The horrific attack on Israeli civilians has rightly brought global condemnation of Hamas and solidarity with Israel reminiscent of global support for the US after the attacks on civilians in the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001. Sadly, like the US, Israel has squandered global support –as did the US after 9/11– by its own retaliation, killing ten times the civilians as were originally killed.
We should think not only about those injured or killed and their families; we should also think about the soldiers doing the killing. I’m not talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD results from what is done to the soldiers during their service. I’m talking about Moral Injury. MI results from what the soldiers themselves do. If they undertake or witness behavior in sharp contrast with their most deeply held moral beliefs, they often suffer Moral Injury.
Research on war in general and media reports of the current Israel/Gaza war notes that between a third and 40%; of those injured or killed in this war are children. Of course Israel is not targeting children (it seems Hamas was indifferent on this issue). Nonetheless with every bomb landing in Gaza, about one third of the victims are children. Those sending the bombs know this whether they intend to kill them or not. If we add innocent civilians the number goes from a third to, what, 90%? These are unintended yet predictable and expected consequences of this war.
“The children are always ours, every single one of them all over the globe. I’m beginning to suspect that whoever is incapable of recognizing this is incapable of morality.” At least that’s what James Baldwin thinks, and he’s one of very few American moral giants of the past century.
Think not only about those injured or killed in this war or any war; think about what the killing does to the killers. We should expect many cases of Moral Injury as more and more children and innocent civilians are killed. Adding to the tragedy is that it could be avoided –or at least minimized.
Letter to the Editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 9, 2023, p. A12