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No defence for abandoning humanity

“War, in and of itself, is a crime. Or at least it should be.”

That was the lead for a column I wrote in April, 2022. I was, of course, talking about the horrors that were unveiled in Bucha, Ukraine after Russian troops terrorized, brutalized, and massacred scores of the town’s citizens.

And here we are again, debating what is right way and wrong way to kill people in Israel and Palestine.

“Why isn’t war, itself, a crime?” I wrote. “For the dead it doesn’t much matter whether it’s a bullet to the back of the head or a 500-pound cruise missile from on high. They’re still dead.”

By no means am I an expert on what is happening, and what has happened, in the Middle East. But one of the things that bothers me the most, other than all the killing and destruction, is that there seems to be no quarter in the debate.

Why can’t I support a free and independent Palestine but also condemn, completely, Hamas and the massacre it perpetrated on October 7? There is no cause so noble that we should rejoice in the murder of children.

Why can’t I support Israel’s right to exist and defend itself but also condemn, completely, what is now happening in Gaza? There is no defence for abandoning humanity.

Sadly, abandoning humanity is all that happens in war.

There is a great line from the character Hawkeye Pierce in the television show M*A*S*H.

He disputes the familiar refrain ‘war is Hell.’

“War is war, Hell is Hell, and of the two war is a lot worse,” he says, adding that only sinners go to Hell. “There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. But war is chock full of them. Little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for a few of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.”

And while ‘innocent bystanders’ continue to die, we continue debate what is an appropriate level.

If we are ever going to stop this and other such wars, we have to start with the notion that war, in and of itself, is an international crime against humanity.

On Saturday, we commemorate our war dead. We do it to remember. But it should also serve as a reminder that we are not immune to the horrors of war and that we should strive to ensure that the phrase ‘never again,’ are not hollow words to echo once a year but a motto to live by every day.



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