There have been wars throughout human history, and they always have a de-humanizing effect since they are the breakdown of normal, civilized behavior.
However the de-humanizing aspect does not just affect soldiers on the battlefield. Throughout history it has also affected severely entirely innocent civilians, including children. This can be seen by studying ancient history, not least The Bible and what that old bastard Moses is supposed to have instructed the Israelites to do after a battle with the Midianites (from the New English Bible):
Numbers, chapter 31, verses 15-18: ‘Have you spared all the women?’ he said…… ‘Now kill every male dependant, and kill every woman who has had intercourse with a man, but spare for yourselves every woman among them who has not had intercourse.’
The Midianite men had already been murdered, but this evil bastard Moses, supposedly a man of God who passed down the Commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’, then instructed all the little boys and women who were not virgins to be murdered, but women and little girls who were still virgins could be raped or forced to be sex-slaves. All the Commandments forgotten by that genocidal monster Moses and his followers in the climate of war. And all this murder and hatred is in a book which should clearly be banned or confined to museums, the so-called ‘Holy’ Bible! No wonder the Crusades and Inquisition in the early Christian era thought they were able to justify their own torture and killing of innocent people. The Bible, like other ancient religious books, was written by men with a hidden agenda, intent on political power and control of the population. These books are clearly not the word of some divine being, though parts of them are Spiritually inspired and could be preserved for public consumption, such as the sayings of Jesus for instance, clearly a pacifist.
It has been the same throughout the ages, not least in the 20th and 21st centuries. All normal rules and codes of behavior break down in war, so we have men hailed as heroes for committing the mass murder of innocent men, women and children in the bombing raids carried out by both sides. We have women in munitions factories making bombs and shells to kill innocent civilians like themselves and their families, and to kill the fathers of children just because they were conscripted into the armed forces of their country.
The men actually fighting are the most de-humanized by the military machine, appealing to the very basest qualities in people. Some men are very aggressive and enjoy a fight, they also enjoy destroying things and people. This is why video war games are so popular.
I heard a horrific story today from someone who was a child in the War. He was walking down a street, and some other children were walking on the other side. Suddenly a German plane dived down and machine-gunned the children on the other side of the street. How can human beings do this sort of thing? Attacking a bomber which is on a mission to bomb innocent civilians is one thing, but machine-gunning innocent civilians for no reason whatsoever, and children at that? There can only be one explanation, the guys in the airplane didn’t see them as children or human beings, but as ‘targets’. They no doubt enjoyed the thrill of what they regarded as a game. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Allied British and American airmen did similar things in the War. They were bombing civilians, so they probably would have no qualms about machine-gunning them either. It is extra horrific because they could actually see who they were killing. I was absolutely appalled, but I’ve heard such stories before and attribute them to the War mentality which depicts all citizens in the ‘enemy’ countries as legitimate, inhuman ‘targets’.
The military de-humanize the other side, the so-called ‘enemy’, so they are seen as not people at all. A simple example on the Allied side is when German soldiers in the Second World War were, and still are, referred to as ‘Nazis’. By and large they were NOT Nazis, just conscripts of a Nazi government. Such labels serve to de-humanize the enemy, as in the Commies for instance in the Cold War. Just because they got landed with a Nazi or Communist dictatorship does not make all the citizens Nazis or Communists. Hitler won the popular vote in 1933 largely because large areas of Germany were stolen by the Allies of World War I; so all they wanted to do was reclaim their lost territories. Hitler, of course, had a much wider agenda which later became clear.
The de-humanizing of the ‘enemy’ is meant to justify and gain acceptance for wholesale genocide. Such as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when Japan was already suing for peace. The bombs, incidentally did not end the war with Japan who only signed a peace treaty once the Americans capitulated and allowed Emperor Hirohito to remain on the Throne and escape a war crimes tribunal. The Allies of World War Two also escaped war crimes tribunals, though they committed many atroctities, many in their completely illegal bombing raids on German and other cities.
Is it any wonder in this atmosphere when all normal codes of behavior had broken down, when innocent men, women and children were being burnt alive and blown to pieces by Allied bombs (or drowned in the Dambusters raid), and when their soldiers where dying on two fronts, that it was possible for the Nazis to carry out the Final Solution in the concentration camps? Who was going to worry about what was happening to Jews, Communists, homosexuals, gipsies, the physically and mentally disabled when everyone in the Third Reich was facing death every day during the War? Similarly in Britain and America nobody worried what might be happening to foreigners and traitors in their own internment camps, they were too concerned with what was happening to their families and homes in the bombing raids, and what was happening to their male relatives fighting the War.
After the War we’ve had many smaller ones in which civilians and conscript soldiers have been killed, but we also have had nuclear weapons constantly targeting completely innocent civilians, able to kill millions instantly and millions more, including future generations, from the long-lasting radiation effects.
This concept of nuclear weapons ever at the ready takes us into the era of continuous war, or at least, continuous readiness to commit genocide should certain circumstances arise to cause a war situation.
The ridiculous nature of this de-humanizing of the enemy can easily be seen as since the Second World War and the breakdown of Communism in 1989-1991 the Germans, Austrians and all those in the former Communist countries who were targeted by Allied bombers and nuclear weapons are now seen as ordinary people like ourselves. They in turn see us as ordinary people like themselves.
There has to be found an alternative to war. An alternative which settles international disputes by negotiation if possible, and if this breaks down then an international security force needs to be able to step in to prevent atrocities by targeting only those directly involved, either by giving the orders or by being prepared to carry them out.
This may be difficult to organize, but it has to be done. Just as police forces had to be set up in the United Kingdom once the warring armies of the various countries and kingdoms on these islands had been disbanded, and the Union established.
So we need to move towards a world confederation under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, which should be democratized and therefore elected. I see the European Union, the United States, the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslav federation and similar international ventures (but not military alliances such as NATO) as a step towards this international confederation to prevent future wars.
It is very relevant that as soon as the Soviet and Yugoslav federations broke up, terrible wars and genocides broke out once again in these places where peace had reigned for many decades.
Of course war is very profitable for the arms industry, and this in turn keeps the extremely unstable capitalist system going. Human beings are just the cannon fodder of the arms manufacturers. It is high time we said ‘no’ to war and found other means to settle our problems. The alternative is probably the eventual destruction of the planet as war becomes ever more barbaric, and nuclear weapons spread completely out of control to more and more nations.