4.1033 On the War (4/224)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 14 Feb 91 20:39:12 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1033. Thursday, 14 Feb 1991.

(1) Date: Tue, 12 Feb 1991 21:53 MST (21 lines)
From: LHAMPLYONS@cudnvr.denver.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: 4.1017 Israeli Diaries: Werman

(2) Date: 13 Feb 91 10:36 EST (54 lines)
From: Malcolm Hayward <MHAYWARD@IUPCP6.BITNET>
Subject: On the War, or Where Did Compassion Go?

(3) Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 08:15:27 EST (10 lines)
From: Germaine Warkentin <WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: On the War

(4) Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 09:23:00 PST (139 lines)
From: Michael_Kessler.Hum@mailgate
Subject: War, Propaganda, etc.

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 1991 21:53 MST
From: LHAMPLYONS@cudnvr.denver.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: 4.1017 Israeli Diaries: Werman (2/448)

Bob Werman's diaries are a useful insight into one aspect of the Middle East
"situation" ( a word I hear so often on the media). Have we no sources for an
Israeli Arab or Palestinian insight into the same situation? Werman does not
talk to us of the curfew on the Palestinians, of progress in the distribution
of gasmasks to Palestinians (when, if ever, will mothers be able to have
gasmasks to put on their childrem? how long must they live in fear that they
will have to face the appalling choice of putting on their gasmask and watching
their child die, or of not puting it on and dying with their child/ren?), of the
lack of food, medicine, and the means of livelihood. I do not expect him to:
he need not be an apologist for his nation. But if there ARE no
sources, why is that?
And I understand Werman's increasing anti-American sentiments -- many of us
share his cynicism. But it saddens me to see reason slipping away in
intelligent people, for without many of them on all sides we shall never escape
from the tragedies our leaders create for us.
Liz Hamp-Lyons
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------58----
Date: 13 Feb 91 10:36 EST
From: Malcolm Hayward <MHAYWARD@IUPCP6.BITNET>
Subject: On the War, or Where Did Compassion Go?

Well, I guess one person's information is another's propaganda.
George Lakoff's balanced and articulate statement has incurred
the wrath (not too strong a word) of Harwell, Kessler, Copold,
and Judy. Let me see if I've got some of the arguments straight.

1. It's okay to kill Iraqi civilians because that's a
"predictable side-effect." So if a hundred civilians are huddled
in a shelter hit by a missile, the fact that this is a probable
result takes away any of the guilt that I should feel (that any
citizen on the Allied side should feel) at this act of terror.

2. It's okay to kill Iraqi soldiers--no matter that they were
conscripted, no matter whether they are 17 or 70, no matter that
they like any of us each carry their own universe of cause and
reason, spirit and emotion, allegiances and aspirations. No
matter that they are after all each and everyone humans and thus
worthy of as much as we can do to help them realize themselves
fully as humans.

3. It's better to be associated with pilots who think of their
targets as insects rather than people--as long as they are on
our side. And the moral issues that this raises are really not
serious--suitable material for psychologists to write novels
about, but something for us to really be concerned about?
Certainly not.

4. The esteemed Israeli government, democratically elected
and all, is not at all racist, is equally concerned with the
future of all its citizens, Arab as well as Jew, is showing
the kind of great restraint and responsibility that it has
showed in the past (curfews, a lack of gas masks, the intifada,
Southern Lebanon, the West Bank . . . notwithstanding).

I could go on, but to tell you the truth, I am heart-sick
enough already. How much of one's humanity must one lose
before such arguments start to ring true?

Here's a small note from the home front: the Chancellor of
the State System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania asked
each of the schools in the system to furnish a list of all
faculty and students of "Arabian and Israeli nationality."
The list will be kept "confidential," it says. I'm not
real sure what "Arabian nationality" means--any guesses?
I'm also not real sure what one would do with such a list.
Again, any guesses?

Malcolm Hayward MHayward@IUP
Department of English Phone: 412-357-2322 or
IUP 412-357-2261
Indiana, PA 15705
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------18----
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 08:15:27 EST
From: Germaine Warkentin <WARKENT@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: On the War

Please don't stop the contributions on the war! The addition of a message
from the West Bank today was welcome. The war is indeed closely related to
the central concerns of a seminar with the name "Humanist", otherwise
the name has a very different significance from the one I and many others
think it bears. "Homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto" is an ancient saying
(Terence, I think), but a good one to keep in mind just now. Germaine.
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------150---
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 91 09:23:00 PST
From: Michael_Kessler.Hum@mailgate
Subject: War, Propaganda, etc.

I cannot let Bob Werman's diaries pass without comment. It
is to some degree difficult, since he can at least claim to be
directly involved, and claim that I, sitting across the ocean,
simply cannot comprehend the situation. To the degree that he
reports mood and feelings directly related the missile attacks, I
defer to his experience, but as Judy Koren points out, at least
one claim can be countered with another "better" eye witness
report. The further he moves from Jerusalem, the more arguable
points there are. Some of them may only be figures of speech,
but for some, those figures of speech may be fightin' words. For
example, he refers to Israeli farm products reaching Iraq. To my
knowledge, the West Bank is not recognized as part of Israel by
most nations in the world, including the United States. I do
not think that the politics of terminology can be avoided, so at
least we should be aware of it. (Note: for the Francophones, a
better article than George Lakoff's on Metaphor and War is Roland
Barthes' "Grammaire Africaine" in _Mythologies_, written probably
before the outbreak of the Algerian war. However, since it was
written for _Le Monde_, it might not pass muster as a scholarly
article, and of course, political bias is included. This
particular article is not available in the translation of
Propaganda is propaganda. We might like ours, the other side
theirs, and a disinterested listener might feel that either one
gives him a queasy stomach. I do not see how any of us can make
heads or tails from the news that comes from Saudi Arabia and
Iraq. Shall I believe American reports who in the past have
confused corn meal with cocaine, bee pollen with poison gas
residue, and West European financed runways (built with the help
of Cuban engineers) with secret strategic airfields aimed at the
heart of the U.S.? (Mea culpa, I am exaggerating U.S. claims in
regard to Grenada). Thus the U.S. claims to have bombed a
chemical factory, but the Bay Guardian (a local "oppositional"
paper) reports that other American papers (the New York Post via
the Village Voice) quote a Nestle spokesman in Switzerland to the
effect that they keep an eye on the competition, and yes, it was
an infant formula plant. Based on objectivity, I would have to
believe the Nestle spokesman (assuming that he really said was is
being reported), and one might also wonder if Swiss industrial
spying might not be more effective than spying by American
military intelligence. Of course, in the grand total of this
war, that factory will be insignificant, and will probably be
forgotten. The same article reports a New York Newsday article
that an Army War College team (whatever that means), has come to
the conclusion that the gassing of the Kurds may have been
carried out by the Iranians, which leads one to ask why Saddam
Hussein did not trumpet that fact.
Since we are not in Iraq, let us use our imagination. Herb
Caen (a local columnist--no military expert but he knows the
geography of his city) pointed out that if an enemy decided to
take out the freeways, telephone exchanges, docks and railroads,
government buildings and military installations in San Francisco,
there would have to be severe damage (and casualties) on non-
strategic areas. He posited this before we read the regular news
reports that smart bombs have an estimated 60% rate of accuracy.
Let any reader imagine a major city in his country struck
"surgically" (should surgeons sue for defamation of character?)
by bombs (Paris? Rome? Montreal? New York?). I am only
imagining, but I think that it is perhaps more accurate than
thinking that most damages to civilian quarters are due to "anti-
aircraft fallout." If you support the war, it does make you feel
better that your side is not the direct cause of civilian
In the more general discussion, Bob Werman makes assumptions
that are off the mark. If anything, from the comments I have
received in the past from Europeans friends, Americans are seen
as righteous and absolute (naive is the usual encapsulating
term). Americans might not have recognized the evil of Saddam
Hussein, but the possibility of evil does exist for the American
(one generalization is worth another). On the other hand, since
Saddam Hussein was equated with Hitler long before we went to
war (since August?), I think that the recognition of Evil is not
an issue. If we wanted to recognize evil, we have had the
opportunity to do it. Of course, the government also plays a
role in the recognition of evil. Who, after all, recognized the
(therefore not evil) Pol Pot regime (in exile) until very
recently? My impression is that there is a great deal of
rhetoric in the term "evil". Within the western culture (the
only one I have experienced) how can we not be against Evil, and
therefore how can we question the war effort? My answer to that
is a personal one:

My father was "un bon Aryen" ;-) (three years in KZ and
Zuchthaus, in that order, between 1933 and 1937), as were quite a
few of his friends (would Steve Copold deny the accuracy of
their position because it was a distinctly minority opinion?).
He recognized the evil of Hitler and his followers in the 20's,
claimed that the destruction of the Jews could be foreseen,
although at other times he claimed that no one believed the
reports that started coming out of the BBC during the war--it was
all government propaganda on the level of the German atrocities
in Belgium during W.W.I (memory plays strange tricks). At some
point between the declaration of war and the fall of France, he
was interned and then asked to join the French Foreign Legion to
fight against Hitler. He refused and, with others, tried to
convince the vacillating ones not to join (about 15% success
rate according to him). Nor did he join the Resistance, although
my mother claims that he did as much sheer idiocy (her opinion)
as some who were in it, or claimed to have been in it once
liberated. His position was political, not pacifist, although in
practice he was a pacifist. (Political pacifism existed also in
the U.S., c.f. Naeve's _A Field of Broken Stones_). Wars are
declared and carried out by governments, and are therefore
suspect (discours indirect libre). I grew up with that deep
suspicion of officialdom, authority and any form of group
allegiance. I bought off my "droit d'option" because I had no
intention of going to Algeria in the early sixties, and my father
offered to finance any displacement to Canada in that same decade
if that ever came to pass. In other words, I have a visceral
reaction to war, and it may very well be that any argument I
present is predicated on that reaction. To what degree are all
our arguments related to the present dependent on our
predispositions? How should we take that into account? At the
very least, I would not question the "bonne volonte" of any
participant in this discussion.
I could raise questions about other elements of Bob Werman's
presentation, e.g. the issue of security and censorship, but that
would add too much bulk. I'm only trying to indicate that none
of us is a _Voyageur sans bagages_, nor can any of us be certain
of the information we receive. Judy Koren's greater
circumspection when making comments is much appreciated.
Another impression I get from his diaries is that he supposes
the destruction of Saddam Hussein. I see him taking the last
remaining jet to Iran. Moreover, who is to say that the 100
ayatollahs that probably are created in the Arab world by the
destruction of Saddam Hussein will be an improvement in terms of
our (deliberately ambiguous possessive adjective) relationship to
that world? Will the peace that will surely follow be only the
continuation of war by other means? A not unrelated but
rhetorical question: why is anger in the U.S. legitimate, but not
in the Arab world?