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Cold War Casualties — a long, sad story

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27th. Mar, 2004 | 01:28 pm

[Following a discussion on ABC 702 Sydney of Dr Coral Bell's book about the Cold War. She's written The Reagan Paradox: American Foreign Policy in the 1980s (1989, Rutgers Uni Press), and an earlier one is Negotiation from Strength: A Study in the Politics of Power (1977, Greenwood Press). Possibly the one they were discussing was Dependent Ally: A Study in Australian Foreign Policy (1994, Allen & Unwin; Reissue)]

A very interesting discussion with Dr Bell. The world didn't suffer a M.A.D.-style nuclear war, thank goodness.

But surely you should count in:
firstly, some proportion of the Korean & Vietnam war deaths (incl some in French part), since those wars were lengthened & intensified by Cold War involvment.
We tend to remember the US & Australian dead, but there were millions of North & South Vietnamese, plus 'collateral damage' in nearby countries.


Then some of the Cambodian Holocaust ("Killing Fields") victims, since the country was laid open to Pol Pot's victory by being sideswiped during the Vietnam engagment.

One could also put some of the USSR/CCCP dead from the late 1940's onward, as the excuse was usually that they were supporting The Enemy. Even excluding Stalin's Terror from earlier, this would be quite a few.

Add in all the thousands and thousands of both The Disappeared in 'left-wing' and 'right-wing' dictatorships around the world, whether Europe, Latin America, Africa or other places (some quite close to us), and those starved & worked to death in camps, I think(?) mostly in 'left-wing' countries (apart from USSR/CCCP).

These regimes were propped up by one or the other side, many were simply the usual "strongman" dictators that infest human history, but they used the rhetoric of one side or the other to get support.

There would also be a huge number of poorly-known deaths from the "brushfire wars", Angola etc. - the almost-invisible sort of things still going in Africa & beyond, like the Contra terrorist/freedom fighters supported by Reagan's administration.

Again, one side would appeal to the USSR or China as fighting the oppressive government and the other would then appeal to the US to oppose the left-wing guerillas (or vice-versa), even tho' examination could show neither side was anything much more than fighting for power in the dirtiest of ways.

Yet again, like terrorism & reaction against it today, the cannon-fodder troops could be recruited by ideology or religion as well as force, whether or not this coincided with the leaders' true beliefs.

In all this, I am not even touching on the other "collateral damage"; those who died not directly through fighting or state terror, but through disease or injury or starvation caused by sanctions against their country, or the dedication of funds in their country to arms & supporting oppression or kleptocracies in the name of ideology rather than improving the lot of their population, or the destruction of infrastructure in either battles or guerilla wars.

I wonder if adding these up you'd get to 100 million (100,000,000), the figure she mentioned if the Cold War got hot -- which would also kill more over the years following, and devastate the natural world.

Alas, these casualties seem to be continuing quite unabated, as the heralded "Peace Dividend" is sucked back into armaments, rather than advancement, and "other people" are again painted black or white like chess pieces to be shuffled around the board instead of fellow humans to be dealt with on their merits. And the world beyond humans? Just a battlefield & mine for resources, instead of a living & beautiful home.

I miss Barbara Tuchman's incisive analysis, shown in work like her "March of Folly" - a book I'd highly recommend for today's world, as well as of course Coral Bell's :)

Björk = Betula verrucosa = a birch

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