War is afoot in the Middle East again, and this one is already ugly and likely to get worse before it gets better – and who is in the middle of it? Children. That gives pause.
Obviously, terrorists have to be taken out, every one of them. In the process, where they are has become a warzone. These warzones – on both sides – include children.
Already, Israeli and Palestinian children, a stunning number, have died and been horribly wounded. Fleeing, fearing loss of life, absent childhood, they are innocent.
It helps to visualize just how out of whack things have become.
A rough consensus on numbers, reported by a range of groups, suggests hundreds of Israeli children were killed by Hamas in Israel on October 7, and 30 more were taken hostage. Now, 2,360 Palestinian children have died in Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Observers without political ties, such as UNICEF, report being in a state of shock, even before the land assault takes full form and – presumably – roots out Hamas.
International observers, including UNICEF, reported 5,791 children severely wounded in Gaza as of the 25th. UNICEF describes the carnage of children in highly graphic terms, “staggering” and a “stain on our collective conscience.”
Photographs, now fewer as the Internet is shut off across Gaza, are enough to make a viewer nauseous, children terribly maimed, crying, helpless, terrified, and dead.
How many children must we see in pain before a heart physically hurts? Mine does, and I have no ties to them, nothing other than being a human and a parent.
What is the truth? How will we be measured? Can any of us guess? A good guess might be if you believe in a just and loving God, we will be measured by our courage, integrity, devotion to others, actions – my guess, how we treat children.
Children? Yes, the innocent, our focus on, awareness of, concern for, and actions toward innocents, not combatants, how we strive for our own souls and innocence.
What does Matthew say? “Not a sparrow will fall without His knowing…” If not a sparrow, then how much more does he love – and expect of – us? Matthew 10-29.
As for children, the respect we should have for their little lives and concern for innocents, is that not part of our innocence judgment? The word above pleads for love.
What more did Matthew say? Words of Christ. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
And “Whoever causes one of these little ones…to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and drowned in the depth of the sea.” Mathew 18:6.
War, by definition, is hell on earth. I have interviewed too many WWII, Korean, and Vietnam war vets, those who wanted to stop evil, hurt to this today – not to know, as one told me over and over, “war is hell.”
But where do we fit in? How much can we mitigate the hell to help save the children? I do not know, I do not know how in concrete terms to do that, but I know it is a moral imperative, as solid a rock as any Christ set forth.
We should let so many innocents suffer and so many lives end so quickly, not work overtime to stop the carnage? Whether we are American, Israeli, Palestinian, or any other identifier on Earth, we are adults – responsible for what happens.
Some, far removed from these warzones, will say that is just the price of war, the cost of rooting out terrorists, the work of unavoidable evil in a mortal life. I accept that innocents die in war, have been in warzones, studied WWII, and understand.
I also know we have modern means for mitigating that damage, pain, maiming, loss, and unspeakable wounds, as well as death, on the battlefield for children.
I put nothing past the Hamas terrorists. They must be extinguished. I expect more of us: a conscious, determined, heart and faith-based love of children and extra effort to protect and save them. We have not yet seen enough of this, and it hurts the soul.
I feel a deep, welling, irrepressible sadness that this particular war, which will rise, grow more violent, “stain the collective conscious” further before receding, will hurt us in ways we have yet to grasp.
To paraphrase the famous Jewish scholar and man of conscience, Hillel, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” The children cannot be forgotten, or we lose ourselves.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.