My parents told us about the German V1 and V2 rockets which were launched against targets in England during World War II. I can find no evidence for or against the idea that our home City of Bristol was hit by such rockets, but it seems unlikely since the V1 had a range of about 100 miles and the V2 a range of 200. Such rockets were launched from France, though some V I’s were launched from aircraft flying over the channel or over southern England.
What I “got” from Mum and Dad was the idea that these rockets were somehow “unfair”. It was one thing for “a plucky RAF fighter pilot to attack German bombers”, but another thing to be attacked by rockets against which there was no defence, ( except that RAF pilots could “tip the wings” of the slower VI, and I gather that they became adept at this).
But my parents were on to something important. There was an idea, developed by philosophers and theologians that although war might be the inevitable last resort, there ought to be some sense of proportionality in any response to an aggressor.
That idea of “proportionality” might have made some sense when wars were fought on land between competing armies or on sea by competing navies. It became impossible to sustain once wars were waged by aerial bombardment and hapless civilians became “sitting ducks”, so to speak.
(Not that civilians had always been immune – long before the modern age cities could be besieged and the inhabitants starved towards surrender).
We’ve come a long way from the dreaded V1 and V2 rockets. Modern warfare has no boundaries and no possibility of proportionality.
1.From somewhere in the USA a man or woman at a computer “flies” a drone over Pakistan or Afghanistan.
2.From deep in the Mediterranean missiles are launched against Libya.
3.Rocket equipped fighters take off from an airfield in Italy and launch their rockets of death and doom from North African skies.
There is no proportion.
But there is what is euphemistically called “collateral damage”, (such Orwellian words).
Collateral damage means that an ordinary family going about its business in Pakistan is blasted out of this life by a rocket launched from a drone. It means that half a dozen shepherd boys are slaughtered in Afghanistan because of a similar “drone error”. It probably also means that some of God’s children in Libya are murdered by a missile even as they struggle to eke out a miserable existence.
Is this the price of war? Some might say so.
But I question why we are at war on three fronts in the first place. Not one politician or general has been able to give me a clear answer as to the anticipated “good outcomes” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (and Pakistan).
I know that the Weapons of Mass Destruction rationale for our Iraq adventure was a lie.
I know that the so-called War on Terror will most likely have the effect of radicalising many young men and women who perceive nothing but aggression from the Western powers.
I expect to hear some sophisticated obfuscation from President Obama when he speaks to the nation tonight.
I do not believe that anything we have done, or plan to do will have long term and sustainable benefits for the peoples of the above countries. (Does anyone truly believe that in (say) twenty five years time the hoi polloi of these Arab or Muslim States will be grateful for our interventions?)
(To be fair, I salute the women and men of the armed forces “on the ground” who are doing their best to help build schools, clinics, roads etc. This is a worthy task which would have been possible without war! I have every respect for the soldiers and marines who are on the ground. I have no respect for the Politicians, Generals and CIA “pooh bahs” who direct these efforts from a safe distance).
And I have a certain despair which arises from these conflicts. That despair is rooted in the silence of the majority of the world’s religious leaders on these matters. Their silence equals complicity.
I move from despair to anger as I am deafened by the silence of the Christian Churches in these United States. I have not heard one Cardinal, Bishop, Episcopal Priest or Protestant Minister raise any protest against our own indiscriminate use of our own weapons of mass destruction, *(with the sole exception of Jim Wallis of the Sojourners Community).
I hear very nice sermons from the very nice Priests who are my local colleagues.
But I am tired of “nice”.
I am ashamed of my own lack of courage from the pulpit.
I am getting to the point at which I do not wish to preach anymore if my chief task is to be nice.
(More tomorrow – probably).