File nietzsche/nietzsche.0707, message 1

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Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2007 13:57:09 -0400
Subject: [Nietzsche] FW: Warfare as Suicide



From: Orion Anderson [] 
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2007 13:56
To: ''
Subject: Warfare as Suicide


Warfare as Suicide


Some people claim to be astonished by contemporary terrorists who blow
themselves up in the process of attempting to kill their enemies. However,
are suicidal battle strategies absent from the record of Western warfare?

During the First World War (1914-1918) on the Western front (and on many
other fronts), fighting was done out of trenches, with one enemy line facing
the other. "Attack" occurred when long rows of soldiers got out of trenches
and advanced through no man's land, hoping to cut through barbed wire,
assault enemy trenches and break through the opposing line. Most attacks
were unsuccessful and there was a substantial probability that an advancing
soldier would be hit by an artillery shell or mowed down by machine-gun

It is correct to draw a parallel between the behavior of soldiers during the
First World War and contemporary suicide bombers? Is the fundamental dynamic
the same? Or is a different dynamic at play?

Please write a thoughtful commentary responding to this question and send it

We will publish the best commentary in our IDEOLOGIES OF WAR AND TERROR
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Historian Modris Ekstein describes the typical pattern of "battle" that
characterized the First World War: "The victimized crowd of attackers in no
man's land has become one of the supreme images of this war. Attackers moved
forward usually without seeking cover and were mowed down in rows, with the
mechanical efficiency of a scythe, like so many blades of grass."

The following are eye-witness accounts of typical attacks that occurred
during the First World War. A German machine gunner wrote of his experience
of a British attack at the Somme:

We were very surprised to see them walking. The officers went in front. I
noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we
started firing we just had to load and reload. They went down in the
hundreds. You didn't have to aim, we just fired into them.

A similar mode of attack--with similar results--occurred at the Battle of
Loos. Pushing through to the German line on the second day of battle,
British troops crossed the road. Their numerical superiority was
considerable, but several dozen German machine guns faced them. The German
regimental diary describes what happened:

Ten columns of extended line could clearly be discerned. Each advancing
column was estimated at more than a thousand men, offering such a target as
had never been seen before, or thought possible. Never had the machine
gunners such straightforward work to do nor done it so effectively.

They traversed to and fro along the enemy's ranks unceasingly. The men stood
and fired triumphantly into the mass of men advancing across open grassland.
As the entire field of fire was covered with the enemy's infantry, the
effect was devastating and they could be seen falling literally in hundreds.

Nine-million men were killed during the First World War and twenty-one
million injured. The vast casualties were the result of millions of men
behaving not unlike contemporary terrorists behave: Allowing their bodies to
be blown to bits as they attempted to blow up the bodies of their enemies.

The following report was written by British General Rees immediately after
the massacre of the 94th Infantry Brigade of the 31st Division by the
Germans on July 1, 1916:

They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade and not a man
shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine gun
and rifle fire that finally wiped them out. I saw the lines, which advanced
in such admirable order melting away under fire. Yet not a man wavered,
broke the ranks, or attempted to come back.

In spite of the fact that the attack resulted in the slaughter of nearly all
of his men, General Rees seems to have been gratified by the result:

I have never seen, indeed could never have imagined such a magnificent
display of gallantry, discipline and determination. The reports from the
very few survivors of this marvelous advance bear out what I saw with my own
eyes: that hardly a man of ours got to the German Front line.

General Rees was proud of his men because they had demonstrated honor and
nobility. They had been willing to die for their country.

As suicide bombers sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah, so soldiers
of the First World War martyred themselves in the name of sacred entities
given names such as France, Germany and Great Britain.

For background information on the FIRST WORLD WAR, please consult ROGER

And Richard Koenigsberg's papers:

AS <>
The Sacrificial Meaning of Warfare

Battle Strategy of the First World War 

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