July 21st, 2024

The brutal truth about modern war

By Lethbridge Herald on January 24, 2024.


Responding to a complaint by a retired professor, Jeff Winch, about its coverage of the current Middle East conflict, the CBC has defended its editorial decision to describe differently the Hamas attack of October 7 and Israel’s military response since. In the first case, says the CBC, the Hamas gunmen attacked “Israelis directly with firearms, knives and explosives…. chased down festival goers, assaulted kibbutzniks then shot them, fought hand to hand, and threw grenades. The attack was brutal, often vicious, and certainly murderous.”

From published accounts, this description is accurate. In the second case, the CBC describes Israel’s actions as follows:

“Bombs dropped from thousands of feet and artillery shells lofted into Gaza from kilometers away result in death and destruction on a massive scale, but it is carried out remotely. The deadly results are unseen by those who caused them and the source unseen by those [who] suffer and die.”

Again, the description is accurate, but feels somehow empty – as lifeless as the bodies we can only imagine beneath the rubble.

If unintentionally, the CBC’s editorial response provides an entry point for considering how modern warfare has changed and how it has changed us. 

Historically, war was fought mainly at close quarters – knives, clubs, spears; eye to eye. The first gun was invented around 1300 AD, but was largely ineffective even at close range until the late 1900s. Despite the invention of rapid-fire guns and long-range cannons then, fighting remained very much hand-to-hand.

The First World War saw death now capably delivered from still greater distances, either by even larger cannons or by bombs hand-dropped from the air. Still, much of the conflict involved futile charges over short distances followed, if one survived, by hand-to-hand combat. So personal was the slaughter that many soldiers who returning from the war suffered what we now understand to have been post-traumatic stress.

We should think about that for a moment. Killing another human being is not something that comes naturally to people. Those who suffered PTSD then, as now, were experiencing a genuinely human reaction. They were not dissociating but remained wholly aware of their own, human actions, and the carnage around them. War, as Ulysses S. Grant accurately said, is Hell.

Although the subsequent Second World War still involved close combat, the airplane made it easier to kill – and easier to ignore the faces of those killed. Germany’s invention of the V1 and V2 rockets, precursors of today’s cruise missiles hastened the delivery of death, in the CBC’s words, “remotely.”

And so it goes. Today, if given the order, a military technician can hit a target with a drone or missile from thousands of miles away without getting up from his or her desk. The blip on the screen might as well be an alien from Space Invaders. 

Such technology is not the exclusive domain of the US. India, Pakistan, Russia, Iran, and Israel all have this capability. In years to come, military and para-military actors everywhere will acquire the same dispassionate ability to kill with dampened emotional affect. 

To be clear, the elimination of human feeling is not the military’s direct intention. It is simply a by-product of the machinery that permits killing from a safe distance.

But there’s no excuse for the media sanitizing what is going on. The CBC’s response unwittingly states the problem when talking about remote deaths: “The deadly results are unseen by those who caused them and the source unseen by those [who] suffer and die.”

But the dead should be seen. As Winch has said, “I don’t think the language should have to do with the comfort of the person delivering death. It’s about the devastation and destruction and violence that’s happening to the victims.”

This is what the reality of war looks like in the twenty-first century. Jack Nicholson, in A Few Good Men, scowled, “You can’t handle the truth.” But, as citizens, we need to be tough enough to handle the truth about what war is. Our media should not get in truth’s way.

Trevor W. Harrison is a retired political sociologist at the University of Lethbridge.

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pursuit diver

I am not arguing that war is not ugly, savage, raw and a sad display of humanity, but as someone who has been boots on the ground in wartorn countries and seen the horror, the destruction, the devastation and at times some humanity that is seen during, I agree with some of what you state, but disagree in other areas.
Wars are growing and as NATO, the UK and Germany have just stated, we need to prepare for WWIII, evidence of how the UN is compromised by Russia, China and other anti-West countries, causing the UN to fail its primary mandate, which is to prevent major conflicts and a another world war. The UN is no longer capable of fulfilling its mandate!
I do not watch CBC, BBC, Al Jazeera and a few other news media because of the biased reporting that appears to be pro-Hamas, a terrorist organization which has compromised the UNRWA over the years. Hamas has/had over 9,000 members on the UNRWA payroll, which in the last 20 years has built a school curriculum which included hate against the Israeli people, stating they had no rights to land Israel was awarded in 1948/1967 and they should be wiped out! These young children were being taught this in UN schools beginning at 5 years old all the way up to adulthood.
Summer camps trained them as child soldiers and over 90% of the Gazan’s support Hamas. The attack on Oct 07 against a civilian, unarmed population saw babies burned alive, children killed in front of their parents, torture, rape and beheadings, but few reported the inhumane brutality. The very acts committed multiple war crimes and it is a war crime to hide behind woman and children, hide in schools and hospitals and playgrounds, but you don’t see any charges, because they are a terrorist organization.
The list is long of all the war crimes that Hamas commits/committed, and many civilian Gazan’s were involved the rapes, torture, kidnapping and murders of the civilian Israeli’s. Did the media report the rocket attack that hit the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon on October 7th or the other medical facilities or the ambulances who were attacked and the patients shot and the first responders?
Many unarmed Gazan’s were involved and Gazan’s were promised $10,000 per hostage and an apartment. You don’t hear that reported.
Israel has/continues to drop leaflets from aircraft warning Gazan’s to move to designated areas before the Israeli military moves in, as well as sending texts and robocalls to all Gazan phones. No other military in the world has ever warned civilians to move and where to move to.
Hamas, as do most terrorists, hide behind the skirts of women and also use their children as human shields, They are cowards! They have built a massive terrorist complex below Gaza with depths as much as 160 feet, and over 500 miles of tunnels. They did this using international donations that were supposed to be for the Gazan people. The subterranean terrorist base they built below was under UN facilities, hospitals, schools, playgrounds with entrances in this facilities as well. Do you hear that been reported by these media outlets? No.
One of the news media interviewed a Canadian surgeon who works overseas at various hospitals and has spent a considerable amount of time in Gaza. They failed to state that he also spent time in hospitals in Iran, Syria and other countries friendly to Iran.
Israeli soldiers are on the ground and see the effects of the airstrikes, artillery strikes and their mortar attacks. The do see the impact!
Israel wants to live in peace, but the constant attacks against civilians continued and increased in the last 2 years, until the October attack caused the Israeli’s to remove Hamas from Gaza. Hamas lives with their families and refused to leave when warned by the IDF that they will be in the middle of a combat zone! Rockets are still being fired into Israel from Gaza, and the hostages are still being held, although I believe many are dead from abuse by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
Israel had no choice, if they are to live in peace! Most in Canada are not aware of the constant attacks against civilians, which include women and children, families, before October 7. Many are not aware of the thousands of rockets fired into Israel, indiscriminately with no targeting abilities for years before October 7. No one was paying attention, and the UN failed to listen to the Israeli concerns regarding UNRWA being compromised by Hamas or the training of child soldiers, which included suicide vests by some of the extremists. Gaza was the world’s largest terrorist base!
I will end in this: What happened to Canada? How can we condone prostests on our streets supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Houthis, who do not just want the Israeli’s removed from the earth, but the Western civilization?

Last edited 5 months ago by pursuit diver
old school

What happened to Canada ,or any western civilization? The education system has indoctrinated too many people. Somehow they believe mainstream news, governments ,and “famous” people.Right is wrong and wrong is right to them . There is no ability to think or comprehend anymore. Follow any narrative , stand up for any cause , no matter how diabolically evil it may be. There is only uncertain times ahead.

pursuit diver

I agree! Just as Hamas indoctrinates young minds in their schools to hate Jews and they have no rights to the lands that the United Nations, and League of Nations, agreed is their land not just once in the past 100 years but on several occassions, Hamas through UNRWA teaches hate and genocide, we see academics in Canada and the US teaching disinformation to young adults in our institutions.
Many of our universities and colleges receive funding from radical countries which are anti-west, but want to educate their people in our country, often bringing in their own teachers and professors for some subjects, to gain influence in our society and cause unrest on campuses.
China with their Confucious Institutes, which there are 13 in Canada embedded, including Edmonton, which influence students negative thoughts on China’s human rights abuses, and try to sell the lies of how great China is and would be for the world.
Or Qatar, who supports/funds terrorist organizations, including Hamas through the Muslim Brotherhood, for one. It is absurd that the same country which is one of the donors to Hamas terrorism is also a negotiator. They also push their extremist and hateful views on our campuses, so they influence young minds and indoctrinate them to stand for them.
I believe a professor at McGill came out and applauded Hamas and their terrorist attack on October 7 against Israel which was mostly against the unarmed civilian population, the rapes, the torture, shooting the music festival goers as if they were fish in a barrel, burning and decapitating babies alive and even slashing open live pregnant women’s bellies and removing the unborn and killing it.
Also in Vancouver at a college an instructor who also stated the attack was ‘amazing, brilliant’ during protests has been reinstated without any penalties.
We have allowed this and many other serious trains of thought to be taught on our soil in our universities and colleges and need to weed out these academics who influence of these young minds creates unrest and destroys this great country.
As some know, military psyops to bring down a country without military conflicts/actions include creating unrest on campuses and influencing young minds to change their values. Are our universities and colleges now being used by these groups?