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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post "Smart" Weapons, Civilian Deaths, and the Endless Cycle of Violence
Created by John Eipper on 12/18/16 6:43 AM

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"Smart" Weapons, Civilian Deaths, and the Endless Cycle of Violence (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 12/18/16 6:43 am)

What I am hearing from Istvan Simon (17 December) is this: My country only goes to war for just causes, and when we do, we try extremely hard to hit only the bad guys. We have intelligent weapons which allow us to take out a bad guy from a distance of thousands of feet or even miles. The bad guys use nasty weapons like dirty bombs, chemical bombs, and they blow themselves up with vests loaded with explosives. Thus we are good and they are evil. We are going to heaven and they are going to hell.

Does that sound familiar? Does that lead to peace and understanding or just a continuation of more destruction in a widening circle of wars all over the world?

Most importantly, with this kind of mentality, how long until the wise sayings of "what goes around comes around" and "if you sow the wind you will harvest the storm" affect us here at home? We have told ourselves for so long and against so many enemies that we are the good guys, and can do no evil, that it has become a religion. We forget that the road to hell is many times paved with good intentions. Good intentions will not dissuade a young person, with nothing to lose, full of hate because a smart bomb accidentally killed his or her loved ones. The critical questions remain: why did you drop the damned bomb on some foreign country? For how long have you been dropping smart bombs and killing innocent people all over the world? For how long will you keep dropping increasingly sophisticated weapons on backwards enemies with apparent no end in sight? Who is benefiting from this destruction? When will the destructive madness stop and peace come again?

Istvan stated, "Israel caused many civilian deaths in Gaza, but the number of such deaths was smaller by a factor of at least 100 from what occurred in Syria. That is due in part to precision munitions and combat tactics of the Israel Defense Forces." OK, so they are better than the Russian military and Assad's. Should that be a cause for celebration? If they are so humane, why did they run over an innocent, idealist, brave American girl, Rachel Corrie, with a bulldozer? Why do they often disrespect UN resolutions and steal land and water from innocent Palestinians? If we listen to the Likud Party, I am sure there are some good reasons for these actions, or at least some good intentions.

JE comments:  Ultimately we should ask ourselves, are "smart" weapons strategically effective--as in, do they lead to the positive resolution of a policy goal?  What would Clausewitz say?


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  • A Response to Tor Guimaraes (Istvan Simon, USA 12/21/16 5:44 PM)
    Tor Guimaraes wrote on December 18th:

    "What I am hearing from Istvan Simon is this: My country only goes to war for just causes, and when we do, we try extremely hard to hit only the bad guys. We have intelligent weapons which allow us to take out a bad guy from a distance of thousands of feet or even miles. The bad guys use nasty weapons like dirty bombs, chemical bombs, and they blow themselves up with vests loaded with explosives. Thus we are good and they are evil. We are going to heaven and they are going to hell."


    I never said any of this. What Tor Guimaraes hears is not what I said. I did not say my country only goes to war for just causes. I did not say we are good and they are evil. I did not say anything at all about heaven or hell. Tor Guimaraes is paraphrasing what I said and at the same time distorting it to his purposes.


    Tor next offered this assessment:


    "The critical questions remain: why did you drop the damned bomb on some foreign country? For how long have you been dropping smart bombs and killing innocent people all over the world? For how long will you keep dropping increasingly sophisticated weapons on backwards enemies with apparent no end in sight? Who is benefiting from this destruction? When will the destructive madness stop and peace come again?"


    I found this interesting because of the use of "you." Who exactly is "you"?


    Tor then acknowledged that Israel caused far fewer casualties in Gaza than what occurred in Syria. This part seems to agree with my post. He said:


    "OK, so they are better than the Russian military and Assad's. Should that be a cause for celebration? If they are so humane, why did they run over an innocent, idealist, brave American girl, Rachel Corrie, with a bulldozer? Why do they often disrespect UN resolutions and steal land and water from innocent Palestinians? If we listen to the Likud Party, I am sure there are some good reasons for these actions, or at least some good intentions."


    Once again, this seems far more revealing of Tor's mind than a genuine response to my post because it makes multiple unwarranted inferences of what I said. Who are "they"? I never mentioned Rachel Corrie, nor revealed what I think of that incident. But whatever happened to Rachel Corrie seems irrelevant in this context because it does not invalidate anything that I was talking about, nor justifies the generalization against Israel implicit in Tor's "they." I also did not say anything about Likud, so why would Tor bring it up?


    JE comments:  Tor, your response?


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    • Body Counts, and Rachel Corrie (John Heelan, UK 12/23/16 7:02 AM)
      From the sidelines, there appears to be some specious arguments arising in the interchange between Tor Guimaraes and Istvan Simon. The latter complains, "Tor then acknowledged that Israel caused far fewer casualties in Gaza than what occurred in Syria." Indeed that is true.  However in my opinion it is a straw-man argument, relying on questionable quantities of dead and injured. Some might say it is as irrelevant as comparing the 500,000 Syrian deaths or the varying amounts of Iraq deaths with the 6 million plus Holocaust deaths.

      WAIS discussed the Rachel Corrie incident in depth in the past. Istvan is correct that it is irrelevant in the current discussion, other than recalling how Israeli lobbies obstructed performances of the play My Name is Rachel Corrie in the US and Canada, and Israeli courts rejected further investigation of the incident.


      JE comments:  It's hard to believe that it's been over nine years since we first discussed Rachel Corrie.  Here's a post from John Heelan from September 2007:


      http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=17249&objectTypeId=11499&topicId=1


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      • Accuracy of Body Counts (Timothy Brown, USA 12/26/16 6:11 AM)
        John Heelan's comments of December 23rd brought back some war memories.

        Throughout much of the Vietnam War allied military forces included, just in my district, a Korean division, and detachments of New Zealanders and Australians. (There was a Thai division in the Delta.) There was a great deal of public debate about the allied "body count" of Vietcong KIAs, with the allied "body count" being repeatedly attacked as grossly exaggerated propaganda. Some media reported their own (or someone else's) "body count" to "prove" that the allies were lying. About two years after the North Vietnamese won the war, they made public their own "body count" and said that, in fact, they had lost almost twice as many KIAs than either had claimed.


        Throughout the Nicaraguan Contra War, critics of the Contras regularly asserted that the Contras were just 600 or so former Guardia soldiers of the Somoza dictatorship, an assertion that was repeated several times in CIA intelligence reports that reached President Reagan and which he cited publicly and continued to be repeated after Bush was elected. In fact, by 1980 there were about 12,000 Contras under arms, of which only 100-150 were former Guardia. In 1989, when the Contras agreed to lay down their arms, according both to their central archives and the records of CIAV, the OAS/UN combined offices charged with managed their DDR (disarmament, demobilization and repatriation), they numbered about 28,000. Their average age at that time would have made them about 12 years old when the Somoza regime was overthrown.


        (In the interest of full disclosure, during the Vietnam war I was a CINCPAC/FMFPAC intelligence linguist for five years and did a tour in Vietnam as a District Senior Advisor. On the Contra War, I was a Marine Embassy Guard in Managua for two years in the 1950s, was a bodyguard of the US Ambassador in Guatemala for four months, years later served in Mexico for two years and El Salvador for three as a Foreign Service Officer. From 1987 through 1990, I was the Senior US Liaison Officer in Central America and engaged with them daily for four years. And then, after retiring from the Foreign Service, I spent eight years researching and writing my PhD dissertation on them [since published as The Real Contra War, Oklahoma, 2000].)


        In my experience, both professional and academic, even peacetime statistics should be viewed with skepticism, and conflict-era stats should be viewed with even more. For me, the proof of this is in my personal experience. Despite having all sources code word access to intelligence on the Contras for four years and dealt with them on a daily basis, if I learned one thing I learned while doing my doctoral research was that during those four years I didn't know who they really were. It took an older Contra fighter to tell me who they really were:


        "Nosotro', Guardia? N'ombre! No somo' ma' que un aterro' de campesinos bien encachimba'os!"


        JE comments: I'll give it a try: "Guardia, us? Nossir! We're nothing more than a bunch of pissed-off country folks!"


        "Encachimbado": Central American for irked, irritated, or really, really cross.

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    • A Response to Istvan Simon (Tor Guimaraes, USA 12/23/16 7:13 AM)

      It is true that Istvan Simon did not write any of the specific words and statements that I wrote on December 18th. My statements represented what I perceived Istvan was implying with his post. If I misinterpreted what he really thinks, then I apologize.


      JE comments:  Humility is ever a virtue!  Thank you, Tor.


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