Monday, March 28, 2016

No Paragons Of Virtue

We in the West were appalled by what happened in Brussels last week. But Chris Hedges reminds us that war promotes depravity on all sides. And, most certainly, our hands are not clean:

The Christian religion embraces the concept of “holy war” as fanatically as Islam does. Our Crusades are matched by the concept of jihad. Once religion is used to sanctify murder there are no rules. It is a battle between light and dark, good and evil, Satan and God. Rational discourse is banished. And “the sleep of reason,” as Goya said, “brings forth monsters.”

Flags, patriotic songs, a deification of the warrior and sentimental drivel drown out reality. We communicate in empty clich├ęs and mindless, patriotic absurdities. Mass culture is used to reinforce the lie that we are the true victims. It re-creates the past to conform to the national heroic myth. We alone are said to possess virtue and courage. We alone have the right to revenge. We are hypnotized into a communal somnolence, a state-induced blindness.

We bewail the murder of innocent civilians. But consider the following:

Have we forgotten our bombing of German and Japanese cities in World War II that left 800,000 civilian women, children and men dead? What about those families we obliterated in Dresden (135,000 dead), Tokyo (97,000 dead), Hiroshima (80,000 dead) and Nagasaki (66,000 dead)? What about the 3 million civilian dead we left behind in Vietnam?

We dropped 32 tons of bombs per hour on North Vietnam between 1965 and 1968—hundreds of Hiroshimas. And, as Nick Turse writes in his book “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam,” this tonnage does not count the “millions of gallons of chemical defoliants, millions of pounds of chemical gases, and endless canisters of napalm; cluster bombs, high-explosive shells, and daisy-cutter bombs that obliterated everything within a ten-football-field diameter; antipersonnel rockets, high-explosive rockets, incendiary rockets, grenades by the millions, and myriad different kinds of mines.”

Have we forgotten the millions who died in our wars and proxy wars in the Philippines, Congo, Laos, Cambodia, Guatemala, Indonesia, El Salvador and Nicaragua? Have we forgotten the 1 million dead in Iraq and the 92,000 dead in Afghanistan? Have we forgotten the nearly 8 million people we have driven from their homes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria?

There have been 87,000 coalition sorties over Iraq and Syria since the air campaign against Islamic State began. This is the newest chapter in our endless war against the wretched of the earth.

The psychologist Rollo May wrote:

At the outset of every war … we hastily transform our enemy into the image of the daimonic; and then, since it is the devil we are fighting, we can shift onto a war footing without asking ourselves all the troublesome and spiritual questions that the war arouses. We no longer have to face the realization that those we are killing are persons like ourselves.

The truth is that "the enemy" are people like us. And we are no paragons of virtue.



Lorne said...

Excellent observations, Owen. America's sense of manifest destiny and utter rectitude in all that it does were made very plain listening to 'talk radio' when we were driving back to Los Angeles from San Diego. It was almost more than I could bear, listening to the self-righteous drivel that passes for reasoned discourse there. As A small example, I don't think there were too many references to the president without invoking his full name, Barack HUSSEIN Obama. As well, the absolute contempt for Bernie Sanders and his supporters was consistently withering.

Owen Gray said...

One of my sisters lives in Orange County, Lorne. She has always been thankful that she no longer has to deal with Montreal winters. But warm weather has its price.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I have always been amazed Owen at how easily countries especially the US go to war, consequently how easily they kill men, woman and children, millions of them and there does not seem to be any collective guilt for this.

Steve Cooley said...

To call those who control the war machines of any country fighting for the glory of God does a disservice to all who really care about God. Many people are called Christian or Moslem whose only experience with their 'religion' is an annual pilgrimage on what ever their holy day is. North America is called Christian, but only a small percentage of North America's population is to be found in a church on any given Sunday. There is much more to being Christian or Moslem than ticking a box on a census form.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Steve. Mahatma Gandhi was once asked if he ever considered converting to Christianity. He answered that he would have considered becoming a Christian -- if he had met one.

Owen Gray said...

And history proves over and over again, Pam, that it's easy to get into a war. It's much harder to get out.