Collateral damage is nothing more than a euphemism for
state-sponsored mass murder. It is the term given to people killed in military
actions who were "not intentionally targeted." In reality, this is
pure propaganda. It has always been morally just to protect innocent people
against aggressors. But, on the other hand, it has never been moral, nor has it
ever been necessary, to bomb cities filled with innocent people.
We rarely see the faces or know the identities of those
reduced to the status of collateral damage. It is a gray area where the victim
becomes less than a person. Interestingly enough, during the Vietnam War, both
Henry Kissinger and Robert McNamara used the term "integers" to
describe those civilian deaths that they preferred not to have publicized as
human beings. Such is the amazing power of doublespeak.
Civilians killed incidental to what the dominant power
refers to as "progress" are called collateral damage, while those
killed intentionally are victims of "terrorism." But all too often,
unfortunately, it's quite difficult to tell the difference between the two. Governments
regularly do one and call it the other, but the end result is still the same:
dead civilians. So, no matter the name you give it (War on Terrorism, Spreading
Democracy, Regime Change, Defending our Freedoms), when war is taken to a
civilian population, isn't it nothing more than terrorism and murder, even if
you later call the victims collateral damage?
Come to think of it, there is probably no term that is more
repugnant and immoral than the one that discards the importance of other
people's lives as mere collateral damage; especially when their deaths become
incidental to the conquest of some military or political objective. As
collateral damage, these people suffer the same outcome as fat discarded by a
It is important to note, however, that those who use the
term "collateral damage" strategically always seem to apply it to
foreigners; such as Iraqis and Afghanis. Even when a two-ton, laser-guided bomb
is dropped on a small village, it's claimed that the mass deaths were
"inadvertent" and "tragic," and that they could have been
prevented if the "terrorists" would just stop fighting back, or as
some of us call it, resisting. So, rather than treating these people as human
beings victimized by evil actions, they are simply written off as collateral
damage, i.e., rubble.
No moral person would ever dream of referring to a policeman
killed while trying to save people from the World Trade Center as collateral
damage, even though that policeman was also an "inadvertent" victim,
and not the direct target of the attack. We can all acknowledge the fact that
the policeman was a real person, and not just an unfortunate statistic. That
person was the victim of a heinous act of violence which caused his death. Likewise,
the innocent victims of our government's actions in the "war on
terror" are more than a statistic. They are also victims of heinous acts
Apologists for American soldiers killing people in Iraq
would like us to believe that their killings are justifiable because they're
done in "self-defense." The awful truth is that most killing in the
course of this or any war is simply murder disguised as self=defense. Otherwise,
we'd have to accept as morally valid, a thought process similar to this:
Those Iraqis were trying to kill ME so I just had to kill
THEM. Like my leaders said, they were supposed to welcome me as a liberator,
and let me secure their country for them. I'm here to help these poor people,
and all they do is shoot at me!
Let's try to simplify this self-defense argument. U.S.
soldiers participate in the invasion of Iraq, which is a country thousands of
miles away from home that has never attacked America. The soldiers have their
weapons loaded, with fingers on the trigger. Meanwhile, there are Iraqi
citizens who object to their country being invaded by a foreign army. They
proceed to load their own weapons, and point them at invading U.S. soldiers. American
soldiers then shoot and kill the "foreigners" in their home country. According
to American politicians and military leaders, such killings are not murder;
they're self-defense. These "insurgents" should have just given up
and surrendered peacefully.
With this type of thinking, I suppose that if a person were
to stand on your driveway and aim a loaded weapon at you, they would be
justified in killing you if you were to point a gun at them. They, and not you,
under this code of collateral damage, would be the ones using self-defense! Oh,
you might say that the robber was trespassing, right? U.S. troops are doing the
same, are they not? We've heard it called regime change, spreading democracy,
fighting terrorism and more. But, what else can it be called other than
trespassing? It is nothing more than an invasion, which is trespassing at the
barrel of a gun.
When a state drops bombs on another country and brings about
the inevitable deaths of innocents, it cannot be exempted from liability just
because it didn't want to kill them. It can never be innocent itself, whatever
the justification. It can never be anything but fully responsible for each and
every death it causes. Reducing men, women and children to statistics will
never eliminate the overall culpability of the aggressor state.
The obvious assumption that the murderers make is that our
goals and our lives have more importance than that of any
foreigners, and, therefore, in order to achieve these goals, we have the right
to murder them without repercussion. Because there is never a penalty for
the "winners," it must be a right . . . right? But what kind of right
could this be? Is it an inherent right, a legal right, a moral right? In fact,
it's none of these; it is simply a right of superior power. This is the same
kind of right that has been exercised by tyrants throughout history; giving
them justification to murder millions to achieve a "greater good."
So, these unfortunate people, the collateral damage of war,
have been forced to become martyrs for the unchecked power that caused their
deaths. They have been discarded for the sake of the higher cause; not based on
their own beliefs, but ours. It should be quite self-evident by this point in
history, that anyone who claims to believe in freedom and equality could never
use the phrase "collateral damage" without being an utter hypocrite. Such
hubris must not continue forever. The murder of innocent people is murder,
Yes, it is true that innocents die when war is waged. Yes,
innocent people will always die when their cities are bombed and their homes
are invaded. This is all the reason that should be needed to vehemently oppose
every aggressive war that our government engages in!
In the end it doesn't matter what you call it. A
half-million Iraqi children who died as a result of "sanctions" don't
care what you call it. They, and their brethren who are dying today, don't care
about the doublespeak used by so-called scholars, party loyalists, military
apologists, or any other supporters of our brutal wars -- they're dead.
Boldin [send him email] is an outspoken
critic of the American political system, and a senior editor and
contributing writer for www.populistamerica.com.