Recently there has been a very lively discussion at the Social Science Research Council’s blog Making Sense of Darfur about Hugo Slim’s Killing Civilians: Method, Madness, Morality. The discussion is ongoing but there have already been postings from the blog’s editor Alex de Waal and others.
In his post, de Waal writes: “[Killing Civilians] raises a series of profound questions about how and why civilians are killed in war—and how and why the are not killed or protected.” he goes on to write, “What Slim succeeds in doing is not only cataloging these horrors, but also providing a schema for beginning to typologize and understand. That’s a hugely useful task.”
Other posts in the discussion about Killing Civilians include: Addressing the Devastation, by Sarah Holewinski and The Entire Range of Misery of Civilians Caught Up in War, by Les Roberts.
Roberts concludes his post by writing:
The closing chapter of Killing Civilians is an articulate call to undertake a series of complex social transformations to become a species that acknowledges the complexity of understanding who is a legitimate target in times of conflict while simultaneously embracing the civilian ethic. What he has proposed is hard work. We in the humanitarian community need to do more. Those who execute war need to do more. Throughout the war in Iraq, dehumanizing and insensitive language about civilians has been printed in the West on a regular basis with no protest from the readers. For example, on September 5, 2003, papers across the US, for example, the Houston Chronicle ran an article that interviewed as US soldier about the previous day. It said, “We had a great day,” said Schrumpf. “We killed a lot of people. We dropped a few civilians but what do you do?” Hugo Slim is right, we all need to do more.