Thursday, February 9, 2012

Post #180 - War, continued...

Air bombardment would sadly be just the tip of the iceberg if we go into yet another overseas war, even if it did not initially include nuclear bombs. Lest we forget, the figures of war dead never include those who have died from “non-hostile” causes, but who nonetheless owe their demise to the fact of the conflict.

In human terms, the costs must be reckoned to include those in a wartime environment who lack healthcare and die from curable disease, those who suffer from neglect when systems of care are disrupted, those who are malnourished due to erratic lines of supply, those who trip and fall in rubble-filled streets, and those who are pushed to take their own lives rather than live in terror and despair. A study conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the respected British medical journal The Lancet suggested that approximately 601,000 additional violent Iraqi deaths had resulted from the invasion (as compared with pre-invasion mortality rates), with about 31% directly attributable to the actions of coalition forces. Although the British Ministry of Defense's own experts have vouched for the methodology, neither the British nor U.S. governments have accepted the figures that came out of the study.

Two of the 20 million poor in Iran
In assessing the costs of an Iran conflict, we can reckon already the human costs of the sanctions which have been, and which will be, imposed. Aircraft have crashed because parts cannot be sourced from the West. Environmentally-caused sickness or death has resulted from a dearth of green technologies that have become common in other parts of the world. Poverty rates climb when oil revenues are cut.

How many lives might have been saved by the doctors who did not receive their training at M.D. Anderson in Houston, the Mayo Clinics in Rochester, MN, or at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore? How many more excellent films would have been produced by Iranian companies if they had enjoyed links to the creative and financial resources of Hollywood?

"Green" protestors in Tehran
Incalculable, but significant, is the degree to which a "hot" war with Iran will set back the social and political movements in Iran that wish to modify the present Islamic rule, seek better solutions to Iran's many problems and increase civic participation and democratic process? Whether it is voluntary rallying 'round the flag by the Iranian people, or imposed crack-downs on speech, the press and assembly, it will not be what most of us want to see happen.

Whether American fliers and ground-troops, or Iranian military or civilians lose their lives is up to us -- the American people.  We citizens can never deny our own culpability on the grounds that national policy is the province of our nation's leaders or that they have more information than we do. A much younger, but well-known, writer said:

"I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone, are guilty of the war. Oh no, the little man is just as guilty, otherwise the peoples of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There’s in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again." [Diary of Anne Frank, 1952, entry for May 3, 1944, quoted in Perlmutter, ibid.]

A contemporary author, Daniel Perlmutter wrote: "All peoples perpetrate horrors of war; whatever their rationalizations, their victims are equally dead. Some horrors of war demand justice; others seem justified. The quality of justness is always filtered through and determined by our prejudices, and the quality of mercy is always strained."

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