War & Morality: Collateral Damage

Jus in Bello

In today’s class, we had this discussion on Walzer’s views on the obligation on soldiers to defend and protect enemy civilians, even at a greater cost to their own lives and efforts. The rationale behind this appears to be simplistic enough: Since soldiers are the ones who have caused the civilians to be put in danger in the first place, they have a moral obligation to protect them from any consequences of this danger.

Surprisingly, the entire class chose bluntly utilitarian justifications for the bombing of, say, food-supplying factories, on the ground that an attack at these levels would result in a faster end to the war itself,  as opposed to one that just concentrates on attacking the front-lines. And, Walzer is only in agreement with a host of other scholars who stress on the importance of war being short and fleeting, not drawn out and torturous. (Interestingly, Sun Tzu also recognizes this necessity of brevity in war in, well, The Art of War)

Anyway, I found it rather bizarre that not one single person stood up in defense of the civilian population. If I had to say it in one sentence: it was like everybody was only focused on the ends of war, and not the means. Even the idealists looked at this “end of war” as the ideal, instead of stressing on the lives of ordinary citizens, let alone minimizing the risk to civilian population.

I believe that, in order for Walzer’s theories to be absorbed efficiently, it is important to look at what forms the basis, or the crux, of the majority of his arguments. And this can be found in his consistent recognition and reaffirmation of the humanity of every single living person, no matter what side of what war he or she is fighting on.

You can see this in the emphasis Walzer places on the distinction between fighting and murder, using personal accounts and anecdotes to illustrate just how difficult it is to kill an innocent man, leave aside women and children.

Here again, Walzer gets really interesting, because at first glance, his views appear to be sexist and old-fashioned, but with his consequent example of the rape of Italian women carried out by Moroccan soldiers fighting with the Free French forces in Italy in 1943, one is forced to slightly moderate that view. Perhaps he is a tad old-fashioned, but that in itself is no crime.

He says, “These were mercenary troops who fought on terms, and the terms included license to rape and plunder in enemy territory….A large number of women were raped; we know the number, roughly, because the Italian government later offered them a modest pension.

At this point, Walzer contends that though the right to rape and plunder has been given to soldiers time and again through the passage of history, rape is still considered a “crime, in war as in peace, because it violates the rights of the woman who is attacked.” He immediately notes that it is the recognition of a woman as a person, instead of chattel, that drives us to condemn rape, whether committed in times of peace or war. Interestingly, Walzer himself raises and immediately rejects the idea that the basis for our condemnation of rape rests on the fact that the benefit derived by the soldiers in terms of morale is too insignificant as compared to the pain and trauma that women who are raped undergo.

In fact, Walzer goes as far as to say that it is his sincere belief that it is not brave men who are rapists.

And, with that bracketed line, Walzer reveals a lot about himself.

He values bravery and courage, but above that, he holds honor, duty and integrity. Yet, in all five of his examples, he emphasizes the courage of the soldiers in terms of the risks undertaken by them in protecting civilian lives, and speaks regretfully of every time duty has been chosen over this need; the need being one he repeatedly, but implicitly, attributes to a feeling of the existence of a certain connection between himself and the man who is fighting on the other side of some war.

I think that one of the problems with Military Morality is that the Civilian population will never understand. To a citizen of a State that has never been involved in active warfare, in today’s world, the word “war” brings forth to the mind only the war on terrorism. (Or the distant borders, where countless young men pointlessly lose their lives like pawns in a never ending chess-game where the rules keep changing.) And, the morality of terrorism is very different from that of war. It does have one, though. But that’s even more difficult for us to comprehend than this so-called morality of war. Because, for all that terrorism is based on loss and fear, it is also firmly rooted in faith and a certain kind of absence of choice.

And the reason the morality of war is utterly incomprehensible to people who have never been in war is that “Death” is a word used to catch the eye, whether it’s on Television or Newspapers or Tabloids. Death has been as sensationalized as rape for even longer than the latter. And the masses are just as desensitized to both.

So, our country’s rockets will kill 1000 of their men? How does it matter? If we don’t kill them, they will kill 900 of our men over the next one year, and end up losing those many lives anyway!

But, lives are not numbers.

I think that’s what Walzer’s trying to say, in a way… Collateral damage, deaths of innocent civilians, the bystanders of war – these are not okay.

A War is not a wrestling match, it is a duel. And, just as duels have rules, so does War.

Walzer recognizes that. And, just as a duel requires both men to trust that the other shall not turn and shoot him in the back before they have taken their ten steps, soldiers (and I mean this term in the loosest sense) of Nations trust each other to not shoot them in their proverbial backs. And just because the “audience” (all the World’s a Stage, after all) is too loud and boorish to appreciate the nuances of that trust, it loses its ability to condone or condemn the men for their actions.

For it is not in our power to understand the rules governing life and death, if we do not even know the meaning of death itself. And, if there were ever a Morality of Death, it would be found in the Morality of War.

Love is Colder than Death

In the depth of a traditionally
dark and stormy night,
she saw a shadowy reflection
of the strangest, brightest light

And the glow of that illumination
promised what words never could.
Not like they would take them;
Not like they ever did us any good.

And is it betrayal
when someone contradicts what they say?
or is it when you refuse to believe
that this insipid mess was the only way?

Yes, it’s easy when it hurts,
but that’s not because pain is free
And for all the wounds we crawled into
there’s not much left for time to heal.

And she knows that sometimes, she might sound distraught
but for all that we have fallen, we have also been taught
that you’re only as weak as the strongest feeling that claws inside your mind
You’re only as strong as the burdens you can afford to leave behind.

And, darlin’, she’s so much stronger
than you could ever possibly believe
And the only reason you know her secret
is so you’d understand how cold she’s had to be.

But, you wouldn’t understand,
and for expecting that from you,
I suppose, it’s entirely comprehensible
why you did what you had to do.

Your winter might stay frozen,
but we’re all creatures of fire
and we’d have fought the dark, all year long
but you chose to say goodbye.

In the depth of a traditionally
cold, and insipid, bitter night,
she tore her heart into ribbons
and offered them up to your light

There’s only so long that anyone can fight for anything at all
There’s only so many times you’ll be the one she calls.
The brightest of lights only lit the darkest halls
And the coldest of us, stay the loneliest of all.

The Sea

When we all set out to sea
we had no idea how things could be
We can have ideas and make estimations
hire the best weathermen
to make the most accurate calculations
But, in the end, it isn’t you and me
it’s between you and the sea,
it’s the sea and me.

And things have been bad,
but they could be worse.
Things are often good,
But we could be cursed.
Ships are safe in harbor
but that’s not what ships are for
Life’s an endless sea
And it neither hates, nor adores.
But it’ll take you up before it crashes you down
Hold on to the wreckage, and you may not drown.

When I first set out to sea
All I ever had was me.
And for better or worse,
what I came to find was
that’s not how it has to be.
And for every misadventure,
a glorious sunset waits to be seen
And for the people you are yet to be
There’s all the people that you’ve been.

Yes, the sea has not the kindest tone,
but it takes care of its own.
The sea is full of you and me,
but it keeps us all alone.
Yet, in the light of the shining moon,
it carries your words to me
Pray tell what step of mine I should watch,
Love, when I’m drowning out here at sea?

Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood,
been so good;
Tired of wandering these woods.
Can’t you look?
It’s in the book;
How your sordid tale ends here for good.

You’re just a cold lost soul
that can’t tell what she’s looking for
Those that trust you
can’t say what they were hoping for
All alone,
Love, you don’t know what you’re getting involved for.

And the green trees of the forest
still shine with the light
that you no longer see.
But, the dark claimed all the rest
and left you with the night,
and me.

They were afraid
of the way
that her shadowed eyes never looked away
and the gaze
that was so cold
burned with a thousand secrets left untold.

You’re in pain once again
because you offered them your soul,
and it was all in vain,
and you feel lost and cold
Little riding hood
Tell me something nobody else knows..

And the green trees of the forest
have darkened all so suddenly
The dark claimed all the rest
and you can barely look at me.
Princess of red,
are you seriously telling me
that you really don’t see?

The Dark is just the Prequel.

A Dream of Who?

I dreamed a strange dream last night,
but can’t remember what it was all about
I recall that it was dark and cold
and I remember looking for my way out

There were wooden doorways that hung suspended
from what seemed like, both, time and space
While, from every corner, there strayed a hundred
sad voices, that I could not trace.

And every time, I begin to wonder why
I’m transported back to that rainy day
The World burned brighter, somehow fuller
And you stood minutes from crossing my way.

Well, look at us now, so old and faded
In the wake of this fall, let’s choose jaded
For all of the blueprints you bought and traded
I reiterate, our moment was fated.
I suppose every rise must have its fall
None for one, but one for all
Waiting for unexpected calls
Hallowed be thy wretched halls.

Shades of You

The eyes that watch you,

are the eyes that trap you;

It’s never really the words that they say.

But, the depths of the real,

are always easier to feel,

when you’ve been to the bottom of the bay.


Except, maybe, I suppose, it really is only inevitable
that you would have to drown before you can burn.
And, sometimes in the middle of a particularly fierce goodbye
Is the feeling that you can never return.


The last edge of the sky I captured

was a special shade of you

and it’s the only color left that I can see

Everything else is in tones

of gray and blue

and violent streaks of someone who used to be me.


And I say this out of nothing, but the deepest respect
Turn around, babe, and walk out of my way.
You’ve proved your case, and made your point.
There’s really no reason for you to stay.

Why I like Dragons So much

1. They can breathe fire.

2. They can fly.

3. They’re so huge!

4. They’re really intelligent, and wise.

5. They’re usually green? (I think)

6. They can scare people. (Like everybody! No attendance? Rawr! Cab driver asking for more money? Concentrated ball of fire! Demons attack? Fly into the sky and eradicate them all!)

7. They sound like thunder!

8. They know what to do before the stupid humans.

9. May I reiterate that they breathe fire?


It’s not that I’m invincible
I’m just impossible to destroy
I’ll burn and burn until it’s dawn
and leave into the void.
Of all that’s beautiful in this World
for all that’s truly sad,
I dedicate all my good
And for you, I’ll save the bad.
I’ve tried the way of Fire
And I’ve tried the way of ice
But sometimes I can’t help, but think
Some respite would be nice.
And some would say,
this is your day,
It’s your chance to exist as if you were free
But, there are things to do,
and hoops to leap through
And she sings the saddest songs to me.
Once in a while, I can rest my eyes
but all I see in my head is you,
your cruel laughter as you waved goodbye.
and every last thing we could never do.
She’s dead to you, my dearest past
and all you’ve built turns to crumbling sand
If this is the price of freedom and life,
Well, right here is where I shall stand.

All the Words in the World

Sometimes, the brighter words desert me
and only the gray ones remain,
Yes, blood is the color of loyalty,
but, betrayal is it’s middle name.
Sometimes, the good times are forgotten
and I go back to reading the edges of your wall
Back to back, on different planets,
I slowly watched the last star fall.

You know, the war is over; you can keep
your precious snow-covered territory
And I will recall what it was like to sleep
in the ghost of a distant memory.
How naive of me, to think you weren’t the same
especially when it came to the cold.
And this is the exile I serve in your name
when I ran out of reasons not to fold.

But, of all the things that are gone from me
I miss most the warmth that fought despair
And in the edges of shadows that arise from the dark
My ghost might still admit to care.
But, I pity your new mortal form
And our synchronized fall from grace
and for all the words that were never said
and that look upon your face.

But, where I once drowned in sorrow
I now arise from ashes, in disdain
You made your choices in the brightest ink
and I watch them run in the falling rain.
And the words I was going to use,
to explain the depths I’ve seen
They walk away, in quiet disappointment;
echoing, you shall never know what we mean.