Crafting Gentleness

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The main purpose and outcome of war is injuring

"The main purpose and outcome of war is injuring. Though this fact is too self-evident and massive ever to be directly contested, it can be indirectly contested by many means and disappear from view along many separate paths. It may disappear from view simply by being omitted: one can read many pages of a historic or strategic account of a particular military campaign, or listen to many successive installments in a newscast narrative of events in a contemporary war, without encountering the acknowledgement that the purpose of the event described is to alter (to burn, to blast, to shell, to cut) human tissue, as well as to alter the surface, shape and deep entirety of the objects that human beings recognize as extensions of themselves."

Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain.


  • Hey... I haven't looked at this blog for a while. I haven't even looked at my own. Things pile up.

    I have to disagree with this quote. As far as I can tell the main purpose of war is territorial conquest and the collection of spoils. The redistribution of wealth. The current operations in Iraq have been very successful having made some people extremely wealthy. And if all goes according to plan then the political lines will be redrawn to broaden and strengthen American control of the region.

    (Having said that, there are also two kinds of war: wars of aggression and wars of liberation. But that’s another topic and they are both fought for territory)

    The sun never set on the British empire because the Butcher's Apron made sure of it. The death and destruction, the misery and pain - these are all just consequences, what they would call “acceptable sacrifice.” It also helps to clear the colonized countryside of undesirable natives, creating what Hitler would call Lebensraum. Quite literally “living room.” It is also a tool – nothing like terror to make a target population give you what you want. But its what you want that is the point.

    The soldiers are like shell casings - when the State is finished with them they are thrown away. As for the civilians, well they have finally told us exactly what they think of women and children who just happen to be there: collateral damage. So we should not look in the wrong place. Misery is not the purpose.

    They know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. Eugene Debs, the great American socialist and labor leader, was sentenced to prison for 10 years under the sedition act of 1917 for saying this:

    "They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation has ever been declared by the people."

    That is why now it is so very important to seek out and support the soldiers' resistance. Iraq Veterans Against the War. Veterans For Peace. Only by jumping in and getting our hands dirty will we ever change things.

    By Blogger Jim Page, at Sunday, 19 November, 2006  

  • In thinking about the quotation I posted, I suppose I would be 'happier' with the statement that 'the main consequence of war is injuring', of various kinds, short-term and long-term. Purposes can get messed about, often appearing in retrospect, often hiding in nowspect. When you take attention away the justifications and explanations, people are still getting bruised, battered, and torn to bits all over the place. It would be good if we could work out more ways to do something about that.

    By Blogger Anthony, at Monday, 11 December, 2006  

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