A video recently leaked to the public shows two American helicopters killing 12 people on a Baghdad street, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The military wrote it off as an accident. Included in the tape are the words of the Americans involved, men who seemed to take pleasure in killing the people on the ground below.
At one point, a van arrives to pick up the wounded. The helicopters open fire on the van, wounding two children. One American comments, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”
War is a terrible thing for many reasons, not the least of which is the way those involved protect themselves by dehumanizing others. It is always easier to kill a stranger, a faceless enemy, someone who is perceived as less than human, especially from the sky.
History is filled with examples. When the English invaded Ireland in the 17th Century, they called the Irish “savages,” just as they did Native Americans. It was much easier to kill a savage. In the Civil War, the opposing armies were no longer Americans, they became “Yankees” and “Rebels,” each a dirty word to the other side. In World War II the Allies fought the “Krauts” and the “Japs,” and in Vietnam the enemy became known as the “Gooks.” All of these terms helped dehumanize the enemy – be it soldier or civilian.
During World War I, propaganda reported that German soldiers ate babies, German nurses poured water onto the ground rather than give it to wounded enemy soldiers. During World War II, cartoons and movies demonized the Germans and Japanese. In the United States, Americans of Japanese descent were interned in concentration camps.
After each of these wars, once the combatants had an opportunity to meet their enemy, they discovered that those on the opposite side were not very different from themselves. They didn’t eat babies, they weren’t evil people, they were mostly honest, hard working folks, people who had not wanted to go to war any more than most Americans.
In a nation that loves to wave the banner of Christianity, too many seem to have forgotten the little song they were taught in Sunday School – “Red and yellow, black and white / they are precious in his sight / Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Jesus sure as hell would not shoot at children, or anyone else for that matter.