by Gerard Donnelly Smith
(Swans - September 11, 2006) Floods and the military both execute incursions. Sometimes water's incursion occurs with deadly force, while a military's incursion always includes deadly force. Floods do not discriminate against the victims of incursion, but drown the young, the old, the rich, the poor. The water cannot tell the difference, whereas the military can tell the difference, yet often targets civilians in order to "take out" the hiding enemy. Thus the oxymoron "military intelligence." Floods have no euphemisms for their incursion, while the military creates terms such as "collateral damage" and "civilian losses" to describe the criminal results of its deadly force.
The floods caused by Rita and Katrina have receded, leaving devastation from the incursions. Millions of residents are still scattered throughout the country; many will be unable to return home because zoning changes and new building regulations will make rebuilding, for them, unaffordable. After a flood's incursion there follows a capitalistic occasion for profit.
Talk of the enactment of eminent domain has created fear for many former residents of New Orleans. Will the state or federal government seize their land, then sell it to private developers who will build expensive condominiums? Insurance companies balk at their obligations to pay for damages by illegally devaluing property, forcing those with no resources to incur expensive legal fees to retrieve their lives.
Similarly, corporations line their pockets rebuilding nations devastated by military incursion. Billions of dollars are awarded to the war profiteers, who like buzzards circle above the spoils of war.
Bulldozers move the flood wreckage so residents may rebuild their homes; military bulldozer have leveled homes in Lebanon and Palestine to expose targets, and leveled portions of Gaza and the West Bank for new Israeli settlements. Here the human incursion has slightly receded, but for how long? The bulldozers destroyed some settlements, leveling the evidence of incursion: the official reason was to deny cover for the enemy. In effect the incursion drove the Palestinian owners from their homes, and the withdrawal insured they will remain homeless.
Floods recede of their own accord once the storm has spent itself, while the rain of bullets can only be stopped by a tentative cease-fire, or when politicians decide the incursion's objectives have been met, or when international pressure builds. The political climate changes, and the offending nation is forced to withdraw. Too often the weather does not change and a military incursion becomes a permanent occupation, and the violence results in a flood of refugees.
The incursion of Israel into Lebanon required the evacuation of millions, caused the destruction of civilian homes, resulted in the deaths of innocent children and women. While the flood waters has no reason, the Israeli incursion was in reaction to actions by Hezbollah who were reacting to Israeli actions in Palestine who were reacting to... The ebb and flow of this conflict over who controls the land, over the "destiny" of nations, over blood of the innocent, will not likely end soon.
All incursions result in refugees, but only military incursions create insurgencies.
When nations have a "manifest destiny," incursion into already-settled lands results; for example, the manifest destiny of the United States resulted in incursions onto and permanent occupation of indigenous lands. The insurgents who fought this occupation are now stranded on islands surrounded and controlled by the occupiers. The manifest destiny of the Nazi and the Japanese created an equally horrific incursion, one which an insurgence repulsed.
Despite the lessons of history, each new season brings new terrors; the political tempest brings new incursions, new victims, new floods of refugees. One would think the staggering losses would teach humanity to behave.
All incursions result in loss of life and loss of property, the cost of which is often staggering. Estimates of $30 billion for Katrina, for which FEMA has dedicated $7.2 billion for relief: a woefully inadequate response. Consider the cost of American's incursion into Iraq, and its current occupation: $300 billion and growing every second.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost might reach $600 billion by 2010.
Apparently, the political resolve to maintain a military incursion is strong, while the political resolve to repair the damage from a natural incursion is weak. Who profits from the results may be the reason for this difference.
While the poor residents of the battered South fight the government and the insurance companies to rebuild their homes and reclaim their lives, the Pentagon receives $1.25 billion each week to maintain its occupation of Iraq. This incursion will not recede, at least not under "this" president's watch.
The economic cost of incursions and occupations in the Middle East is staggering: how much will it cost to rebuild Lebanon? Will Bechtel ever rebuild Iraq? Will Afghanistan ever recover from being bombed into the Stone Age?
A flood's incursions take lives; hundreds and sometimes thousands drown when a hurricane breeches the levies or rivers crest the banks. In 1887, the Hwang Ho (Yellow) River in China drowned over 900,000. The December 26, 2004 Indonesian tsunami claimed over 150,400 lives. Comparatively, the 1,400 or so lost in Katrina seems merciful.
According to Iraq Body Count, as many as 45,651 civilians have been killed in Iraq. Iraq Coalition Casualties reports that 2,869 coalition forces have died, and 19,323 US soldiers have been wounded. No one has totaled the deaths caused by the Israeli-Arab conflicts over the last 50 years, but those numbers are also gruesomely high. Yet these numbers do not prove that nature's devastation pales in comparison to man's inhumanity to man.
Here's the proof: over 30 million soldiers died in WWI, over 14 million died in WWII. Civilian casualties in these wars alone were over 18 million in WWI, and approximately 34 million for WWII. In total, for these two world wars alone, over 96 million people died.
The total number killed by natural disasters, though also in the millions, seems insignificant compared to the loss of life caused by war. While we cannot prevent natural incursions, if we adequately prepare, then the damages caused by natrual incursion can be significantly lessened. In contrast, preparation for war does not lessen the damage; one must solve the underlying causes for war: xenophobia, nationalism, and inequality.
Finally, one must not lose hope that humanity will find the humanity to stop the murder and the madness. Still we describe death caused by natural disasters as senseless, and death caused by war as often a necessary, patriotic, and brave sacrifice.
Clearly nature has no reason; clearly our reason is not natural.
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