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Is the war across the sea?

Is the war behind the sky?

Have you each and all gone blind:

Is the war inside your mind?

Of AP's Top 10 news stories for the year, all but three have to do with terrorism and/or the killing of noncombatants at home and abroad.

Here's the list:

1. Islamic State

(2. Gay marriage)

3. Paris attacks

4. Mass shootings (14 killed at a party in Bernardino, California; nine at a church in Charleston, South Carolina; nine at an Oregon community college; three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado).

5. Black deaths in encounters with police

6. Terrorism worries 

(7. U.S. election campaign)

(8. Climate change)

9. Charleston church shooting

10. Europe's migrant crisis.

Not making the list was the U.S. airstrike on a humanitarian Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that (according to a Dec. 12 AP story) left 42 staff, patients and caregivers dead and wounded 37 more on Oct. 3.

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In November, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan announced at a press conference that multiple officials had been suspended for the bombing, saying the airstrike was "a tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error."

The general listed a number of individual decisions that led to said "accident." He also listed a number of breakdowns in procedures and systems meant to guard against civilian casualties, as well as electronic and communications failures. 

Some examples:

  • The AC-130 gunship was providing close air support to Afghan forces who were trying to clear a government building they believed was taken over by the Taliban. The aircrew took off 69 minutes earlier than intended -- before it could be briefed on "no-strike" designated buildings, including the hospital.
  • During the flight, the electronic systems on board the aircraft malfunctioned. Furthermore, the aircrew believed it was targeted by a missile and steered eight miles from its mission area. 
  • The coordinates (for the government building) the crew were ordered to enter into the ship's fire control system correlated to an open field over 300 yards away, due to the aircraft being off course and a degradation of its sensors.
  • The aircrew "visually located the closest, largest building" to the open field, which was the MSF hospital, Campbell said. The aircrew was unable, at night, to "identify any signs of the hospital's protected status." 

Is it worse to kill civilians on purpose like terrorists and mass shooters do than to kill them by "tragic accident"? Either way, innocents are dead, and today's world is a very dangerous place. 

Many sci-fi writers of my youth foresaw a horrible future wherein computers and other machines dominated humans. That future is here. Our bombs -- like our phones, drones and other technology by which terrorism can be plotted from anywhere against anyone -- are too smart for us to control. They call the shots.

O, for the ferocious simplicity of yore, where warriors were warriors and collateral damage was rare indeed! Like in the "Iliad": "With this he hurled his spear, and Minerva guided it on to Pandarus’s nose near the eye. It went crashing in among his white teeth; the bronze point cut through the root of his tongue, coming out under his chin, and his glistening armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to the ground."

Oh, well. Anyone up for a few rounds of "Call of Duty"? 

***

Leah Gilman is not surprised Ray Bradbury never owned a computer or even drove a car and glad he never lived to see the dawning of the Age of Drones.

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