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The other day was Remembrance Day, a day originally set to commemorate and honor those who served in the ‘war to end all wars,’ The Great War and later called World War I. This was the first war of the century, a century that saw a huge evolution in the way war was fought. I suggest also, that it must continue to ask us to re-question war and killing.

A bit of history

The first world war seems to me to be aptly named due to the number of nations involved and the massive numbers of casualties. A war that, for the first time, involved all of the worlds great powers. War is an atrocious business in any case. Traditionally, it was fought by men who engaged in attacks out in the countryside using, what now are considered, rudimentary weapons. The twentieth century saw greater technological innovation than any other century in history. War certainly benefitted from these advances. From airplanes with bombs to tanks, the ability to kill more people than any hand to hand combat boosted the casualty rates and the destruction. The fighting also moved into cities as well as the countryside.

Today, it seems unimaginable that another world war could erupt in less than two decades. A war even more devastating than the first, particularly in the numbers of civilian casualties, including the holocaust, where millions of a single race of humans were systematically murdered. One can hardly imagine the death and devastation caused by the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

May we never have another world war.

The twentieth century continued to see an evolution of war, however, certainly in North America, people really began to question the nation’s involvement in the conflict. Here, I believe, it has been communications technology that has informed the people of what war is really like. I can remember watching the Vietnam War on TV every night at dinner.

During the first half of the twentieth century, media consisting of mostly newspapers, radio and newsreel movies showed society what the government wanted them to see. It was controlled and often full of propaganda. Television and satellites began a nearly instant and uncontrolled look at war. While this technology was eventually used to control the message society received, it also began the mass protest of war. Bringing war into the living rooms of the people changed them forever. Even newer technologies in the twenty-first century, spawned through the Internet, are breeding uprisings in many parts of the world simultaneously, in traditionally hot beds of war, such as the Middle East. Modern wars are often fought against terrorist organizations or they see rebellions against dictators.

Modern technological warfare can deliver a massive lethal blow with, so called, surgical precision. Today, we see technology being used to even replace humans with the use of drone aircraft. The range of weapon types is ever increasing, yet, much of the fighting must still be done on the ground, on foot with guns, land mines and other dirty weapons. No matter how much technology might clean up warfare, it still involves the pain of injury and death, even to civilians.

The bottom line is that war remains a dirty, messy activity of death and destruction.

Now some points of focus

Some of you might remember the Star Trek episode where war was fought entirely by computer. The computers would locate a person, register a kill and inform the enemy computer. The targeted person would then report to a disintegration chamber to be eliminated. Even in such a painless approach to war, it still involved death.

I want to focus in here on two aspects of war. First, any person behind a weapon must be able to kill another human being, a human being who they might, in another setting, actually be friends with, able to share common interests. In hand to hand combat, it might mean staring the other person in the eye before causing serious injury or ending their life. I know I could ever do that. Yet, if it came to kill or get killed, I wonder what I might end up doing. The two enemies usually have no quarrel between them, but have been ordered by others to kill. Here, the fault of another person means others must kill and die. This is killing of probably innocent people for reasons that originate from a higher purpose. Usually, over land, religion or for political reasons.

How do you kill another person who is not guilty of any crime and who has done nothing to you? This sounds exactly like insanity.

My second point of focus is to ponder how those who are in charge of ordering others into battle, or are in charge of initiating a weapon that can kill many people at one time. I can hardly imagine killing one person. What must it take to cause the injury or death of many people? Perhaps, since they are usually removed from the actual point impact, it might be easier. How can one become a commander that orders troops into battle know the calculated risks. I guess it once again comes down to the kill some or have many more killed, perhaps even the innocent.

We should also always keep in mind that the impacts of war extend far beyond those involved and long past the time of actual war. Lives are changed forever.

Conclusion

I suppose that, as long as there are those who have quarrel and aggression against another human being, there will be those who are sent to kill or die. We must regularly be reminded of this and to remember those who have suffered or died.

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