On the far side of a stretch of railroad tracks, two elderly women had been killed in their house. One lay in the doorway, another in the kitchen. Both were bundled in heavy winter coats. Neighbors said that they had been sisters, both in their seventies. Their small house was filled with hardcover books, and they did not own a television; it was impossible not to imagine their quiet, literary life together before it was annihilated. In the only bedroom, two narrow mattresses were pushed together and covered by a single blanket.
These sorts of crimes occur when military organizations are committed into combat without clear, achievable objectives, and without a professional noncommissioned-officer corps to enforce discipline within the ranks. They are what happens when military organizations are not held to account for their actions; when soldiers, after seeing the deaths of their friends in the face of unforeseen resistance, resort to savagery; and when the guardrails to prevent such a descent into inhumanity are absent.
“Every break between curfew and bombing I was looking for emergency contraception instead of a basic first aid kit,” she said. “My mother tried to reassure me: ‘This is not a war like that, they don’t exist anymore, they are from old movies.’ I have been a feminist for eight years, and I cried in silence, because all wars are like this.”