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[casi] Collateral damage - 'your children's lives'

Unlike 'passing away', 'collateral damage' is a malign
euphemism - Orwellian doublespeak - for 'civilian casualty'.
The phrase hides the fact that men, women, and children
were killed in bombing attacks and tries to suggest that
they were killed 'unintentionally'. To describe human beings
whose life has been snuffed out by bombs as 'damage' is
repugnant to many people. It is to me.

The claim that the killing was 'unintentional' is important
to the killer. It makes the killing of civilians in war all
right - at least to proponents of the Christian Just-War
Ethic (JWE): "When we do a thing [warfaring] for a good and
lawful purpose, if thereby we unintentionally cause harm to
anyone, it should by no means be imputed to us", wrote Augustine
1500 years ago. Thus 'unintended' (incidental) effects on
civilians can be discounted.

That's why the US military insists on 'unintended' when it
kills civilians. They are all good Christians - the military.

'Collateral damage' dates back to the Vietnam war. The
US killed three million Vietnamese in that war - all
'collateral damage'.

Originally 'collateral damage' referred to human beings
only. Now the military uses it to include damage to
civilian buildings. For example: 'The GWAPS therefore openly
states where collateral damage was caused...'

Here is a poem about the life behind 'collateral damage':


                       Arguments Against the Bombing

           consider the infinite fragility of an infant's skull
                      how the bones lie soft and open
                        only time knitting them shut

                     consider a delicate porcelain bowl
                     how it crushes under a single blow
                     in one moment whole years disappear

                consider that beneath the din of explosions
                            no song can be heard
                                   no cry

                       consider your own sky on fire
                              your name erased
               your children's lives 'a price worth paying'

                     consider the faces you do not see
                        the eyes you refuse to meet
                            'collateral damage'

                             how in these words
                           the world cracks open
                        Illustration by Emily Johns

                         Poem by Lisa Suhair Majaj.
                 First published in Al Jadid, Winter 1998.
                        Illustration by Emily Johns

collateral damage: ordinary people who are killed in war.

['Collateral damage' is a phrase used by the military so that we
don't think about the fact that military action kills innocent

new internationalist
issue 316 - September 1999

--Elga Sutter

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