By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – The story of Georgy K. Zhukov has come to my mind. He was a Soviet field marshal, considered the military leader who commanded the greatest number of troops in history. Immersed in the fight to take Berlin, it pained him to find himself forced to face a small group of holdout Nazi fanatics, by fighting house-to-house, building-to-building, even inside the homes, with the Nazis, frequently blackmailing them with the use of civilians as shields to resist the sieges.
Under the logic of these confrontations, the attacking band – the one enforcing the siege – must risk a quantity of troops several time greater, in order to conquer the few who are inside. There are generally more casualties among those on the offensive, leading the siege than among those under siege, who desperately defend themselves from their places of hiding.
The decision to use artillery fire to completely demolish the buildings was painful.
Historians have harshly criticized Zhukov, as they have criticized and continue criticizing other military leaders, for example MacArthur in Japan. Well thought out statistics indicate that the deaths from the intense bombardments of Tokyo and other great Japanese cities represented many more civilian victims than those that resulted from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The only possible consolation for such cruelties is that today Germany and Japan are two democratic states, which fully respect human rights, have eliminated all the legal forms of discrimination, and are at the head of the world, as much for their economies as for their ranking in the UN Human Development Index.
And of course, their people and their leaders, now healed from the horrors, think in terms of human and social progress. The possibility of another Third Reich or Empire of the Rising Sun have remained well behind, in the past.
Once wars have been unleashed, it’s impossible to control the elevated cascade of damages produced, especially due to the fanatical obstinacy of the involved parties. Such is the case we’re seeing today in the tiny but densely populated Gaza strip, where a terrorist band, Hamas, decided on the insanity of invading their powerful neighbor, with which the majority of the Palestinians who populate Gaza maintain a territorial, political and cultural conflict which is nearly a century old.
Both bands have their reasons, but the reasons evaporate when the bombs explode and people die by the thousands, be they civilians or soldiers.
One bangs their head wondering why the terrorist band decided on a suicidal war by invading a powerful state that it knows well it will never be able to defeat militarily. They can’t count on international support either for their sullied cause, fogged over by the joy with which they celebrate the beheadings of women, old people, youth and even children. It’s not the deaths, it’s the shameless festivity, the horrific spectacle of showing off their executions.
Israel, a democratic country with a stable government, division of powers and full freedoms for its residents, must confront the challenge of definitively disarming the interior of Gaza, as in their time the Soviet invaders, the US troops and their allies did when they occupied Germany, Japan, fascist Italy and other satellite states of that axis of evil.
I beg the God of Israel, the Christian God, the God of anywhere in the world, according to the way each people and culture imagines it, that the Israeli leaders find the wisdom to perform their inescapable task with the least possible number of victims that we call “collateral damage.” But that there will be some, there will.
In the end, when calm returns, Israel should retreat from these borders and extend the current recognition to the National Palestinian Authority to the level of a free and sovereign state.
It should be a neutral state, guaranteed by an international treaty that protects it from aggressions and at the same time forces an interior disarmament.
Israel exists, it has earned the right to exist. That’s a fact that’s been consummated by the efforts of its laborious people who transformed the desert into a garden and created an island of democracy in the barren plains of the medieval monarchies around it, which refuse to accept modern civility.
Democracy has the right to prevail, to extend itself wherever possible and there’s a widespread awareness of its value as civilization’s supreme political creation.
In the end, that is and will be the only consolation.