Sunday, January 04, 2009

The March of Folly Continues... 2009


Airstrike on Gaza

With the fall of Communism in the late eighties and early nineties there was a brief flurry of speculation within some scholarly quarters as to whether or not we were heading towards a bright hopeful future characterized by the univeral embrace of democracy and freedom, the end of ideological conflict between nations, and the "end of history."

There were more skeptical voices out there to be sure, but hardly even the most pessimistic expected to see what the early 21st Century has looked like so far, the century that John Paul II had hoped would be one of "New Evangelization."

Everywhere is war, and as we look at the horrific events unfolding in Gaza, I find myself wondering if humankind can ever find its way out of this cycle.

Regarding Gaza in particular... I stand by Israel. For all of Israel's flaws and mistakes, of which there are many, if I'm forced to take sides between Israel and Hamas, I will have to choose Israel. The tragedy is amplified by the fact that both sides are locked into a death spiral over their shared conviction that force must always be answered by force.

I'm still wrestling within my own heart and mind over the implications and possibilities of pacifism. Can it ever be practically applied in this world of harsh and unforgiving realities? I pray, I wish to God that it can, but I'm not so sure. There are times when I'm inclined to lose hope. One way or another, through nonviolence or violence, the nihilistic death-worshipping ideologies of Hamas and like-minded groups need to be discredited and repudiated.

World War II was not being fought as a "Just War" by the time it ended, if it ever was at all. "Total War" was being waged by both sides. Is it really true that Total War is what it took to put the ideologies of National Socialism and militaristic Japanese emperor worship into disrepute? Can might really make right? Does good sometimes need to triumph over evil using the same forces as evil?

Maybe that's true. What, however, does this mean for our Christian faith? If we accept this principle of might making right, what difference did the appearance of God in incarnate form make in this world? What was the purpose of his death and resurrection if the world was only going to continue operating in the same way it always had before? Is this what the Kingdom of God was supposed to be, with us piously coopting and recasting the message of Jesus into something totally other-worldly instead of this-worldly?

I never served in the military, but my family has a proud military tradition within it. I don't consider the military a dishonorable profession by any means. On the contrary. I admire a soldier's courage, discipline, self-sacrifice and loyal selflessness. On the other hand, we need to be careful of where this lionization of martial attributes leads to, out of love of weaponry, adventure, uniforms, etc...

It may be that war is a regrettable necessity in certain circumstances, but it always represents a human failure. It is always a tragedy. Even a war fought for necessary purposes is obscene. As humankind makes the same mistakes over and over again, seeming to learn nothing from them except how to continue making endless lists of enemies, do we have to wonder if it really is true that we are nothing more than highly socialized apes, capable of love and art and close cooperation, but also the most vicious forms of competition?

Most authors and commentators who've earned the right to have an opinion on the matter seem to have come to a consensus that the best memoir written by an infantryman in the Second World War was With the Old Breed by the late Eugene Sledge, a native of Mobile who served as a combat marine on the Pacific islands of Peleliu and Okinawa. He escaped those epic and horrific battles without a scratch and went on after the war to become Professor of Marine Biology at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. He deals with a fair amount of survivor's guilt in those pages, wondering why he emerged physically unharmed when so many of his comrades were killed or wounded, but the most important point to take out of his book is the utter obscenity of war, and that there is no glory to be found in it whatsoever.


Fallen Marines on Iwo Jima

Excerpts from Sledge's book, describing the atmosphere surrounding the Battle of Half Moon Hill, before the Shuri Line on Okinawa, 1945.

Everywhere lay Japanese corpses killed in the heavy fighting. Infantry equipment of every type, U.S. and Japanese, was scattered about. Helmets, rifles, BARs, packs, cartridge belts, canteens, shoes, ammo boxes, shell cases, machine-gun ammo belts, all were strewn around us up to and all over Half Moon.

The mud was knee deep in some places, probably deeper in others if one dared venture there. For several feet around every corpse, maggots crawled about in the muck and then were washed away by the runoff of the rain. There wasn't a tree or bush left. All was open country. Shells had torn up the turf so completely that ground cover was nonexistent. The rain poured down on us as evening approached. The scene was nothing but mud; shell fire; flooded craters with their silent, pathetic, rotting occupants; knockedout tanks and amtracs; and discarded equipment-utter desolation.

The stench of death was overpowering. The only way I could bear the monstrous horror of it all was to look upward away from the earthly reality surrounding us, watch the leaden gray clouds go skudding over, and repeat over and over to myself that the situation was unreal-just a nightmare that I would soon awake and find myself somewhere else. But the ever-present smell of death saturated my nostrils. It was there with every breath I took.

I existed from moment to moment, sometimes thinking death would have been preferable. We were in the depths of the abyss, the ultimate horror of war. During the fighting around the Umurbrogol Pocket on Peleliu, I had been depressed by the wastage of human lives. But in the mud and driving rain before Shuri, we were surrounded by maggots and decay. Men struggled and fought and bled in an environment so degrading I believed we had been flung into hell's own cesspool….

The longer we stayed in the area, the more unending the nights seemed to become. I reached the state where I would awake abruptly from my semisleep, and if the area was lit up, note with confidence my buddy scanning the terrain for any hostile sign. I would glance about, particularly behind us, for trouble. Finally, before we left the area, I frequently jerked myself up into a state in which I was semiawake during periods between star shells.

I imagined Marine dead had risen up and were moving silently about the area. I suppose these were nightmares, and I must have been more asleep than awake, or just dumbfounded by fatigue. Possibly, they were hallucinations, but they were strange and horrible. The pattern was always the same. The dead got up slowly out of their waterlogged craters or off the mud and, with stooped shoulders and dragging feet, wandered around aimlessly, their lips moving as though trying to tell me something. I struggled to hear what they were saying. They seemed agonized by pain and despair. I felt they were asking me for help. The most horrible thing was that I felt unable to aid them.

At that point I invariably became wide awake and felt sick and halfcrazed by the horror of my dream. I would gaze out intently to see if the silent figures were still there, but saw nothing. When a flare lit up, all was stillness and desolation, each corpse in its usual place.

Among the craters off the ridge to the west was a scattering of Marine corpses. Just beyond the right edge of the end foxhole, the ridge fell away steeply to the flat, muddy ground. Next to the base of the ridge, almost directly below me, was a partially flooded crater about three feet in diameter and probably three feet deep. In this crater was the body of a Marine whose grisly visage has remained disturbingly clear in my memory. If I close my eyes, he is as vivid as though I had seen him only yesterday.

The pathetic figure sat with his back toward the enemy and leaned against the south edge of the crater. His head was cocked, and his helmet rested against the side of the crater so that his face, or what remained of it, looked straight up at me. His knees were flexed and spread apart. Across his thighs, still clutched in his skeletal hands, was his rusting BAR. Canvas leggings were laced neatly along the sides of his calves and over his boondockers. His ankles were covered with muddy water, but the toes of his boondockers were visible above the surface. His dungarees, helmet, cover, and 782 gear appeared new. They were neither mud-spattered nor faded.

I was confident that he had been a new replacement. Every aspect of that big man looked much like a Marine "taking ten" on maneuvers before the order to move out again. He apparently had been killed early in the attacks against the Half Moon, before the rains began. Beneath his helmet brim I could see the visor of a green cotton fatigue cap. Under that cap were the most ghastly skeletal remains I had ever seen-and I had already seen too many.

Every time I looked over the edge of that foxhole down into that crater, that half-gone face leered up at me with a sardonic grin. It was as though he was mocking our pitiful efforts to hang on to life in the face of the constant violent death that had cut him down. Or maybe he was mocking the folly of the war itself:
"I am the harvest of man's stupidity. I am the fruit of the holocaust. I prayed like you to survive, but look at me now. It is over for us who are dead, but you must struggle, and will carry the memories all your life. People back home will wonder why you can't forget."

During the day I sometimes watched big rain drops splashing into the crater around that corpse and remembered how as a child I had been fascinated by rain drops splashing around a large green frog as he sat in a ditch near home. My grandmother had told me that elves made little splashes like that, and they were called water babies. So I sat in my foxhole and watched the water babies splashing around the green-dungaree-clad corpse. What an unlikely combination. The war had turned the water babies into little ghouls that danced around the dead instead of little elves dancing around a peaceful bullfrog. A man had little to occupy his mind at Shuri-just sit in muddy misery and fear, tremble through the shellings, and let his imagination go where it would.


More excerpts for Eugene Sledge's book can be found here at the PBS website for the Ken Burns series The War.

13 comments:

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, Interesting to read the excerpts from Sledge. I had never heard of him before.

I'm a bit perplexed, though, by your overall post. You rue the horrors of war on one hand, but are "taking sides" on the other. Isn't "taking sides" in a complex struggle like this actually part of the ongoing cycle of violence?

Most of the bitter enmity that fosters horrific situations like this comes from two tribes that hate each other irrationally and can no longer find ways to dialog without resorting to violence. It seems to me that the only way to break the cycle is to move beyond identifying with "the tribe." We are all in this together.

If it's "the good guys" versus "the bad guys" - OUR side versus THEIR side - there will never be any resolution. Instead, I think we have to look at "good actions" and "bad actions." As with any kind of conflict resolution, we have to listen closely and carefully to both sides. We need to push for a Win-Win situation. Not a Win/Lose scenario.

It seems vitally important in this specific situation that we in the U.S. who have no ties to the Israelis or Palestinians need to stand back and try to analyze rationally what obviously cannot be analyzed rationally be those killing each other. We need to listen more closely to both sides, because they obviously cannot listen to each other.

One of the few hopeful things in this ongoing cycle of hatred that I know of is a dialog group in New York (and other cities) that includes Israelis, Palestinians and concerned others, often Christians. I've heard some incredible tales from people involved. The key has been for the participants to actually hear each others' stories. That's the humanity that can overcome the hatred. Face-to-face conversations with people over time.

I don't believe peace is ultimately attainable for the human race. And I'm not a pacifist. Violence is necessary at times. But I do believe we can work towards more peaceful situations.

But I think for the U.S. as a country and us as human beings to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Jeff said...

William,

It wasn't the main point of my post, but I guess I'm taking sides because I feel like the weight of world opinion is riding squarely upon Israel over this current round of violence in most cases, and despite Israel's selfish, continual and cynical mistakes, I believe that Hamas and it's ideology are utterly toxic forces that cannot and should not be tolerated in this world, as understandable as the grievances of the Palestinian people may be.

If my post leaves you perplexed, it's because I'm perplexed too. You are right. Getting beyond tribalism is the answer, but I'm wondering if it is within the capacity of the human race to do so. I don't know if we can change in time to keep from destroying ourselves. I guess I'm also having a hard time squaring up the necessity of war under certain circumstances with Christian faith. Accomodating for it increasingly seems false to me.

crystal said...

Interesting post. I've seen stuff here and there about what's happening in Gaza. At America's blog, Sean Michael Winters seems to agree with you about Israel. I think we do really take sides - if not, why would so amny think things like that the president of Zimbabwe should be deposed, or that the Chinese should leave Tibet. In the Gaza case I'm not sure whch side to be on.

Pacifism is interesting. It seems like what is supposed to work best for winning is tit for tat but perhaps the point of Jesus' teaching on pacifism in'st to win but to be good?

Mike McG... said...

"Regarding Gaza in particular... I stand by Israel. For all of Israel's flaws and mistakes, of which there are many, if I'm forced to take sides between Israel and Hamas, I will have to choose Israel."...Jeff

"Isn't 'taking sides' in a complex struggle like this actually part of the ongoing cycle of violence?

"Most of the bitter enmity that fosters horrific situations like this comes from two tribes that hate each other irrationally and can no longer find ways to dialog without resorting to violence. It seems to me that the only way to break the cycle is to move beyond identifying with 'the tribe.' We are all in this together."

"If it's 'the good guys' versus 'the bad guys' - OUR side versus THEIR side - there will never be any resolution. Instead, I think we have to look at 'good actions' and 'bad actions.' As with any kind of conflict resolution, we have to listen closely and carefully to both sides."...William

I agree with both of you and believe each is focused on a different face of the same truth. William wisely directs attention to the essentially tribal nature of this conflict, as well as the imperative to listen closely and carefully to both sides. Jeff would argues that, in the last analysis, we are collectively forced to assign responsibility and insist on a fair accounting of 'good actions' and 'bad actions.' A 'pox on both their houses' stance is not always adequate in bringing resolutions to such conflicts.

On Meet the Press this am was highly instructive in this regard. I came to the program highly ambivalent (my habitual stance) regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but very sympathetic to the Palestinians in the instant case. Why? Because the Israeli response has been highly disproportionate and therefore fails a key requirement of the 'just war' theory to which I subscribe. Any yet, Jonah Goldberg's comments challenged me. He disclosed his conversation with a top Hamas leader for whom the existence of Israel is absolutely intolerable. Given this apparently widely shared conviction and Hamas' decision to launch rockets from residential areas, one can better understand the Israeli response. I would absolutely counsel greater restraint. I think the response is immoral and counterproductive...but then I don't live there.

I have a process question for you guys: what proportion of the American population grapples, really grapples, with such issues? My sense that most of us are fundamentally disengaged. Among the minority who are engaged there is, I submit, a well-established tendency to filter the event through an ideological frame favorable to one side's narrative and reflexively hostile to the other side's narrative.

I suspect I'm not making myself clear. Let me try again. Hostilities break out between Israel and Hamas. Most people turn the page; a more up-to-date metaphor might be turn the channel. Myside bias leads most of the engaged to filter out any ambiguity and break predictably and decisively into two camps: those for whom the Palestinians are the villians, and those for whom the Isreaeli's are the villians. Some are able to address actions rather than actors, focusing on 'bad actions' and 'good actions'. Some are able to identify 'ambiguous actions.' Some. But not many. And do these few have any power or influence whatsoever?

cowboyangel said...

Part of the uneissue here is: What is the actual conflict? Is it Israel versus Hamas - as Israel claims and is reported to us? Or Israel versus Palestine? In reality, I would also take the side of the people of Israel over the extremists of Hamas. I agree with you, Jeff, that Hamas's ideology is toxic and shouldn't be tolerated.

Of course, Israel bears a fair amount of direct responsibility for helping Hamas come into power, supporting and financing them in the 1980s to combat the PLO. Yet one more case of the incredibly cynical late 20th century "let's side with the Muslim extremists over the Marxists" strategy that blew up in all of our faces.

But I don't think this invasion is just about the extremists of Hamas. I see it as one more part of the broader struggle that's been going on since the 1920s. Nor do I think it's easy to separate the "extremists" of Hamas from ordinary Palestinians who are desperate and full of rage at how they've been treated but may not be terrorists. If you're a policeman in Gaza, you're probably a member of Hamas. In an occupation, who is a civilian and who is not?

Personally, I don't think it's possible - and maybe not even desirable - for humans to completely move beyond tribalism. But when there's an ongoing cycle of violence killing many innocent people on both sides, I think it's fair to force these two tribes to work out some kind of solution. However flimsy. In addition, my tax dollars are buying fighter jets and tanks for one of the sides involved. Also, the conflict is directly related to a worldwide struggle against the terrorism of extremist Muslims - and that directly affects my country, and, as on 9/11, the very city in which I lived. So, a resolution is not only necessary for the two tribes who hate each other but for much of the world. I would say that we have a right, since we're giving billions of dollars a year to one side, and since our own safety is involved, to demand a resolution. It's like two gangs shooting up the neighborhood.

As far as reconciling war with Christianity, I personally don't think it's possible. After spending many years reading up on it and meditating on the question, I think all our elaborate efforts to bend the teachings of Jesus to justify war are pretty much ridiculous. I think we must kill sometimes, and then we must accept responsibility for that killing. We must plead for mercy before an Almighty God. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a feeling that many of our elaborate theological justifications for some of our human actions are odious to God. They're ultimately meant to make us feel better. Whereas I think we should feel the weight of certain actions - and ask for grace and mercy and forgiveness.

Mike,

I don't know how many people in the U.S. really struggle with this issue. How many people know that we give Israel billions of dollars a year for military equipment? They might care a touch more if they knew that. We can't bail out our own automobile industry or ensure health care for our own children, yet we're buying F-18s for Israel to bomb the Gaza Strip?

I agree that we do filter most things through our ideological frame. And the media filters the story for us to begin with. One of the biggest differences between the Spanish media and the U.S. media is how they portray the narrative of Israel and Palestine. I don't know if people in the U.S. realize how different the story is told in other parts of the world. The U.S. narrative is overwhelming pro-Israel, whereas the Spanish narrative definitely leaned towards the Palestinians. And I think that's true throughout Europe. So, we're not even getting the same story. It takes a lot to sift through all the competing narratives and try to reconstruct what's really going on.

But, yes, a few people can have power and influence over what's going on. Compare the influence of AIPAC with that of Jewish-American groups against the occupation. Do we even know the names of any? Yet I know many Jews in this country are against the occupation and furious with Israel right now. What was Obama's first stop after winning the Democratic nomination? AIPAC. They exert a fair amount of influence, especially on Democratic politicians. I keep hoping that other Jewish groups in the U.S. will reach a similar level of influence and public recognition, because I think they would have an authoritative voice. We all know Jonah Goldberg. How many representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace do we ever see on TV?

Liam said...

I don't have a lot to add here. Sledge's stuff is incredibly powerful. I think if we are to go to war, we should never glorify it. Good luck on that one.

I also think the Israel/Hamas dichotomy is problematic. I've been there, and I like both the Israelis and Palestinians. What's going on there is part of a cycle of violence that is far from rational. I have no doubt that what the Israeli government (which we should differentiate from "Israel") is doing right now is going to be nothing but self-defeating in the long term.

William is right about pro-peace Jewish groups vs AIPAC. Unfortunately I thinking they'll get the same attention that sensible non-NRA guy groups will get -- none.

There was an interesting article on the Huffington Post about how even the Israeli media can be more critical towards Israeli policy than American media. It's true. In the US, you can hold the same opinion towards the conflict that a lot of Israelis do, and get called anti-Semitic. Especially where I live.

Liam said...

Ahh... make that "Sensible gun groups."

Jeff said...

Thanks everyone, for all of the great comments.

It's such a thorny and seemingly irreconcilable issue, there always going to be a "but on the other hand..." comment no matter what point you can possibly bring up. For example...

There's no way I'm going to feel neutral about this as long as a group like Hamas is concerned. They don't even seem to have much sympathetic support in the Arab world itself. But on the other hand, as William points out, Israel dealt with this group years ago as a possible foil to Fatah in its early days. Granted, that was an understandable bit of realpolitik back then. Hamas was not espousing an instransigently violent line at the time.

Most Americans don't feel neutral about it. I think the reason for that basically comes down to our religious sensibilities if we want to be honest about it. Christian Americans tend to feel a kinship with Judaism, seeing as Christianity sprang from it, and don't feel the same sense of relationship with Islam. Europe is more secular, and may not see things in quite the same terms (but don't get me started on Europe's failure to come to terms with it's anti-Jewish past). On the other hand, there is a price to pay for that lack of neutrality on our part. We seem too unconcerned and non-plussed by the fact that terrified Palestinian families look overhead and see American-supplied F-16s and Apaches in the sky, and the shell fragments and other pieces of ordinance that tear through homes and bodies have "Made in the USA" printed on them.

I've heard and seen many reports of what hell it has been to be a Palestinian living in the occupied territories, or even within the borders of Israel itself, and to be treated like a dog while taking hours upon hours to get through the concentric rings of security checkpoints and settlements just to get to your place of work. On the other hand, I've felt a huge amount of frustration with the Palestinian people themselves. It seems to me that they've never made a serious attempt to solve this problem through nonviolent means and protest. It has been constant rejectionism and violent reaction, from 1948 to the present day. As some commentators point out, "the Palestinians never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity."

I'd actually have less of a problem with what Israel is doing if their intention was to eliminate Hamas root and branch. If war is a tragic necessity in some cases, sometimes one side has to really, really lose. Instead, what I am hearing from Israel is what I have heard from them so many times in the past. "We don't want to eliminate Hamas... We just want to change the equation," or "We want to send Hamas a message." This constant macho posturing intended to "send a message" or humiliate the Arabs in order to let them know that the Israelis are their superiors feeds that sense of resentment, desperation, and hatred.

It's getting really scary now because the religious dimension is really coming to the fore. At one time, this was a struggle more between secular-minded zionists and Pan-Arab nationalists. Peacework will get tougher, not easier, now that fundamentalism is involved in it.

I don't know if the principle of proportionality comes quite into play here as it normally might (if war itself can ever be considered normal, that is). I can't think of another country that would let itself be attacked with rockets by the very party that is in control of a neighboring territory. We ourselves have certainly unleashed more suffering for less provocation than that. It is a mere 11 miles from the West Bank to Tel Aviv and the sea. The tiny size of Israel must alwats be taken into consideration. That doesn't make the killing of civilians right, nothing does, but I do think the Israelis have made some efforts to minimize that, whereas Hamas fires rockets with the expressed intent to kill civilans and sow fear. If Hamas doesn't have the competence or the means at their disposal to acheive their stated goals, that is not entirely the fault of Israel.

Does the American public grapple with this issue? There are pockets that do, of course, but on the whole, I'd say they don't any more than they would with anything else. Anything that's complex, difficult, and long lasting seems to invoke compassion fatigue here, and snap judgements are made. Heck, people don't even seem to grapple much with the war that WE are in, let alone the ones that other countries are in.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, I really hate adding anything after your eloquent - and good concluding - comment. But one thing I think is important:

>people don't even seem to grapple much with the war that WE are in, let alone the ones that other countries are in.

I would argue that we ARE in this war as well. Americans are paying billions of dollars a year for the military equipment being used by Israel. Your money. My money. Most of the world sees us as backing Israel in the conflict. The Palestinians certainly see us as being involved in an ongoing war against them. As do Islamic terrorists like Hamas and Al-Qaeda. That's one of the main reasons why we were attacked.

So, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directly involves us - our money, our own security, our foreign policy, our strategic alliances.

We're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on THREE wars right now: Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

In a period of economic turmoil.

I think it's time for us to ask some tough questions.

Jeff said...

Points well-taken, William.

Paul Maurice Martin said...

I have trouble with the "taking sides" idea too.

So far, at least 200 of the 600 Palestinians killed are innocent civilians. The "barrage" of Katoosha rockets launched by Hamas has, as usual, pretty much all missed hitting anything but the ground.

I don't like massacres. And this is just one of many. Again and again they supposedly "teach the bad guys a lesson" that doesn't take. They do nothing but kill innocent people, and that I'm against.

Jeff said...

Hi Paul!

Thanks for stopping by. It's good to see you here again.

Yes, the incident at the UN school certainly underscores your point.

I've read some people claiming that this was a premeditated and cynical political ploy by Ehud Barak to try to look "tougher on terrorism" than Bibi Netanyahu before the upcoming Israeli elections. I hope that wasn't the case.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
long time since I've left any comment here. Another thoughtful (and brave) post. Thanks for the food for thought. You present 2 hefty discussions: The Palestine/Israel conflict in the Middle East and the concept of War. Regarding Israel, as you probably could have guessed, I don't agree with your "side taking" on this one my friend...not at all. But I will also start off by recognizing that I am not nearly as well read on the history as you are. Hamas' actions are not something that can be justified or condoned, not under any circumstances. Israel's intervention in Gaza against innocent children is despicable and nauseating and makes me feel ashamed in so many ways: ashamed to belong to the same species that could do such a thing so unabashedly, ashamed to be American (the US is the sole backer/financier of it all), ashamed of myself for not DOING something, anything about it. And I think I would feel this way even if the action were somehow broadly "justified"...but its not. From what I have read over the years about the area and the conflict, the history has been skewed quite a lot to satisfy our more recent interests in the area. The belief that Arabs (Palestinians) and Jews have been duking it out incessantly forever -as though it were in their genes - is not true. In fact the start of the conflict is actually quite "modern" in that it traces back to the WWI and WWII era when the Jews are justifiably trying to find a solution to the problem of their persecution in Europe. They set their sights on Palestine as a place to settle. (As a reference, just prior to that time, in the late 1800's, the population of Palestine was 97% Christian& Muslim Arabs and just 3% were Jews) Supported by Britain's Balfour Declaration, HUGE numbers of Jews migrated and settled in Palestine. The "movement" received additional support immediately following WWII as the world tried to offset the horrors suffered by the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. In 1947 the UN, under pressure proposed to divide Palestine into 2 states giving Israel the lions share of the land (they still represented less than 30% of the population and the Palestinians owned over 90% of the land.) What transpired after that seems to be best described as expansionism, supported mostly by ourselves for the obvious reason of having a strong foothold in the petro-rich region. We have sunk many many billions into Israel over the years (more than all of our other foreign investments combined) In short, Palestine has been an occupied state for years and its people have been treated/abused as such by its modern day conquerers. Through Christ-like eyes no justification can be provided for the violent & often arbitrary murderous actions of groups like Hamas (and the IRA in its day in Ireland) who abuse the plight of the victims and use the cause of "justice" to foment hate, yet the history of this conflict's root - the occupation - may provide an explanation (not justification) of the peoples' reaction.

To your comments on war. Thanks again Jeff. You keep us thinking and testing our ideas. Pacifism should not be equated with doing nothing. A just reaction to an injustice can take on many forms and degrees of ACTIVITY, from passive resistance to moderate violence. Let's not kid ourselves though, War is something different. As I have expressed many times, Christ's example and His model of Love and true Faith tells us clearly that war cannot under any circumstances be justified. I feel certain that Christ would not pick up a gun and kill another human being under any circumstances. His example of Faith, at His most difficult moment was to surrender (to the Father). Could there have ever been a more just cause than to save the Saviour?? Those who looked on that day must have certainly thought He had failed miserably. And yet that surrender, that ultimate sign of Faith lead Him (and us) to the greatest victory. Who could have imagined?? No one. Not even He Himself...and that is what true Faith is about. We, on the other hand want to intervene and bring justice to things during our time on this Earth, to know and see justice done with our own eyes no matter what action that involves (including killing another human being.) And this is the moment when we deviate from the example of Christ's Faith and His concept of Love. Love was not about hugging and adoring smiles, it was about our capacity to forgive our enemies.

And I feel that all of this is true even in the best of war cases (as though a "surgical" bombing with no innocent collateral casualties could actually be carried out! What f****ing joke!) How much more true when we consider the reality of war: more than 300 innocent children (exactly like your kids and mine Jeff) have been brutally murdered during the past weeks by the Israeli intervention in Gaza.

Last point (less philosophical and just a bit "bruto" I will admit)... as my dad's cut out newspaper clipping from many years ago said: "WAKE UP AMERICA!!!" We've been in la la land for too long. Our ignorance is convenient and in spite of the sacrifice we make as a nation through the lives of young soldiers (another travesty), I cannot imagine how we can ever be forgiven. "Father, forgive us for we know not what we do!" It won't wash... Peace!