M any are familiar with the quote by General William Tecumseh Sherman -- "War is hell." This quote was part of his address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy in 1879.

For some context, Sherman said: "You don't know the horrible aspects of war. I've been through two wars and I know. I've seen cities and homes in ashes. I've seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!"

War isn't the only hell. Sometimes an occupation also becomes a living hell for those whose lands are occupied. For example, the brutal Spanish military occupation of Native American lands in Central and South America devastated Native Americans there.

The U.S. occupation and theft of Native American lands led to a near genocide here. Those who survived faced incredible hardships with few rights and, incredibly, the suffering and injustice continues today.

An excellent book, "A Century of Dishonor" by Helen Hunt Jackson was published in 1881 and laid out some of the Native American experiences in the U.S. under a brutal and cruel occupation.

Another example of an occupation is Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon that devastated the nation and led to an occupation of southern Lebanon. During the invasion, Israel killed about 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians and captured and terrifically abused prisoners (chomsky.info/books/fateful01.htm).


An in-depth report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem discussed the situation for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners (btselem.org/download/200001_lebanon_eng.rtf).

An update was provided in an April 13, 2000 New York Times article by Deborah Sontag, who reported that the Israeli high court reversed its 1997 decision condoning administrative detention. The court now ruled that Israel could not use detention without trial as a way of imprisoning people who weren't threatening state security.

Despite this ruling, the situation for Palestinian prisoners didn't improve much since 2000.

In an effort to improve conditions, Palestinian prisoners recently went on a mass hunger strike. Several prisoners fasted for more than two months and most of them didn't eat for 28 days before reaching an agreement. Surprisingly, this nonviolent protest, little covered by the corporate media, was mostly successful.

Israel agreed to several improvements, particularly to no new, or renewals of, administrative detention orders for the 308 prisoners already on administrative detention. Protests can work!

Ron Forthofer lives in Longmont.