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On Collateral Damage

Watching the heartbreaking scenes from Gaza, I remembered Lieutenant William Calley at the My Lai massacre. Although hundreds of civilians were killed in My Lai, Calley was convicted of killing 22 of them, mostly women and children in 1968. Originally sentenced to life imprisonment, that was later commuted by President Nixon to only three years of house arrest. Now 80-years-old, he is living in his hometown of Miami.

We were taught about the Geneva Convention, but the focus was always on the treatment of POWs, not on the treatment of civilians. However, I never met another soldier who wanted to kill women and children, which probably explains why there was so little instruction on it. After all, does anybody have to be told NOT to kill women and children? Apparently so . . .

Every Israeli soldier remembers examples of women wearing explosives, but that memory is not a license to kill anyone. While no conflict can be entirely free of “collateral damage”, we must not assume all civilian deaths are cases of murder.

Besides, killing women and children is just stupid, as that is more likely to create new terrorists than killing men.