Common humanity

Thursday, January 16, 2020
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This and That

One of the sorrows of this past week was the deaths of 176 people in the Ukrainian airplane hit by the missile in Baghdad. In military parlance I am sure it is called “collateral damage” and “the cost of war.” In political rhetoric it is “justifiable.” There is always an expected body count in any military encounter. The millions of victims of national pride, the “Innocents” and their survivors rise up from history with their cries of despair that echoed in those last moments of their lives.

Neither should this incident be a finger-pointing moment unless all the governments of the world take responsibility for those moments when the bigger picture of national pride got in the way of the “little guy, the child, the man or woman” who is simply going on with their everyday lives. We cannot ever overlook human life. Governments are very good at making excuses for their behavior, but the end result is what counts and there should be world wide mourning each time another life is caught in the cross hairs of a military exercise.

I remember reading about a decision that had to be made about bombing a target some years ago. The president of our country had to make the final decision. One thing he weighed was how many civilians would be in harm’s way when the bombs were dropped. They finally decided one late night when only the cleaning crew would be in the building and they tried to pick a time when they were on break. Now granted, every decision cannot be weighed with such precision, but I still cannot help but think of the young and old killed this week when governments thought they could take life and death decisions into their own hands and play their own games. And at what cost?

In reading the history of the Middle East, it is interesting to note it has always been an area of commerce and was vital to any movement from Africa into Europe in ancient times. But it was of very little interest to the Western nations until the Suez Canal became a route that bypassed the southern trip of Africa and shortened the distance between India and the rest of the world. Very soon the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia presaged the growth of the oil companies that now rule the governments of the world. Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States have all had their fingers dipped in Middle Eastern oil since World War I. The oil oligarchs dictate not only in the board rooms, but also to the governments of the countries where the oil lies. Oil interests equal power and great wealth as the oil states have come to recognize. But the desire for wealth throws them into the mainstream of political balancing acts, trying to keep everyone happy in the midst of cultural and religious differences.

We have seen too many times when the justifiable death of Qassem Soleimani and the subsequent justifiable retaliation by Iran are part and parcel of the same dark dance between the nations. It is always “the innocent” who pay the piper. It is not a matter of politics, but rather one of common humanity.

Watching this play out day by day I somehow have a sense the little people of the world (meaning us) have reached a point where we will no longer tolerate being moved like pieces of a game board at the whim of petty leaders or multi-national corporations. Maybe, just maybe we are ready to say, “No more.”

Avis R. Anderson is a retired member of the Glendive community. Her online blog can be found at