Monday, February 01, 2010

Are there innocent civilians in war?

Today, warfare has changed, and we make a distinction between innocent non-combatants and the enemy.

I have a nephew fighting in Afghanistan, and I feel scared for him, knowing that he is exposed, trying to fight an enemy who can switch from friend to foe in a heartbeat. This is not new, the Russians struggled with the exact same issue when they occupied Afghanistan:

A picture from a Russian pamphlet from their occupation in Afghanistan

So, how did this idea of "innocent civilians" begin?

Nuke 'em till they glow

I remember when a Goddamn hippie at school tried to teach my children that dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a source of shame for America! It’s been 8 years, and I’m still angry about it!

To learn about why the Allies has no problems nuking Japan, I recommend the timeless book The Fall of Japan , still a great read, more than 40 years after its publication. I still have my copy from when it was first published in 1967 . . .

Back in WWII, there was no such concept as “innocent civilian non-combatants”. All American’s, including women, children and the elderly did their part in the war effort.

Conversely, every Japanese woman and child was our enemy, all working together as a team to destroy America.

When you read the history you understansd why the Allies had no qualms about nuking Japan civilians.

Photos like this fueled the hatred, where a young Australian POW has his head chopped off in a Japanese POW camp:

Australian POW Leo Siffleet being murdered by Yasuno Chikao:
Aitape, New Guinea on October 24, 1943.

All is fair in Love and War

Japanese atrocities like the rape of Shanghai and the mass murder of POW’s at the Bataan death March infuriated both the Chinese and the Americans.

American poster "Wipe out the murdering Japs"

To me, these war crimes are not just hstory, it's personal.

My own father, (Louis F. Burleson), was evacuated from Corregidor just a few days before the Japanese invaded the Bataan peninsula.

Many of those who remained were murdered in the Bataan death march, a Japanese war crime where they murdered thousands of American POW's.

Dead POW’s at Bataan: The Japanese killed American prisoners with impunity

My father lost many friends to Bataan, and he never completely recovered from his injuries fighting the Japanese. It’s ironic that he was treated at the Bataan Memorial Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This type of cruelty continued through the war, and the Japanese women and children were full combatants in several major battles. Even after V. J. Day, America was outraged by Japanese “after war crimes”, when hundreds of POW’s were executed by a disgraced Japanese Army.

Bloody Iwo

Iwo Jima set the stage for the mainland invasion of Japan, a prelude to what we could expect when we ended the war.

At Iwo Jima American Marines were routinely being killed by “non combatants”, and it became clear that the Japanese were going to fight to the bitter end, with civilians charging machine gun nests carrying only knives and swords.

After losing dozens of Marines to Japanese women and children, the Marines were forced to adopt the policy of “Kill them all and let God sort them out” . . .

Do war crimes really exist?

Giving aid and comfort to the enemy

War, by its very definition is an amoral act, and even the most honorable of countries go all-out to win. In WWII, the German’s used church steeples as lookout towers and schools to store their ammunition. Even little Pope Benedict did his part, dressed-up in his cute little Nazi uniform:

Pope Benedict in his Nazi war uniform

Back in WWII, kids planted “Victory Gardens” and Rosie the Riveter was the poster girl for thousands of American housewives helping to kill the enemy.

Rosie the Riveter: Is there no such thing as an innocent civilian

In his book “Yeager”, aviator Chuck Yeager talks about how his P-51 squadron was ordered to “shoot anything that moves”, when the Allies discovered that there was no such thing as a German non-combatant.

German Women killed soldiers from church steeples, elderly men would charge at Marines with pitchforks and even the Hitler youth children were taking up arms against the Allies, killing hundreds of soldiers.

Even today, all good Americans do our best to give aid and comfort to our fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, so in a sense, we are not innocent civilians. Like every patriotic civilian, I help support our troops, as do many women and children.

I wonder, does that make us fair game for enemy attacks?