Tragically, collateral damage is considered an acceptable part of the foreign policy of individual nations as well as international organizations. When it is felt that the time is appropriate, bombs and missiles are unleashed with the full knowledge that defenseless children are going to be blown to pieces, burned beyond recognition or mutilated for life. This horror reigns down from the sky in order to score political points at home, to force a nation to change its form of government against its will or simply so that one world leader can try to intimidate another. Death and destruction is the result of ego, misunderstanding or the refusal to negotiate and compromise. The desire of one country to impose its will on another shreds the lives of the innocent. It creates refugees, as victims are forced to flee what is left of their homes. It tears apart families and destroys livelihoods all in the name of “national interest”.  

Unfortunately, these actions usually take place in parts of the world that are already suffering from some level of poverty. Populations who are struggling to provide for themselves and their families are exposed to the sudden terror of night-time raids. They live in constant fear that at any moment more missiles could appear without warning to kill their loved ones. They do not understand, nor care, why one country feels its point of view is so important that it is willing to bomb another country into the stone age in order to win an international disagreement. They just want the aggression to stop so they don’t have to bury anymore children, but on the stage of world politics they are asking too much. The brutal attacks do not cease until one side has forced the other to condescend to their demands.  

For those caught in the crossfire, their individual lives have been deemed expendable. Dismembered, charred and maimed women and children are considered to be little more than grim statistics to be hidden from the world press at all costs. The ultimate victory of a petty political argument becomes far more elusive when it is surrounded by bad publicity. Too much video of bombed schools and hospitals can make voters stop and consider the validity of what their nation is actually doing in their name, and that is never good. The less the people know the more willing they are to go along with whatever their leaders tell them, therefore, they are told as little as possible for fear that sufficient knowledge about a subject will lead to critical thinking. In other words, the general public doesn’t like it when babies are slaughtered – even by accident, and politicians know this.  

Most people around the world have the same reaction. We are naturally protective towards the young and the innocent. We feel an obligation to take care of those who are defenseless. We feel the injustice of a child being eviscerated by super heated shrapnel. We feel the pain of parents as they dig graves for their loved ones whose twisted bodies were dug out of the rubble of what was once their homes. We feel guilt as we see orphans in agony after multiple skin grafts to replace the flesh that was seared off by the blast of an errant warhead. But even though we feel these very real human emotions about the broken lives and unnecessary death that has been caused, we still accept it because our governments tell us it is okay. That is why whoever is engaged in the bombing also has to mount an extensive public relations campaign to convince the world that they are morally justified in their efforts to strike specific military assets…even if schools and hospitals are in the way.  

The need for one nation to impose its will on another is as old as history. As long as there have been human beings they have been fighting with each other over land, resources, political views, religious beliefs and anything else they could think of. However, the problem has gotten worse because present day weaponry is far more lethal and devastating. Now we can kill more efficiently and effectively from a safe distance without exposing ourselves to any unnecessary risks. We can strike suddenly with the element of surprise on our side and we can lay waste to vast areas with a variety of explosives and warheads. All these factors make us more inclined to use these weapons because there is less risk to us. But no matter what euphemistic language we use to try to direct our thinking away from the reality of what these weapons actually represent we eventually have to acknowledge that they are designed for one single purpose and that is to kill human beings, whether they happen to be enemy soldiers or innocent women and their children.  

Therein lies the problem. The military objective may be to destroy a weapons plant, but it is not that simple. Hundreds of people could be employed there. Residential areas could be nearby. Marketplaces could be within range of a slight miscalculation. Thousands could live in close proximity of the intended target. Certainly civilians are never intended to be harmed but that does not keep them from becoming victims all the same. The little girl who is hemorrhaging after having both legs blown off doesn’t really care which prime objective the missile was aimed at. The father who picks up what is left of his young son’s mangled body isn’t too concerned with our vital national interests. The mothers who wail in the street over the corpses of school children whose bodies are riddled with broken glass do not understand the military importance of “shock and awe”. The human beings who are left behind to clean up the carnage of our pre-emptive actions have little appreciation for the intricacies of strategic planning and implementation.   

In the end it comes down to this; the killing of innocent women and children in the form of “collateral damage” is a risk we are happy to take in order to push our agenda. We can vehemently deny that statement, but our actions prove otherwise. Year in and year out we find new enemies that must be neutralized and controlled. The pattern is usually the same. Negotiations break down, the saber rattling starts and threats are made. If the offending party does not back down, aircraft carriers are moved into position and the political cover is carefully organized by various world leaders. Usually a well crafted speech is given to the nation and then at a advantageous time of our choosing we unleash hell on earth on those who dared to provoke our wrath. Within hours, and sometimes even minutes, video comes pouring in despite the military’s best efforts to suppress such information showing the slaughter that has taken place. Once again the bodies lay covered in the streets as graves are frantically dug.  

Will we ever learn or are we doomed to repeat these mistakes forever?







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