THE TERRIFYING POWER OF COLLATERAL DAMAGE

By William Markiewicz

In "Attrition", (Vagabond, July 2001), I wrote: "Paradoxically, some weak and small nations are immune to the superpower's blackmail; they have nothing to lose because they possess nothing to start with and are entrenched in inaccessible territories, mostly high mountains. Those tribes and klans are much more resistant physically and psychologically than the individualistic modern societies, slaves to their comfort and to their dominators. All they can bomb in mountains will be herds of goats and game, and whatever nests and grows in mountain crags."

I overlooked the simple fact that in some conditions you don't need to limit yourself to destroying the infrastructure; you win by directly destroying the people. We've identified the massacre of civilians too exclusively with "terrorists." We forget Hiroshima and "collateral damages" which works at its best precisely in the most inaccessible territories because nobody can check on them.

A month ago or so, we learned that the Talibans or Al-Qaida took 18 US prisoners and proposed to exchange them for those held by Americans in Cuba. We don't hear about them anymore and I wouldn't be surprised if Al-Qaida had already released those Americans unconditionally. I can imagine the American reply:

"OK. Keep them or kill them. You will be labeled barbarians in "the civilized world" and meanwhile, while hunting for terrorists we will pulverize your wilderness and everything in it. Our media will not count the dead in hamlets and villages that don't even exist on our maps. And if you complain too loudly, don't worry, you'll get our apologies."

Anybody would submit under this threat. A few days ago one senior "peacekeeper" in Afghanistan declared on CBC Newsworld: "They fear us even more than they hate us." During the Cold War, peace rested on the balance of power, now, on total fear from the weaker side. I can't predict the future, but when total power faces total helplessness the only thing I know with certitude is that the old value cliches like courage and morality are heading into oblivion.

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