The entire world was shocked by the horrendous atrocities of last weekend. Appropriately, they were followed by tears, laying of wreaths, moments of silence, prayer vigils, and singing of La Marseillaise before football games and other public events.
France’s President Hollande evoked sympathy when he correctly declared the attacks “an act of war.” No one disagreed.
However, Mr. Hollande was not correct in his implication that the killings in Paris somehow began a war that France and its partners have now self-righteously resolved to “finish.” Rather, the Paris massacre is part of a much bigger picture that includes conflicts the West has been part of since 2001.
To fill out that picture, consider the following “home truths” about war. Uncomfortable as they are, allowing them to sink in might help uncover alternatives to the violence that stupefies everyone.
- War is hell.
- In modern warfare, 90% of casualties are civilian.
- The casualties include refugee migrations.
- The West’s response to 9/11/01 was to declare war.
- It began a campaign of bombing and extra-judicial assassination in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere.
- According to a study by Lancet (one of the oldest scientific medical journals in the world), since 2003 the U.S. war in Iraq has caused more than one million deaths – again, most of them civilian.
- Meanwhile, the U.S. has supplied weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia for their own bombing campaigns in Gaza and Yemen.
- In Gaza alone (with complete U.S. support) the Israeli Defense Force fired 50,000 shells, carried out 6000 airstrikes, destroyed 3,500 buildings, killed 2250 Gazans, including 551 children.
- In wars there are always at least two sides.
- All have the right to attack and counter-attack.
- It is insane to be shocked when counter-attacks occur.
- Counter-attacks often mimic attacks.
- So if one side is perceived as attacking defenseless civilians, the other side will likely respond in kind.
- France itself is at war.
- President Hollande is a founding member of the U.S.-led coalition that has recently dropped 175,000 bombs on Iraq and Syria killing at least 600 civilians in the process.
- Therefore no one should be surprised when “in kind” counter-attacks occur. (To repeat: that’s the way war works.)
In view of such home truths, instead of responding to the Paris massacre with more bombings, the U.S., France and their allies should:
- Realize that the West’s enemies experience many “Paris Massacres” each day at western hands.
- Accordingly and on principle reject the atrocities of war that on both sides justly horrify everyone.
- Announce a cessation of all bombing campaigns.
- With allies including the United States, France, Russia, Iran, and others, call a Summit (appropriately) in Paris to meet with the leaders of the Islamic State to seek a negotiated settlement to the conflicts the West has initiated.
- Open western borders to the refugees inevitably produced by the U.S.-led wars over the last 14 years.
- In churches and other principled fora, specifically condemn all Islamophobic statements of politicians and other public figures.
Only actions like these can release the world from massacres that are the unavoidable consequences of the wars we rightly recognize as hell.