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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bombing from the Air -- Terrorism?

For a long time I have labored to understand why bombing from the air, far from being clean, convenient, honorable, and even heroic, isn't regarded as being an act of terrorism, fully as much as was using airliners for missiles in the attacks of 9/11.

I guess the answer is simple. Because it is always done in that noble enterprise called war.

But what if you don't regard war as being noble at all? What if, seeing that humans are the only species that engages in it, you regard warfare instead as a highly obscene and endlessly wasteful indulgence of the species' dark side? What if war strikes you as being the best sign of humankind's native insanity?

I suppose that most people see terrorism as being illegal, unauthorized warfare.

One or two others, including me, have a cruder but I think more accurate definition. Terrorism is any activity that terrifies, and I don't know why bombing from the air shouldn't qualify as being just that.

I know that this point is totally lost on my fellow countrymen, and that bombing from the air is their method of choice for waging war. One of the main reasons for this is their complete lack of experience on the receiving end of it. No U.S. cities have ever been bombed from the air, and so there's a cold, callous national detachment about what it is and how it feels. Pearl Harbor was mainly an attack by torpedo planes on warships at a naval base, while airliners, even hijacked ones, are not munitions dropped from other planes. So New York City and Arlington, Virginia, much as they would like to, can't validly place themselves beside Tokyo, London, Berlin, Dresden, Hiroshima, and dozens of other such cities, in terms of how the bombing was done as well as in amounts of death, damage, and destruction.

Bill Maher, the political TV humorist, got into hot water a few years ago by suggesting that bombing from a plane involves some cowardice. But can't exactly that be said, especially if the targets are in countries that lack effective anti-aircraft defences and other deterrents?

These days the bomber crews sit comfortably and safely in their machines, often unseen and unheard. They drop their loads from thousands of feet overhead, then turn and head back toward their bases. For them it is a purely impersonal business. They see themselves as hitting merely points on a map. But as the bombs reach their destinations, grid coordinates become places where there are highly fearful men, women, and children cowering and running about.

The bomber crews cannot see, hear, or smell any traces of the agonies and the terror that they have just created below. If they can imagine it at all, they shut it out of their minds and look forward to ordering milkshakes and whiskey sours after the mission is finished.

The victims of bombs from the air, on the other hand, hear the explosions and don't know whether the next one will mean the deaths of themselves and people that they care about, maybe in large numbers. Buildings fall in on them, and rubble rains down on them, burying many of them. And they have no means of hitting back at those who have rained this utter misery upon them, because those forces are too high up in the air and now are quickly fleeing the scene. All that the bombed people can do is to fight their panic and desperately hope for the luck of the chance.

That fear and panic, it should be mentioned, is an intended effect of terrorism.


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