On the morning of Saturday October 7, 2023, I awoke to appalling news. It flooded all airwaves as the lead item, sometimes the only item on every newscast. The day after the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Hamas had launched a most audacious military operation from Gaza – literally invading the apartheid state of Israel.
It has been reported that once inside Israel, the Hamas fighters killed more than 1,200 innocent men, women, and children, and took another 199 as hostages. Predictably, Israel has retaliated against Gaza and as of October 15th has killed over 2,600 Palestinian men, women, and children with rocket attacks.
Deliberately inflicting violence on civilians in war is always wrong. So wrong in fact that it is defined as a war crime. Unfortunately it is also far too common and is rarely punished. The United Nations has reported that 90% of wartime casualties are civilians. And the historical record shows that deliberately inflicting violence on civilians has long been a wartime strategy.
Towards the end of World War Two (1939-1945), the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the U.S. Air Force carpet bombed the German city of Dresden, producing a firestorm and burning alive or otherwise killing an estimated 25,000 -35,000 innocent German men, women, and children. Allied planners of this raid could not plead ignorance as the predicted consequences of this barbaric massacre were debated in advance. This was a war crime.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force had been bombing cities in Japan since 1942, raids which intensified during the last months of the war. Interspersed among the conventional bombs were incendiary devices guaranteed to ignite Japanese houses which were typically constructed from highly flammable wood and clay. Planners knew that once just a few Japanses homes were successfully ignited, the entire city was guaranteed to become a raging inferno. The U.S. Air Force slaughtered an estimated up to 900,000 innocent Japanese men, women, and children – even before atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was a war crime.
On August 6,1945, with the eager and some might even say bloodthirsty approval of then President Harry Truman, the U.S. Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, followed by dropping another on Nagasaki on August 9th. Planners were well aware that these bombs would inflict massive casualties on the civilian population. As predicted, an estimated up to 260,000 innocent Japanese men, women, and children were either burned alive in what must have been a most excruciating way to die, or succumbed over the following days, weeks, and months to equally agonizing deaths from radiation poisoning. This was a war crime.
During the Korean War (1950-1953), forces allied with South Korea – primarily the United States – and those allied with North Korea – China and the Soviet Union – killed an estimated 2.5 million civilians in both countries. This was a war crime.
Between 1965 and 1975, during the Vietnam War, Americans dropped more than 7.5 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos – the largest aerial bombardment in human history. The Americans intensified their impact with the controversial use of napalm. An estimated over 2.000,000 innocent North Vietnamese lost their lives due to this bombing – many again being burned alive. It has been said that the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by photographer Nick Ut of a young Vietnamese girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc who had been napalmed, helped to bring an end to this barbaric American war. This multi-year bombing was a war crime.
In the 12 years leading up to the illegal 2003 U.S. war on Iraq, the United Nations Security Council had imposed sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime, sanctions which had led to Iraq being hermetically sealed. Malnutrition was severe, medical care was scarce, high rates of diseases from lack of clean water were reported. While numbers affected are impossible to verify, the entire population was affected and those most harmed were innocent Iraqi men, women, and particularly children. This was a war crime.
To add to the misery, in 2003 U.S. President George W. Bush then used the bogus rationale that the country had weapons of mass destruction to declare war on Iraq. This illegitimate war directly resulted in the deaths of over 110,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children. This was a war crime.
More recently, on February 22, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Fighting continues. During this invasion, Russia has made a practice of deliberately targeting civilians. Homes, hospitals, and shopping centres have been bombed. Food supplies have been disrupted. Russia has also abducted an alleged 700,000 Ukrainian children, taking them into Russia. This is a war crime.
Over the years, I have shared my concerns about the apartheid state of Israel and its oppression, violence, and terrorism against the innocent Palestinian civilians living in both the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli courts give green lights to Israeli invaders illegally seizing properties owned by Palestinians for generations. Bulldozers come on site, flattening olive tree groves, some of which have been there for hundreds of years. Innocent Palestinian families are made homeless on the spot. Between these many Israeli settlements and numerous military checkpoints sprinkled throughout the area, some now refer to the West Bank as Swiss cheese – no longer one continuous land but rather so balkanized as to make a two-state solution now permanently impossible.
As wretched as it is for Palestinians to exist let alone live in the West Bank, the plight of their brothers and sisters in Gaza is much worse. Many years ago, the apartheid state of Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza so airtight as to make the above noted UN blockade of Iraq look porous. Israeli policy even limits food imports to a total number of calories per person guaranteed to “put them on a diet”.
Since the Hamas incursion, Israel has furthered this draconian policies by totally blocking food, water, power, medication, and other supplies from entering Gaza. 2.3 million innocent civilians there are now unfairly at risk. They have no way to leave the territory. Civilian targets on both sides continue to be bombed. Hamas is threatening to kill one Israeli hostage for every civilian target bombed in Gaza.
While I continue to have every sympathy with the plight of all Palestinians, and unreservedly condemn the multi-decade oppression of Palestinians by Israel, I am very disturbed by the violence perpetrated by Hamas against innocent men, women, and children in Israel. Equally disturbing is Israel’s retaliatory violence against innocent men, women, and children in Gaza.
Voices around the world, including a number of African nations and the United States, are calling for restraint. A United Nations human rights expert is calling for a ceasefire. Many civilian groups share these sentiments, expressed eloquently by the Jewish Voice for Peace which declares, “We can and we must stop this. Never again means never again — for anyone.”
In my opinion, the violence on both sides must cease and negotiations must finally address the underlying oppression that has enabled this uprising to occur. And when this latest round of violence comes to an end, the International Criminal Court must investigate all the atrocities that have been committed and punish all the individuals found to be responsible.
These are war crimes.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (October 16, 2023): 419.53ppm
One year ago (October 16, 2022): 416.10ppm
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