Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“Seven Jewish Children” and “War is Hell”

This evening I attended a reading of British Playwright Caryl Churchill's ten-minute performance piece, Seven Jewish Children; A Play for Gaza. Had the play been written by an Israel, nobody would have batted an eyelash. But because the playwright is famous, and a leftwing British 'shikse' (I assume), she was pilloried by the Zionists and the play labeled antisemitic, etc., when produced at the Royal Court theater in London.

The reading was co-sponsored by Theater J, the DC JCC's resident theater company, and, was performed on the same night as a New York production. Kudos to its artistic director, Ari Roth, for having the courage to do it, although I am told that politically, his position as artistic director is safe. I had to cross a picket line of the usual Zealots to see the play. Once inside, most of the audience was the predictable Brit Tzedek ve-Shalom crowd -- generally supportive of the play, though a few were a bit uncomfortable.

Roth was keen on artistic balance, and so after the reading of the Churchill play, two "reactions" by British-Israeli and American-Jewish performance artists were read by the actors. Since these reactions imitated Churchill's piece, they came off as much weaker dramatically. Then the audience was given a chance to respond. Then Amitai Etzioni, the GW professor, and a self-described member of the Palmach generation, was given the floor. He lambasted the play as propaganda, and said that Israelis and Palestinians have to look forward, not backwards.

Etzioni, poor fellow, inadvertently provided the dramatic high-point of the evening, when he misquoted a line from the play as "Tell her that we killed the babies deliberately." (The actual line was: "Tell her that we killed the babies by accident.") In fact, this typified the reaction of not only people who did not hear the play, but people who heard what they wanted to hear, and not what the playwright wrote.

Why did the audience react as positively as it did? After all, it is not uncommon for the Brit Tzedek ve-Shalom crowd to display the typical ambivalence of the American Zionist left. I think that the recent reports of civilian abuse by soldiers in Gaza were fresh in the audience's minds, and they were not in the mood to hear calls for balance and context.

Speaking of Israeli war crimes, today Human Rights Watch published its report on the use of white phosphorus shells in the Gaza campaign. It reported what had already been reported in real time: Israeli used the shells in cases where there was no military necessity, and where its troops could have been effectively protected by other types of smokescreen, produced in Israel. Whether the use of these shells was deliberate in order to "establish deterrence," or whether it was just a convenient and cheaper method of providing a smokescreen, is not yet known. When confronted in the past with the use of white phosphorus, Israel's standard answer has been that the use of white phosphorus is not banned in war, which is true, provided that the use is necessary militarily, and precautions have been taken for the civilian population. There is no reason to believe that either of those conditions obtained, as the Human Rights Watch report makes clear.

And for my readers who say, "War is hell!" and "À la guerre comme À la guerre." I say, "Fine, just spare me your moral outrage when Palestinians blow up Jewish babies."

Here is the Human Rights Watch report

Israel: White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes

"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops...It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died."

Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report

Indiscriminate Attacks Caused Needless Civilian Suffering

March 25, 2009

(Jerusalem) - Israel's repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 71-page report, "Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," provides witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school. The report also presents ballistics evidence, photographs, and satellite imagery, as well as documents from the Israeli military and government.

Militaries use white phosphorus primarily to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It can also be used as an incendiary weapon.

"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died."

The report documents a pattern or policy of white phosphorus use that Human Rights Watch says must have required the approval of senior military officers.

"For the needless civilian deaths caused by white phosphorus, senior commanders should be held to account," Abrahams said.

On February 1, Human Rights Watch submitted detailed questions to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) about its white phosphorus use in Gaza. The IDF did not provide responses, citing an internal inquiry being conducted by the Southern Command.

In the recent Gaza operations, Israeli forces frequently air-burst white phosphorus in 155mm artillery shells in and near populated areas. Each air-burst shell spreads 116 burning white phosphorus wedges in a radius extending up to 125 meters from the blast point. White phosphorus ignites and burns on contact with oxygen, and continues burning at up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 degrees Celsius) until nothing is left or the oxygen supply is cut. When white phosphorus comes into contact with skin it creates intense and persistent burns.

When used properly in open areas, white phosphorus munitions are not illegal, but the Human Rights Watch report concludes that the IDF repeatedly exploded it unlawfully over populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse, and a hospital.

Israel at first denied it was using white phosphorus in Gaza but, facing mounting evidence to the contrary, said that it was using all weapons in compliance with international law. Later it announced an internal investigation into possible improper white phosphorus use.

"Past IDF investigations into allegations of wrongdoing suggest that this inquiry will be neither thorough nor impartial," Abrahams said. "That's why an international investigation is required into serious laws of war violations by all parties."

The IDF knew that white phosphorus poses life-threatening dangers to civilians, Human Rights Watch said. A medical report prepared during the recent hostilities by the Israeli ministry of health said that white phosphorus "can cause serious injury and death when it comes into contact with the skin, is inhaled or is swallowed." Burns on less than 10 percent of the body can be fatal because of damage to the liver, kidneys, and heart, the ministry report says. Infection is common and the body's absorption of the chemical can cause serious damage to internal organs, as well as death.

If the IDF intended to use white phosphorus as a smokescreen for its forces, it had a readily available non-lethal alternative to white phosphorus - smoke shells produced by an Israeli company, Human Rights Watch concluded.

All of the white phosphorus shells that Human Rights Watch found were manufactured in the United States in 1989 by Thiokol Aerospace, which was running the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant at the time. On January 4, Reuters photographed IDF artillery units handling projectiles whose markings indicate that they were produced in the United States at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in September 1991.

To explain the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza, Israeli officials have repeatedly blamed Hamas for using civilians as "human shields" and for fighting from civilian sites. In the cases documented in the report, Human Rights Watch found no evidence of Hamas using human shields in the vicinity at the time of the attacks. In some areas Palestinian fighters appear to have been present, but this does not justify the indiscriminate use of white phosphorus in a populated area.

Human Rights Watch said that for multiple reasons it concluded that the IDF had deliberately or recklessly used white phosphorus munitions in violation of the laws of war. First, the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus in populated areas until the last days of the operation reveals a pattern or policy of conduct rather than incidental or accidental usage. Second, the IDF was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the dangers it poses to civilians. Third, the IDF failed to use safer available alternatives for smokescreens.

The laws of war obligate states to investigate impartially allegations of war crimes. The evidence available demands that Israel investigate and prosecute as appropriate those who ordered or carried out unlawful attacks using white phosphorus munitions, Human Rights Watch said.

The United States government, which supplied Israel with its white phosphorus munitions, should also conduct an investigation to determine whether Israel used it in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said.


Lee Diamond said...

Thanks. I was at the play last night and will go again this evening. Our Jewish communal leaders are a miserable failure. It is time for the Jewish people to rise up and say no more.

Margaret said...

A problem for me with the "laws of war" is that agreement to a set of rules gives war a legitimacy I consider both without basis and antithetical to the well being of humankind. It is notable that the rules favor those countries which invade, giving little recognition to the rights of those invaded.

"Proper" warfare seems such a specious use of the word.

I am not criticizing your discussion, but rather taking the opportunity to voice these thoughts to someone whose judgment I respect.

I'm at a standstill in my thoughts about current events, not quite speechless, although that probably would be the more rational course.

Anonymous said...

I think that all of you on this blog are a bunch of self-hating Jews who fail to realize that none of the IDF's use of force would have been necessary had Palestinian aggressors not fired thousands of rockets into civilian populated areas in Southern Israel. Where is your moral outrage at the pointless death of innocent Israeli children murdered by these rockets? Where is your sense of context to counter-balance your self-serving sense of outrage at the Israeli Defense Forces _defensive_ military campaign? Shame on you all, and my you be damned for your betrayal of the Jewish people.

Shirin said...

Margaret, I could not agree with you more. Speaking about under what circumstances it is acceptable for an invading military to kill non-combatants, including children, is something I simply cannot wrap my mind around.

And then there is the logic that I heard tonight while listening to an interview with some American troops about their actions in Iraq. They described conducting house raids in an effort to catch people who were trying to harm American troops. Wait a minute! American forces bomb the hell out of their country, and them rampage through it leaving death and destruction in their path, and then the mission becomes taking out those Iraqis who are trying to harm the troops who are there to harm them? I once had an American officer tell me that nearly all U.S. military action in Iraq was defensive, and boy did I call him on that! When you commit an aggression against another country, every action you commit there is part of your aggression against that country and nothing you do there can legitimately be called defensive.

Margaret said...

Would you edit my comment thus:

A problem for me with the "laws of war" is that agreement to a set of rules gives war a legitimacy I consider both without basis and antithetical to the well being of humankind. It is notable that the rules favor those countries which invade, giving little recognition to the rights of those invaded.

"Proper" warfare seems such a specious use of the word.

I am not criticizing your discussion, but rather taking the opportunity to voice these thoughts to someone whose judgment I respect.


Margaret said...

Anonymous 4.3.09 10:34pm said:
Where is your moral outrage at the pointless death of innocent Israeli children murdered by these rockets?

Dear Anonymous: I lost and found it here:
List of Deaths Caused by Qassam Rockets and Mortar (2009)Fire.
Total: 23 Total Deaths Within Israel: 16

1] Amnon Rosenberg, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 5, 2008,
[2] “Shuli Katz,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 12, 2008,
[3] “Jimmy Kedoshim,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 9, 2008,
[4] Roni Yihye, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feb 27, 2008,
“Rocket threat from the Gaza Strip, 2000-2007” - Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Dec. 2007 -

and here:

Israeli-Palestinian Fatalities Since 2000 - Key Trends* (2005)!OpenDocument

Since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000 until the end of July 2007, at least 5,848 people have been killed either directly or as an indirect consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 1/ This figure includes all persons regardless of their ethnic origin, nationality, gender, age, status as civilian or combatant and regardless of the circumstances or cause.

This paper examines some of the major trends in the fatalities of Palestinians and Israelis since the beginning of the second intifada until July 2007. Amongst the most notable trends are:
· the continuing high rate of fatalities amongst civilians who account for more than half the total of all those killed (p 1);
· the declining number of Israelis killed (p2);
· a continuing high death rate for Palestinian adults and children particularly in the Gaza Strip (p2);
· the escalating and changing nature of Palestinians killed from internal violence (p4).

The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights. Its importance is reflected in the numerous Conventions, Declarations and United Nations Resolutions which seek to protect or limit the taking of life in some way, both in peace and in war. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. 2/

This provision is considered as customary international law which is binding on all States.The State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have indicated their willingness to abide by these legal standards respecting the right to life, either by ratifying relevant Conventions or in the case of the PA through public declarations and legally binding agreements.

1) Deaths from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Of those killed in the conflict, 4,228 have been Palestinians, 1,024 Israelis, and 63 foreign citizens. For every person killed, approximately seven were also injured. 3/

As shown in Graph I,the total number of Israelis,both civilians and Israeli Defence Force (IDF) combatants, killed by Palestinian armed groups and individuals, is declining.
In contrast the total number of Palestinians, both civilians and combatants killed by the Israeli security forces or Israeli individuals, remains relatively high. In 2007, for example, for every one Israeli death there were 25 Palestinian deaths compared to 2002 when the ratio was 1:2.5.

The number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces was lower during the years that coincided with a promise of peace: the Palestinian hudna or truce of June 2003, and the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

The overwhelming majority of those killed have been men: for Israelis, including IDF personnel, 69% were men, for Palestinians 94% were men. 4/ Children reflect these gender ratios: 87% of Palestinian children killed, for example, were boys and 13% were girls. 5/

2) Civilian Fatalities

Most of those killed in the conflict have been civilians not involved in the fighting. Deliberately targeting civilians is strictly prohibited in international law in all circumstances: a rule which applies to all combatants whether from government armed forces or members of militia groups. Persons protected under occupation law are considered as civilians except for that period of time that they may be actively engaged in hostilities or are carrying arms.

Amongst Israelis, 69% of those killed were civilians and 31% members of the IDF. The number of Israeli civilians killed, from attacks by Palestinian armed groups or individuals, has declined steadily, peaking in 2002 at an average of 22 deaths per month, and dropping markedly to an average of one civilian per month in 2007. 6/

In contrast to Israeli figures, however, Palestinian civilian fatalities have remained high. Palestinian civilians, killed by Israeli security forces, peaked with an average of 35 deaths per month in 2002, and again in 2004. In 2007 they dropped slightly to an average of ten civilian deaths per month.

It is considerably more difficult to distinguish precisely who amongst those Palestinians killed were civilians. Since September 2000, of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, whose status was known 7/, 59% were civilians and 41% were engaged in hostilities at the time of their death.

3) Children

A total of 971 children have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian conflict violence, representing 18% of the total number of conflict deaths. Children are protected, in a number of legal instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, against arbitrary loss of life, even in armed conflict.

Of the overall number of children killed, 88% were Palestinian and 12 % were Israeli.The trend of child deaths mirrors the total rate: the number of Israeli children killed has declined markedly while that of Palestinian children remains high.

Palestinian children make up 20% of the total Palestinian deaths while Israeli children represent 12% of total Israeli deaths.

In 2006, 31% of the Palestinian children killed were 12 years or younger. 8/ The vast majority of children died as a result of injuries sustained either to the head, chest or to more than one place of their body. 9/

(Also, according to UCB School of Journalism, , mortality statistics for 1990 to 2001 included annual totals for Palestinian children that represented from 21% to 50+% of the total number of Palestinians killed by the IDF in defense of Israel.)

4) Location and Circumstance of Deaths The way people have died has been influenced, as shown below, by the location in which the death took place.

a) Israeli deaths

Israeli civilians are 67% more likely to be killed within Israel while security force personnel are 73% more likely to be killed in the oPt.

Israeli civilians, who died within Israel,have primarily been victims of suicide bombings, perpetrated by Palestinian militant groups. At least 402 Israeli civilians (and 58 security forces personnel) have died inside Israel as a result of suicide bombs.10/

There has been a steady decline in deaths through suicide bombing attacks against Israelis since 2002. However, 11 Israeli civilians, including four children, have died since 2004, from the 2,696 Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups from the Gaza Strip into nearby Israeli towns, particularly Sderot. 11/

Israeli civilians, most of them settlers, who were killed inside the oPt have primarily been victims of attacks by armed Palestinian groups or individuals. Since the 2005 disengagement, three IDF and no civilians have been killed inside the Gaza Strip.

Acts of terrorism, which involve the deliberate targeting of civilians,including settlers residing in the oPt, is strictly prohibited in both war and times of peace.The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33 prohibits all measures of intimidation or terrorism against civilians. The firing of Qassam rockets is also illegal under international law because they are directed at civilian population centres and are indiscriminate in their targeting.

b) Palestinian Deaths in the Gaza Strip

The vast majority of Palestinian deaths occurred in the Gaza Strip. In 2005, 52% of all fatalities from the Israeli- Palestinian conflict happened there. In 2006 the rate was 78%, and in 2007, 67%. (Similarly in 2005, 58% of deaths from internal violence occurred in Gaza, in 2006, 88% and in 2007, 95% of deaths.) 12/

Palestinians have been killed from Israeli military operations, targeted killings, border incidents, search and arrest operations and undercover operations. However, graphs 4 - 6 show that the circumstances in which deaths occur is different between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Although both areas are subject to Israeli military operations, in the Gaza Strip, targeted killings, incursions and border incident are more prevalent. At least 284 Palestinians have been killed for moving within 150 metres of the perimeter fence with Israel, 117 of them civilians, including 23 children. 13/

During 2006, Israeli Security Forces fired some 14,000 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip which were responsible for killing 59 persons, almost all of them civilians. 14 In November 2006, the Government of Israel placed a moratorium on the use of artillery fire, contributing to a significant reduction of civilian deaths in 2007.

Extra-judicial or targeted killings are illegal under international law, unless the perpetrator acted in self-defence, there was an imminent threat of death or there is a clear case of armed hostilities occurring 15/. In the vast majority of IDF targeted killings of Palestinians, which occurred in the oPt, the victim was driving his car when killed or killed by fire from a helicopter.

Similarly, in situations that involve search and arrest operations, border incidents, and incidents of civil unrest such as stone throwing and demonstrations, killing as a method of control is prohibited. In all of these situations the internationally recognised guidelines on the use of lethal force by State agents stipulates that a warning or opportunity to surrender must be given and law enforcement officers must attempt to secure an arrest before resorting to lethal force 16/.

c) Palestinian Deaths in the West Bank

Search and arrest questions
In the West Bank Palestinians are most commonly killed as a result of IDF search and arrest and undercover operations. Approximately 60% of Palestinians killed in the West Bank since January 2005 were concentrated in the two northern governorates of Nablus and Jenin where most of the search and arrest and undercover operations also occurred.
Palestinian civilians, particularly in the West Bank, have also died as a result of being unable to access medical treatment because of delays or obstruction at checkpoints. Since the beginning of the intifada, for example,68 pregnant women have been unable to access hospitals and forced subsequently to give birth at checkpoints, resulting in the deaths of four women and 34 miscarriages.17/

The greatest number of deaths, resulting from denial of access to medical facilities occurred in 2001 and 2002 when 74% of the 46 deaths for this reason occurred. The number has dropped since then to between 0-4 deaths per year.

5) Deaths from Internal Palestinian Violence

Since 2005, there has been a marked increase in the number of Palestinian deaths resulting from internal violence. In 2005, only 4% of the total Palestinian deaths for that year were the result of internal conflict. In 2006, the figures rose to 17% and in 2007, deaths from internal violence accounted for 65% of the total Palestinian death toll.

More than twice as many Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians (415) in 2007 as were killed by Israelis (185).18/

The cause of deaths from internal violence has changed. From the beginning of the intifada until the end of 2004, 72% of internal deaths were for alleged collaboration. The remaining deaths were detainees, accidents with firearms or gunfire incidents between the police and individuals.

Since January 2005, a different trend has emerged with 74 % of the deaths occurring as a result of factional fighting, 13% from family and clan feuds, 3% from so called "immoral behaviour" and 10% for other reasons or reasons that were unclear. Only eleven of the 573 internally related deaths, during that period, were for alleged collaboration.

During the most recent round of factional fighting in June 2007 armed groups engaged in acts that appeared contrary to international law including summary executions,torture,attacking ambulances and putting the lives of civilians at risk.

In June alone, 193 Palestinians were killed of which 18 1 were from factional violence.The rise of inter-factional fighting has also proved deadly for children: since 2005 a total of 39 Palestinian children have died from internal fighting. In 2007, approximately the same number of Palestinian children was killed as a result of internal violence (26) as were killed by Israeli security forces (25).

The changing patterns of internally related deaths reveal fundamental changes in the nature of Palestinian society particularly in the Gaza Strip. Whereas once collaboration constituted the ultimate crime because of a unified focus on resistance to the Israeli occupation, current concerns have focused inwards. Dominating them has been the Fatah and Hamas rivalries springing from the political divisions that have emerged largely as a result of the 2006 Palestinian Legislative elections.

The increasing lack of law and order to has also eroded public confidence, in the ability of the security forces to ensure protection. Consequently, many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have sought protection from individual clans and family groups whose power has increased. But coupled with increasing gun ownership, family based disputes have also led to an increasing number of fatalities. In 2005 there were no recorded incidents of deaths caused by family fighting: by July 2007 there were 72 such cases.

There has also been an increase in the number of deaths for so called "immoral behaviour" including alleged drug dealing and honour killings, suggesting the increasing influence of Islamic groups. Since 2005 there have been 19 deaths for this reason with the figure for 2007 (14) almost three times that of 2006 (5). Although both men and women are victims, in 2007 there have been 11 cases of honour killings of women, (four cases in July) all reported in the Gaza Strip.

Since the assumption of control by Hamas over the Gaza Strip in mid-June, internal fatalities have declined markedly as a period of relative calm has prevailed.


The right to life in both times of peace and war is protected and regulated in a number of international legal instruments.19/ The State of Israel is a party to most of those major instruments. As the Occupying Power Israel is also under a legal obligation to ensure that the provisions of those treaties, including protection and the right to life, is applied without discrimination to all those under its jurisdiction, including Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory. 20/

The Palestinian Authority, although not a sovereign State, has signalled its intention to abide by the Geneva Conventions, while the Palestinian Basic Law, which is a constitutive document, also stresses the importance of human rights. 21/ In addition, the State of Israel and the PLO pledged to respect human rights law in the Oslo Accords which both parties signed in 1994. 22/

To date few persons have been prosecuted for the deaths of civilians, including children, in either Israel or the oPt. 23/ When the right to life has been violated, State parties are under an obligation, according to both human rights and international humanitarian law, to investigate deaths in a prompt, impartial and thorough manner. Perpetrators must be brought to justice and where guilty an effective penal sanction must be imposed and victims afforded redress.

Accountability is essential not just in protecting the rights of victims and preventing a culture of impunity, in which further violations occur, but also to ensure the discipline, efficiency and integrity of State agents.The lack of investigations and prosecutions over killings, particularly children, suggest a lack of accountability by all parties. Greater compliance with the legal standards protecting the right to life is essential to protect the lives of all civilians in the region.

End Notes

1. Unless otherwise indicated all figures used in this paper are derived from a combination of OCHA and B'Tselem data - refer to the OCHA data base at (see site referenced above).

I hope you return to read this, Anon. Your feeling of betrayal has been created by a force that is eager to use it. However, reality checks interfere with the smooth transmittal of artificially induced indignation, if people are willing to question and to think.

Margaret said...

Shirin - It helps to be a member of the dominant power structure - then the rules are in your favor.

Says some of them. We have met the enemy, says Pogo, and they is us. Which means there is a chance of changing those rules, say I.

I'm enjoying getting to know more about the US military perspective; there are some great people on the front lines. Foreign policy is so complex, yet it often comes down to what our next door neighbors -who are the military active duty and reserve staff- are doing once they're deployed.

Nice to run in to you here!

Scott said...

"Fine, just spare me your moral outrage when Palestinians blow up Jewish babies."

Surely an important aspect of war is the propaganda aspect of war and why limit yourself to not use something like that when you can use something like that to your advantage.

Also it is a good incentive to rally your own people.

I believe that moral outrage has always been an effective tool and it would be wrong to limit its use.

Kevin said...

Margaret you are right. War is illegitimate. War is one of the worse conditions a society can be in.

That said there are things even worse than war.

But since war is so bad that means the alternative to war must be so worse as to be practically unimaginable. That makes it essential to win in order to prevent that alternative from happening.

If the alternative to victory isn't that horrid then the war isn't worth fighting and therefore shouldn't be fought. But if it is then it must be won. And all necessary means must be used to win it.

But war is awful, terrible, indeed absolute Hell. And therefore the war must be fought as quickly as possible to a state of finality. For the most "immoral" thing to do is to, out of some misguided sense of "mercy" prolong the war.

This is what General Sherman meant by saying "it [war] can't be refined". To do so commits the crime of "legitimatizing" war.

However General Lee another general on the opposite side of the same war said it best when he said "it is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it". By attempting to "refine war" we risk having it become something less than the absolute last resort.

Also I see it immoral to limit the options our soldiers have in order to protect themselves and their brothers in arms. They should do whatever they can to do in order to return safely.