Let us agree on two things about the latest chapter in the decades-old Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It is a war, and it has already exacted a horrific toll on both Israelis and Palestinians. The world has seen this before in the Middle East and replicated it disastrously in other global conflict zones. In spite of this grim cycle, those who so quickly lead us into war never learn war’s lesson: It doesn’t work. It only kills, maims and destroys.
The United States is complicit in the carnage and has been for decades. The nation is, after all, the world’s munitions purveyor of choice. America manufactures first-rate munitions and then sells and delivers those munitions with impunity, and without a conscience, to anyone who promises not to send them back our way. We don’t seem to care who those munitions are intended for. We only care that they be launched, dropped or shot in someone else’s land.
Yet it never occurs to any of our fearless leaders that colluding with death merchants rots the national soul. We have become thoroughly desensitized to the gun violence our homegrown arms merchants have baked into our nation. It seems okay to take the violence we accept at home and export it to others.
In this context, it is important to remember that our leaders no longer fight themselves, like in the good old days. Rather, they send others to bomb, shoot and destroy. Yet, so anxious are they for absolution that they create the fictions necessary to the self-delusional world they inhabit. Babies become “collateral damage,” and a festival is a “soft target”. Precision bombing is another good one. “It’s hard to tell the soldiers from the civilians” is a helpful lunacy.
As bombs rain from the sky, you’re supposed to take comfort that bombs “Made In America” are righteous bombs in service of a righteous cause. Tell that to a mother holding the hand of her child as those hands and the bodies to which they are attached are blown to bits.
World peace demands human progress
Clearly, I despise war, guns and bombs. But what I really hate is that we are so many millennia into the human experiment, yet we still glorify warriors, teach war instead of peace and find no way to end the violent madness. If this issue only pertained to the US, stopping it would be a daunting but possible task. However, since this applies to so many nations across the world, there is no end in sight.
Achieving peace requires understanding and compassion. It requires a level of respect and concern for humanity, in general, and for those who might do harm to us, in particular. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict, as a current laboratory for cruelty, is a horrific case in point. How can Palestinians ever trust Israelis or the Israeli government to humanize those they have for so long dehumanized? Now that the “cockroaches” have swarmed and returned inhumanity with inhumanity, how will Israelis ever trust Palestinians in their midst again?
It will take a monumental effort to reverse course and to seek lasting solutions among the ashes. To begin the process, the cruelty of the past and present has to inform the future. As a historical reference, after hundreds of warring years in Europe, it took World War II to finally reduce the value of human life to so little that the emerging leadership opened its eyes. A miracle happened: The victors chose for once to see all of humanity as the losers and proceeded to uplift the vanquished.
Mourn all casualties, work to reduce them
We now live in a world of images, often taken out of context and unscrupulously used for political, economic and personal ends. Perhaps no pictures move us more than those of children laid waste by the callous indifference of their “protectors.” Imagine America’s school shootings, Ukraine’s orphans, babies caught in barbed wire at the US southern border and children suffering droughts in wretched refugee camps. Now we can add an Israeli village, child hostages and Palestinian youths in bombed-out hospitals to that gruesome portfolio.
This carnage is not new, but that fact makes it no less devastating. What stands out now is only made more damning by its antecedents. We have to confront a seemingly intractable human trait: the prevalence of inhumanity as an acceptable response to inhumanity. Sure, share the somber remembrance of those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, but then take a moment to reflect on the countless souls who have died in the US response and who had nothing to do with the attacks themselves.
So, no matter the veneer, revenge is revenge. It is generally deadly and often disproportionate. Those who seek a better world, where humanity is valued and conscience is a cornerstone, have much to overcome. Maybe the present Israeli–Palestinian war in Gaza will be the moment that spawns leaders who actually seek to lead their nations and supporters to a better place. By doing so, they will show the rest of us that it can be done.
America’s difficult path to a better world
For such noble leaders to arise, the US government will have to play a uniquely uncommon role. It must start by engaging as a true partner with all the warring parties. It must speak for humane solutions. It must welcome to the table the few resources that can speak for humanity, then help to design and implement those humane solutions. Lastly — and this will be the harder part — America has to commit to no longer arming any of the combatants again. As long as the US is viewed as a collaborative participant in the killing fields, its capacity to seek peace and promote humane conflict solutions will remain hopelessly compromised.
I hope this time will be different. I hope those images endure. I want America to finally see the poison polluting its national soul. It should somehow come to understand that arming humans with killing machines is not an honorable or sustainable moral imperative, nor a humane economic model. I want my country to lead the world in using its vast resources to humane ends and to an increased understanding of humanity.
Maybe, if America tried that, we could reduce the killing at home and abroad, provide outreach and increased global access to meaningful healthcare, engender learning and compassion in the next generations, and provide a framework for actually welcoming those who can benefit from our help and helping those in our midst who require that help.
Maybe then the images would change.
[Hard Left Turn first published this piece.]
[Lee Thompson-Kolar edited this piece.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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