Does Water Kill People or Do People Kill People?

Water means war.

Every day, in Sudan and Iraq and Somalia and Bosnia, people searching for water have learned its intricate ties to war.

Every soldier since the birth of boats has known the importance of ships and seaports for war strategy. But in modern times, the water supply itself has become the most crucial and dangerous part of living in a war-torn place. Control the water, and you control the people.

During the Vietnam War, soldiers polluted the country’s water with chemical agents. The resulting stagnant water became a haven for malaria, and the ecosystems off the coast were damaged, thus impacting the economies of every seaside town. In the Persian Gulf, deliberate oil spills caused similar destruction.

Even when the water itself remains safe to drink, enemies can cut off access to it. Who will give their life to walk to a guarded well? Sometimes troops can simply destroy the infrastructure of large cities. So an entire people is forced to leave, becoming what are now commonly referred to as “water refugees:” they live in tents and travel into distant lands in search of safe, clean wells.

Once the infrastructure is destroyed and the war ends, the water refugees are not always wise to return home. For what is left but dried up springs, no running water, a demolished irrigation system, and no hope for their children or their crops?

When Jerusalem was besieged by Babylon, the Israelites knew war-time thirst. Jeremiah lamented, “Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them.”

I wonder if God’s message to the oppressors in Babylon encouraged the Israelites at the time:

“[Babylon] will be the least of the nations – a wilderness, a dry land, a desert.”
“You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures, your end has come.”
“The sea will rise over Babylon, its roaring waves will cover her. Her towns will be desolate, a dry and desert land, a land where no one lives, through which no man travels.”

And could the same message encourage the water refugees of today?

3 Responses to “Does Water Kill People or Do People Kill People?”
  1. Chad says:

    good stuff!!

  2. Darrell says:

    Yes water means war and it has for a long time. Since Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote his classic “The Influence of Seapower Upon History 1660-1783” published in 1890 the world’s powers have placed great faith in seapower and have sought to control the world’s oceans. Mahan’s book was the most important book in the history of naval warfare and still dominates thinking even today. Wars have probably been started, won, and lost because of it.

    In regard to polluted waters in Vietnam and other places as acts of war, what is worth fighting for? Anything? What is worth killing for? When you fight an enemy in a kill or be killed struggle what should be off limits? What would you do to ensure the survival of yourself, your family, and those of generations unborn? Isn’t the question then, when should we be willing to go to war and under what circumstances? my assertion has always been, under only the most desperate conditions when survival is at issue. When that condition exists, then tactics aren’t so questionable.

    • Michael says:

      Your comment provoked an interesting thought: Is there some middle ground between not going to war and going into a war in which any tactics are acceptable? I tend to agree with you that war shouldn’t ever be acceptable unless survival is at stake. However, I wonder if it is possible for a “war-with-conditions” to be waged if the stakes are less dire. In other words, Could a war be justifiably waged if it was for something less dire than survival as long as certain limiting conditions are placed on it? (i.e. not resorting to very cruel tactics, etc.)

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