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Monday, October 11, 2004

A View from Belgium

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution solicited reader input from around the world, and got an interesting response from someone in Belgium. Here's an excerpt:
A few weeks ago, on September 4th the end of WWII was commemorated in the very small and calm town where I was born. That day in í44 German soldiers tried to flee to Germany through smaller country roads. It was Sunday and a family stood on the front door to see the Germans passing by. Those scary Germans gunned the whole family down and drove further. Two hours later a huge British tank appeared in the street of my parents and everybody was urged to stay inside. The next column of Germans was attacked by the British flame-thrower and all their ammunition exploded. After a few moment my father couldnít hold it, opened the door and saw the British soldiers standing there while Germans were rolling over the street completely in flames, crying and dying; about ten houses were burning down. Our house was the last untouched. That was a very small event in this war. You have to multiply this Ďsmallí event by a million as you talk about the deaths and destroyed buildings of the whole war, and then you know what WWII means in Europe. Here soldiers are not heroes; soldiers are killers; war is not a solution, war is complete destruction with only losers; the cause of a war is always stupid because it needs generations to come again to normal. Thatís the opinion of the overwhelming majority in Belgium and I am sure in whole Europe.

Madeleine Albright repeats here on TV, where she is interviewed about her new book, that Europeans donít understand what 9/11 changed in the psyche of the Americans. I think she is right, and in fact we donít even try to decipher this subtleties. We really understand the horror of men and women, jumping down from the WTC, believe me. But while commemorating, 50 years after, the killing of millions of people and the devastation of thousandths of cities, small towns or neighborhoods, we do not understand that a normal homo sapiens starts a war machine of 60 to 100 billion dollars for two buildings and less than 3000 victims Ė certainly when we know that more people were killed in the US during the same year by guns and cars.
Some 30,000 by guns and 40,000 by cars, if I remember my statistics correctly. This gets close to my real gut reason for opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my opinion, wars ALWAYS make things worse. Some of the worst cases of genocide occurred during war--the killing of one to two million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during WWI, the holocaust during WWII. Of course there's no clear evidence that the wars didn't prevent these genocides from being worse (although from what I've read about Armenia, it would have been almost impossible for it to have been any worse). The worst and most believable charges of mass murder against Saddam Hussein are for the killing of Shiites and Kurds at the end of the first Gulf War. Wars put people in impossible situations; imagine living in Baghdad now. You can support the US invasion and new puppet government and face attacks from insurgents, or you can support the insurgents and risk being Abu-Ghraibed by the Americans. You can try to stay in the middle of the road, where you've got a good chance of getting run over from either direction. World War II put tens of millions of people into these impossible situations: Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Ukrainians, North Africans, French, Danish, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Filipinos, and many, many more.

Clearly, if you're under direct attack, you can fight back. But to use one criminal attack as the reason to start one of these horrible atrocities called a war, just because someone you don't like might give weapons he doesn't have to someone he doesn't know, is the highest of high crimes.