Wars of chimps and Homo sapiens

Ed Raymond

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

At what evolutionary level do animals make war on each other?

Many animals are territorial but only a few will kill brothers and sisters to maintain a predator area. Foxes are known to kill chickens when they are looking for one to eat. Wolves kill a lot of sheep and eat some. Lions, often called the king of beasts, kill to eat –but not for the hell of it. Northern pike kill little northern pike to eat but not to force them to migrate. Male grizzly, brown and polar bears will kill the cubs of other fathers if he wants to have sex with the mommas.

Chimps, however, who share 99% of genes with Boobus Americanus, do kill for territorial rights. On rare occasions they will eat a brother or sister to celebrate a kill. The way we have wars today, we must assume that, shortly after Lucy fell out of the tree, her descendants started to kill each other. That’s evolution for you. Our ancestor Neanderthals probably killed each other for 300,000 years before Homo sapiens started to kill them.

I have been interested in why Homo sapiens kill each other for 84 years, since I was seven years old when World War II started. I made gun, ship and plane models out of wood, cardboard, paper and other exotic materials during my years attending District #54 in Morrison County. Minnesota. I spent high school reading and listening to the historical events following the big war.

At age 18 I joined the Marine Corps to escape the draft. I was in a special program to allow me to graduate from college first, go to training at Parris Island, South Carolina, in the summers, then attend OCS at Quantico and serve on active duty for three years and in the Reserve for five more. I had to learn more about the conduct of humans at war when my battalion commander appointed me to lecture every year to the command about the rules of war as covered by the various Geneva Conventions and the international treaties signed by the United States. I have kept files on the military and wars since.  

Want to kill some Homo sapiens? Put on a uniform!

I figured some mathematical sadists estimated how many Homo sapiens, military and civilian, have been killed in wars since scattering around the globe from Africa the last 65,000 years. The top estimate I found was 1.64 billion. I think that figure is terribly low. We had to do terrible things to each other to finally get politicians to agree to rules of war like the four Geneva Conventions and other treaties. Here are just a few war crimes as described in the Geneva Conventions:

• Willful killing, torture, or inhumane treatment, including biological experiments

• Willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health

• Compelling a protected person to serve in the armed forces of a hostile nation

• Willfully depriving a protected person of the right to a fair trial if accused of a war crime

• Taking of hostages • Extensive destruction of and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully or wantonly

• Unlawful deportation, transfer, or confinement There are hundreds of pages describing war rules in the Geneva Conventions and treaties. In most wars the accusations start on the first day and continue for years after surrender or  ceasefires.  

A few casualty lists during days of wine and testosterone

No doubt millions were killed by daggers, swords, lances, battle axes, arrows and muskets prior to the invention of the machinegun and the airplane, but the weapons of the 20th century could kill hundreds of thousands in seconds or minutes.

Here are a few examples:

• When Napoleon wanted to increase the size of the empire of France exponentially in 1812, he invaded gigantic Russia with 600,000 troops in 1812. The Russians decided to use a scorched earth policy to defeat him, so they burned everything and retreated to Borodino, which was 75 miles west of Moscow. In the biggest battle more than 70,000 combatants were killed in a single day. The Russians then retreated to Moscow and Napoleon followed with his forces. But winter came and Napoleon ran back to France. He lost France in 1814 when invaded by Russia, Prussia and Austria.

• In the battle of the Somme in World War 1, when the machinegun was used in trench warfare for the first time, the allied forces of Great Britain and France attacked the trenches of Germany on 1 July 1916. After the troops went “over the top” to attack, the British army suffered 57,470 casualties with 19,240 dead on the first day of the “advance.” By November 13, 1916, the allies had advanced five miles and had suffered these casualties: Great Britain, 420,000 and France, 195.000. In defending the line, Germany had 650,000 casualties.

• On the night of March 9, 1945, a fleet of U.S. B-29 bombers dropped incendiaries on Tokyo, a very large city with most of the homes made of wood. The glow of the burning city was seen for 150 miles and more than 100,000 Japanese citizens were burned to death and more than a million lost homes.

• When the B-29 Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima near the end of World War II, between 90,000 and 146,000 were killed when it was dropped. In the second atomic weapon used on Nagasaki 60,000 to 80,000 were killed in seconds. Thousands more died afterward succumbing to radiation, cancer, and other diseases.

• Richard Nixon’s national security adviser Henry Kissinger oversaw the Vietnam War and was called a war criminal by many. Nick Turse in Kill Anything That Moves describes the crimes: “There were some two million civilians killed and some five million wounded; the United States flew 3-4 million aircraft sorties, and it expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs…[and] episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.”  

Do military leaders have too much testosterone?

One of my favorite Marines was Lewis “Chesty” Puller, all 5’7” of him. He did have a large chest, sort of a male Dolly Parton. He was the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, when I was stationed there.

“Chesty” had joined the Marines as a private in 1918 after briefly attending the Virginia Military Institute. He had tried to join the Army in 1916 but his widowed mother refused parental consent. In his beginning service he fought guerilla forces in Haiti and Nicaragua, known as the Banana Wars. He fought in World War II and Korea and became the most decorated Marine in American history, awarded five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross. He had a reputation of always treating the “grunts’ well because he had been one. I still remember him telling the officers (of which I was one!) before a practice invasion of Vieques Island east of Cuba that if he saw an officer eating a meal in the field before any enlisted, he would immediately ship him to Butte, Montana. Marines love the story of a comment he made while leading a regiment in the Korean War: “The Chinese have us surrounded! Now we got’ em where we want’ em!” He was a lieutenant general before he retired.

‘Tis said he was not made commandant of the Marine Corps because he told too many politicians where to go. Would the country be better served if we had more women generals in the Pentagon and combat roles?

I’m impressed with the women in Congress who were in combat or were members of combat or service groups. They don’t have testosterone that screws up so many men – and they seem to make more sense. I just finished an article “War Without Humans” by Barbara Ehrenreich, who normally was more interested in economic inequality. She should have been in the Pentagon. Most generals seem to fight the last war over again.

Read this short paragraph by Barbara: “It was the ascending scale of war that originally called forth the existence of the nation-state as an administrative unit capable of maintaining mass armies and the infrastructure – for taxation, weapons, manufacture, transport, etc. – that they require. War has been, and we still expect it to be, the most collective project human beings undertake. But it has been evolving quickly in a very different direction, one in which human beings have a much smaller role to play.” In short, we won’t need aircraft carriers, huge missiles and bombers, thousands of expensive manned fighters,or massive arsenals.

Our major enemies now are non-state actors like Al-Quaida, Al-Shabaab, or ISIS whether from Africa or Asia. To fight them, she says: “We don’t need mass armies to fight these non-state enemies because mass armies are “highly ineffective, cumbersome to deploy, difficult to maneuver, and from a domestic point of view, overly dependent on a citizenry that is both willing and able to fight, or at least have their children fight for them.” This is a point of view by a woman who has authored 21 books, studied theoretical physics, chemistry, has a PhD in cellular immunology and has written serious “stuff” for leading economic and political journals, newspapers and magazines in the U.S.  

Women have often led countries to victory with an average load of estrogen
In 1180 to 1185 Tomoe Gosen rode her war elephant and attacked Chinese with two swords and bows and arrows in defeating hordes in the Boshin War. She was “a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god.” In 1868 Nakano Takeko, the only known woman samurai in Japan, led her “Women’s Army” against the Chinese. Her weapon of choice was a pole arm known as a najinta. In her last battle she was shot in the chest. She asked her sister to cut off her head and bury it so the enemy wouldn’t defile her.

We have all heard of the Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc who played a key role in the French Army against the English in the 15th century. She was later tried for heresy, found guilty and was burned at the stake. Joan may have been transgender because she insisted on wearing men’s clothing, even to go the stake. Maybe he was Saint Joe of Arc.  

Archeologists have finally uncovered evidence that Amazon women really existed about 2,500 years ago. The “mythical” stories that they were lesbians who hacked off one or both breasts to be more accurate with bow and arrow were probably true. Their bones had signs of serious wounds suffered in battle.

Lest we forget, we have our own female heroes. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois lost both legs and suffered an arm wound in the Iraq war when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. She later retired as a colonel in the National Guard.