruise missiles in two days.

The Pentagon battle plan aims not only to crush Iraqi troops, but also wipe out power and water supplies in the capital, Baghdad.

It is based on a strategy known as “Shock and Awe”, conceived at the National Defense University in Washington, in which between 300 and 400 cruise missiles would fall on Iraq each day for two consecutive days. It would be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War. “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad,” a Pentagon official told America’s CBS News after a briefing on the plan. “The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before.” ”

Later reports suggest that the number of missiles could be as much as 3,000. This is part of the attempt to win support for the war by assuring us that that the war will be ‘quick’ and ‘surgical’, with minimal American casualties. Most of us are fortunate to have never lived in the midst of a war or to have been at the receiving end of bombing attacks so we have no real sense of what such an attack will actually look like.

But let us reflect for a moment. Baghdad is a densely populated city of four million people, more than half of whom are children under the age of 14. What would such an attack look like through their eyes? We can get some idea because there are journalists who have witnessed similar events and have shared their first-hand accounts.

John Pilger is an Australian war correspondent who has witnessed violent battles from as far back as Vietnam. Here is his description (in the British newspaper The Daily Mirror on January 29th, 2003)of what he has seen and what we can expect.

“Waves of B52 bombers will be used in the attack on Iraq. In Vietnam, where more than a million people were killed in the American invasion of the 1960s, I once watched three ladders of bombs curve in the sky, falling from B52s flying in formation, unseen above the clouds.

They dropped about 70 tons of explosives that day in what was known as the “long box” pattern, the military term for carpet bombing. Everything inside a “box” was presumed destroyed.

When I reached a village within the “box”, the street had been replaced by a crater.

I slipped on the severed shank of a buffalo and fell hard into a ditch filled with pieces of limbs and the intact bodies of children thrown into the air by the blast.

The children’s skin had folded back, like parchment, revealing veins and burnt flesh that seeped blood, while the eyes, intact, stared straight ahead. A small leg had been so contorted by the blast that the foot seemed to be growing from a shoulder.”

This was too much for even such a hardened reporter, because he adds: “I vomited.”

Is this what we envision and condone for the children of Baghdad because of operation “Shock and Awe” or its variants currently being planned?

Or take the account of British journalist Robert Fisk who reports for the London newspaper The Independent. Fisk, who has also seen the horror of war in many places, describes what he saw during the first Gulf war in 1991.

“On the road to Basra, ITV was filming wild dogs as they tore at the corpses of the Iraqi dead. Every few seconds a ravenous beast would rip off a decaying arm and make off with it over the desert in front of us, dead fingers trailing through the sand, the remains of the burned military sleeve flapping in the wind.”

But we are not shown this, we are not told this. Because if people saw for themselves the kinds of things that reporters on the scene see (in Fisk’s words “the filth and obscenity of corpses”) no one would ever again agree to support a war unless a far, far higher humanitarian standard was met than the vague justifications currently in circulation.

Despite all the antiseptic language about surgical strikes and collateral damage, this is what war looks like up close. This is what will be done in our names. However quick the actual fighting might be, the ghastly effects of the devastation will remain for at least a lifetime. I don’t know how to end this better than to quote Fisk again: “No one says sorry after war. No one acknowledges the truth of it. No one shows you what we see. Which is how our leaders and our betters persuade us–still–to go to war.”

MANO SINGHAM is a physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Email: msingham@cwru.edu

 

More articles by:
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS class struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail