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Thread: collateral damage and historical memory

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    Default collateral damage and historical memory

    A useful reminder from the BBC of the sorts of collateral damage that were considered "acceptable" in WWII, as well as the impact they had on local public opinion:

    Revisionists challenge D-Day story
    BBC news, 15:23 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009

    Some 20,000 French civilians were killed in the two-and-a-half months from D-Day, 3,000 of them during the actual landings.

    ...

    "It was rather a shock to find we were not welcomed ecstatically as liberators by the local people, as we were told we should be... They saw us as bringers of destruction and pain," Mr Roker wrote in his diary.
    Another soldier, Ivor Astley of the 43rd Wessex Infantry, described the locals as "sullen and silent... If we expected a welcome, we certainly failed to find it."

    ...

    It is not as if the devastation wrought by the Allies is not known - it is just that it tends not to get talked about.
    And yet for many families who lived through the war, it was the arrival and passage of British and American forces that was by far the most harrowing experience.

    ...

    In his book, Mr Hitchcock raises another issue that rarely features in euphoric folk-memories of liberation: Allied looting, and worse.
    "The theft and looting of Normandy households and farmsteads by liberating soldiers began on June 6 and never stopped during the entire summer," he writes.

    One woman - from the town of Colombieres - is quoted as saying that "the enthusiasm for the liberators is diminishing. They are looting... everything, and going into houses everywhere on the pretext of looking for Germans."

    ...

    Even more feared, of course, was the crime of rape - and here too the true picture has arguably been expunged from popular memory.

    According to American historian J Robert Lilly, there were around 3,500 rapes by American servicemen in France between June 1944 and the end of the war.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default "But it is still worth remembering that it all came at a cost."

    That's the last sentence in the article. It's totally true -- as it always is in any war.

    I'm unsure what your or the BBCs point happens to be?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I'm unsure what your or the BBCs point happens to be?
    The BBC's point is that open discussion of these things, and in many ways the very memory of them, was long-suppressed--to the point that they've largely faded from the western consciousness, especially outside France. I doubt 5% of my (very bright) students would be aware that the Allies caused this level of civilian death in Normandy.

    If I had a point to make (beyond that one), it would be the way in which tolerance of collateral damage has narrowed, to the point that much smaller numbers of civilian casualties are now cause for condemnation, investigation, press coverage, etc. That, I think, is generally a good thing, however much it sometimes impedes war-fighting.

    Of course, it remains an open question whether restraint and self-restraint would survive war on the scope and scale of WWII. Certainly, nuclear deterrence was (and is) predicated on a willingness to inflict even larger numbers of civilian casualties.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    If I had a point to make (beyond that one), it would be the way in which tolerance of collateral damage has narrowed, to the point that much smaller numbers of civilian casualties are now cause for condemnation, investigation, press coverage, etc. That, I think, is generally a good thing, however much it sometimes impedes war-fighting.
    The Human tragedy of D-Day was never an issues because it had no political consequence. France was liberated, and that was worth in French eyes.

    Civilian deaths in war is only an issue in so much as there is a political effect. The view in Israel right now is that killing a Sri-Lankan, Afghan and Iraqi civilian is entirely acceptable, while injuring a Palestinian is not. The reason for that is political.

    And I will confess my views on this have altered radically. Back in 03/04 I believed that avoiding civilian deaths should be central to campaign planning. I no longer do. You should never target civilians, for sure. You should attempt to be precise, proportionate and discriminating, but fear of civilian deaths, should never impede actions of military necessity.
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Wilf,

    Civilian deaths in war is only an issue in so much as there is a political effect.
    You should attempt to be precise, proportionate and discriminating, but fear of civilian deaths, should never impede actions of military necessity.
    I will continue to disagree with your final point because what you say before it is true.

    Killing civilians does have political effect and in a counter-inurgency campaign where securing the population is the objective, the use of the term collateral damage is self-defeating. Civilian deaths are not collateral, they are friendly.

    Best
    Tom

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Wilf,

    I will continue to disagree with your final point because what you say before it is true.

    Killing civilians does have political effect and in a counter-inurgency campaign where securing the population is the objective, the use of the term collateral damage is self-defeating. Civilian deaths are not collateral, they are friendly.
    You make a good point Tom, which is why the qualifier Military Necessity is extremely important. The art of command must include balancing risk versus reward, and thus judgements about the necessity of certain actions.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    It all boils down to the type of war one is in, the perspective of the populace being killed, and who is doing the killing.

    Most populaces don't like being killed by some invader.
    Most populaces don't like being killed by their own government.
    Most populaces don't like being killed by some other government in support of their own goverment.

    Most populaces will tolerate being killed by their government or those who help their government in order to remove an invader or some greater evil (as measured from their perspective, not anyone elses).

    Often populaces must be targeted directly as a supporting effort to breaking the will of a nation waging a state-based war against your state. (#### happens, you started it, and you must KNOW you are defeated when this is truly over so you don't start it again as soon as you can breed, raise and train a new army).

    There is no situation that the US is currently involved in where civilian casualites (though sadly unavoidable) are anything but detrimental to the ends we are seeking. Sometimes this means not taking a shot, as the potential tactical gain just isn't worth the potential strategic loss.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I'm unsure what your or the BBCs point happens to be?
    War is a bloody, expensive way to resolve human differences. Even the winners pay a heavy cost. Something that always seems to be forgotten in the run up to a war and never, ever makes it into a Toby Kieth song.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Partly true

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    War is a bloody, expensive way to resolve human differences. Even the winners pay a heavy cost. Something that always seems to be forgotten in the run up to a war and never, ever makes it into a Toby Kieth song.
    Soldiers don't forget it and the fact that the Politicians do can be laid directly at the feet of the anti-war mentality in the education industry. Presuming, that is that it was in fact forgotten. Often, it is not forgotten, it is accepted as a necessary costs. Cost assessments vary among individuals. I think BMWs are neat and I see a number of them on the road -- but the cost is excessive IMO. OTOH, I'd buy a good pickup that cost more than a Z4. People differ.

    The anti war crowd never seems to realize that everyone is not genetically attuned with their view and their excessive prating about the evils of war is largely ignored by those not susceptible to Omygodthisisterriblebleedingheartitis. In fact, such prating with some folks can be downright counterproductive. Sort of like rebelling at one's parental strictures.

    War is terrible and immoral, it's IMO the dumbest thing people do for a pastime (and it is that for a good many in the world whether we agree it should be or not) but indications lead me to believe they aren't going away in the next Century or two and the Marines probably have it right; "Nobody wants to fight a war -- but somebody better know how." No war is good, some are regrettably necessary.

    I'm not sure why you deemed it necessary to add the Toby Keith bit which merely detracts from your over obvious point -- I'll note that the blood, gore and such do make it into a number of anti-war, protest and so-called folks songs. How much good have they done?

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    I've really got to agree with Tom Odom here.

    CI is a Hobbesian struggle to establish the state as a "good" Leviathan. Part of that is proving you can stop the killing of civilians. Killing civilians yourself is almost never strategically worth it (though sometimes tactically necessary) and does more to advance the goals of the insurgent than it does to advance your own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    A useful reminder from the BBC of the sorts of collateral damage that were considered "acceptable" in WWII, as well as the impact they had on local public opinion:

    Revisionists challenge D-Day story
    BBC news, 15:23 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009
    "Revisionists" indeed. By coincidence, last Thursday evening I was speaking with a Frenchman (in his 40s) over beer at Happy Hour. By even greater coincidence, he is from Normandy. By greatest coincidence, perhaps owing to the date, this topic arose. He spoke of how the family still grieved for lost relatives (e.g. his uncles and some second cousins) killed by Allied action, but this was (viewed by his family) as the cost of war.

    By bizarre lack of coincidence, discussion of looting and rape didn't crop up:

    "According to American historian J Robert Lilly, there were around 3,500 rapes by American servicemen in France between June 1944 and the end of the war."

    Does anyone know of any evidence to support this assertion? Or that concerning looting? From a reliable, credible source (instead of the BBC)?
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Concerning Lilly

    The below is from Amazon: (and a link to the book BBC's talking about)
    Sociologist and criminologist Professor Bob Lilly makes unprecedented use of military records and trial transcripts to throw light on one of the overlooked consequences of the US Army’s presence in Western Europe between 1942 and 1945: the rape of an estimated 14,000 civilian women in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. By focusing on a group of men - the 'greatest generation' - more commonly idolized in the Western historical imagination, the study makes an important and original contribution to our understanding of sexual violence in armed conflict. Taken by Force speaks as often as possible through the protagonists themselves and examines the differing social contexts prevailing in each country where the crimes were committed. Attention is also given to the racial dimension of this issue: the disproportionate number of black GIs prosecuted and the relative harshness of their sentences when convicted.
    A quick search indicates that Lilly's not a historian by trade, but more of a sociology and criminology type. And here's a link to a review (note that it might be protected by proxy servers, so you may have to be at an institution that has access) of the book: link
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 06-08-2009 at 07:42 PM. Reason: added review link
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    Council Member Billy Ruffian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    You make a good point Tom, which is why the qualifier Military Necessity is extremely important. The art of command must include balancing risk versus reward, and thus judgements about the necessity of certain actions.
    I take that attitude myself.

    I'm not a soldier, but I have observed that defending forces, especially ones that defend a system that is unjust, will make no effort to give battle away from centres of population, if not deliberately placing assets among non-combatants, in order to alienate these non-combatants from those who are trying to liberate them.

    It's what I would do if I were in charge of the propaganda machine. Regrettably, it seems to come down to which side is best at saying and demonstrating 'It sucks now, but if the other side wins it will be worse. So if you're willing to work with us, the sooner we can all go back to a safe and lawful community.'

    I have no wish to be impolite, and I will try to say this in such a way as to accurately reflect my thoughts, but being trained and disciplined by the military doesn't necessarily make someone a good person or guarantee lawful/good behaviour. However, I do believe that it is a good way to inculcate those values in most individuals.
    "I encounter civilians like you all the time. You believe the Empire is continually plotting to do harm. Let me tell you, your view of the Empire is far too dramatic. The Empire is a government. It keeps billions of beings fed and clothed. Day after day, year after year, on thousands of worlds people live their lives under Imperial rule without ever seeing a stormtrooper or hearing a TIE fighter scream overhead."
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    Default Most of the Anti-War crowd...

    never bother to explore military history or the causation of war. It's so much easier and politically expedient to blame the soldier for inveterate warmongering.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The anti war crowd never seems to realize that everyone is not genetically attuned with their view and their excessive prating about the evils of war is largely ignored by those not susceptible to Omygodthisisterriblebleedingheartitis. In fact, such prating with some folks can be downright counterproductive.
    "The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - Douglas MacArthur
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    Default How you justify collateral damage in war

    I have re-opened this thread as this article reviewing a new film fits here. The film is about Operation Anthropoid, the assassination in Prague, in May 1942, of SS officer Richard Heydrich and asks:
    Can a Czech soldier justify assassinating a Nazi leader when he knows that it could lead to thousands of innocent citizens being murdered in revenge? If so, how?
    Link:https://theconversation.com/anthropoid-new-blockbuster-interrogates-how-you-justify-collateral-damage-in-war-64926?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-16-2016 at 09:45 AM. Reason: 5,834v
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