Sunday, January 11th, 2009...10:34 am
Pre-Emptive War Is Murder
I adhere to a position that may seem at first blush to be as recklessly extreme as one taken by certain anti-abortion activists: I equate with murder the killing that goes on in what is popularly referred to as “pre-emptive war.”
This oxymoronic phrase is a crass euphemism, not only for its attempt to make unilateralism seem reciprocal, but for its use of a very subjective rationale as a “war” modifier. “Pre-emptive war” makes no more sense than “freedom-lovin’ gun” or “righteous fist.”
Murder is one party deciding to undertake the unnecessary killing of another, like the USA dropping that hail of shock and awe on the people of Baghdad – or, before we entered Baghdad, when we hurled all that shock and awe over the horizons before we even came into view of the pathetically-outfitted Iraqi army, lawnmowering over those hapless victims with our military industrial machine. Just like they never existed–as if those other human beings weren’t worth spit.
Calling this slaughter murder is not the same as equating abortion with murder. I don’t equate the life of a fetus with that of a person. A person has identity. A fetus can have no identity without any one of those qualities that make me who I think I am: language, memories, knowledge, the critical functioning that produces sorrow, love, and fear.
For instance, if I were to lose my memories tomorrow, I would cease to be me. I wouldn’t mourn if that person died, but I would grievously mourn the step it took to become that person. If I were to lose all my language tomorrow, never to have the ability to form it again, even in my head, I would be something closer to a dog or a tree, certainly nothing comparable to myself. The loss of a fetus–who has not begun to develop any one of those qualities–is not, to me, comparable to the loss of a kid running around the streets of Baghdad or his grandfather, standing in barn boots holding a rifle, staring wanly at an empty desert sky.
And I don’t see my position as extreme, even in considering the passive or indirect nature of voting for a killing regime. Yes, to have voted to re-elect Bush was to approve his murders. Would it be an extreme position to take to consider Germans who rallied for the Nazis or even those who did not do all they could to oppose the rise of Nazism to be murderers as bloody-handed as the Gestapo themselves?
You might answer, yes, that would be extreme.
I believe passive or indirect acts deserve scrutiny, whatever that may lead to. For me to take such an absolutist position is only to value truth as a coldly leveling force. It is not an extreme position to call a great number of people murderers. Look at Rwanda–they’ve got more murderers over there than they know what to do with. You think that’s just those savage Rwandans? No. The Iraq invasion was the same filthy crap as the Rwandan genocide, with a splashy US pop-culture veneer.
And now, we have the latest murderous garbage as Israel slaughters a slew of Gazans, including women and children, babies. We are to believe it is righteous to kill hundreds of people in response to the killing of 13 over a 7 year period from Gaza-sourced rocket fire.
No, it has nothing whatsoever at all to do with Obama coming into office.
People who support the Israeli slaughter of Gaza are Nazis, just as well as the German people were, just as well as are those who cheered the pre-emptive killings in Iraq–but, not to worry. Being a murderer is not such a big deal (unless you want it to be.)
Take as example the victimization of children. It is to me a simple observation a grown person can make that the violation of a child’s innocence can be the most horrific of crimes. Still, torturing or molesting children has not been such a big deal until recently, when we wanted it to be. Though it is surely the most vile crime (my opinion, not that of the Supreme Court,) it is not even mentioned in the Ten Commandments or in the Bible. This is because torturing children was not wrong back then. With the moral blindness of our nation’s slaveholding forefathers, the writers of scripture could postulate on all sorts of outrages of the neighbor-stealing-oxen variety. But they were often plain wrong, like when they decried the failure of a daughter who’s been sold as a slave to “please” her master; and they just couldn’t get the most basic moral concept, that children must be protected.
I. THOU SHALT NOT PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, OR SEXUALLY ABUSE CHILDREN.
In our country, until the middle of the Twentieth Century, it was legal and commonplace to beat your children savagely and to treat your children as tools of your trade, working them in factories, mills, mines, or on farms, like mules or machines. Sexual exploitation of children has been only much more recently addressed, the Catholic Church, in a particularly well-focused example, still actively coming to terms with its extensive role in this pernicious activity. Even today, though children are protected by laws the way, say, public parks are; they have no direct Constitutional rights. It is a brand-new idea that children are citizens to be protected, let alone that their innocence is sacred.
I want to focus on the idea of having brand-new ideas.
The prevalent moral values of the modern USA do not apply to the past, or we would not be so averse to looking back on Thomas Jefferson as a rapist of the females he enslaved. His reputation is much, much better than another famous rapist, say, Mike Tyson, because Tyson was raised in the here and now. Tyson falls under our rules. Which means some time between then and now changes that were inconceivable to them became conceivable to us. (It wasn’t that Jefferson wasn’t caught. There was plenty of gossip about him while he was alive. And, besides, slaveholding rapists were plenty common in those days and life went on obliviously, without a single construction of even local law.)
I wonder about our generosity toward Jefferson, though. I think there is a large scoop of denial motivated by nationalism stirred in there. Would we be as generous towards the reputation of the slaver who delivered our founding fathers their slaves?
We have achieved all the moral insight there is to achieve, or then again maybe we have a very long way to go. Our choice is to be like Jefferson or to be like Lincoln, to abide ignorantly or to change intuitively.
The religious concept of evil instructs us that we are subjects rather than masters of our morality. Religion tells us it is all over–we have realized all there is to realize about morality, and this is what’s right, and that is what’s wrong. These people’ll be going to heaven.
…But a few hundred years later, maybe we start to think they all belonged in hell.
How slowly we slog along, taking 300 years to abolish slavery, then another hundred to deliver basic human rights to those we’d enslaved, and now it’s been 40 years since the Voting Rights Act, and we’ll be electing the first African American president this year, a man who was only the third African American senator to be elected in US history.
There is a better way than this drip-drip morality. I’ll call it “creative morality.” Creative morality draws one towards dynamism, to aggressively seek out the future of morality and get there with all haste–to generate an imagination capable of looking back on our time from the future with a scornful eye.
Once you realize creative morality, evil loses its power, becomes a real bore. It is the same thing as ignorance, incompetence, and illness, and it is everywhere. The devil himself is only a really disturbed consequence of an innocent zygote.
The same way a nearsighted, puttering highway driver considers a motorist flying by him at 55, some may see this approach to morality as extreme. It is a process that does not preserve respect for what the USA has been or even what we are today, which is only right because there is nothing glorious about us. There never has been, not from our founding days funded by the profits of slavery, not in the bloodlust of our Civil War or our murderous annihilation of Native Americans, not in our adventures looting less developed nations around the world or in our runaway industrial growth that polluted and digested our own frontiers in only three generations.
On the eve of World War II, perhaps what we consider to be our most virtuous endeavor, when Nazi values first reached our shores, they were celebrated by many of our citizens. It wasn’t the moral crisis of German anti-Semitism that brought us into the war, but the threat that our power would be eclipsed.
As we participated in more wars, the killing of civilians became more and more acceptable, taking a larger and larger share of the civilian-to-soldier-deaths ratio.
Revisit the calm resolve with which we carpet-bombed Vietnamese civilians. Four million civilians died during that 12-year war, our attempt to pre-empt the feared (but still as yet unfound) domino affect of communism.
After the Mai-Lai massacres, President Nixon can be heard on his Oval Office tapes discussing the matter with Kissinger. The deed they are referring to is Mai-Lai. The person they are referring to is Maj. Wm. Calley, murderer of 109 civilians:
We don’t know what Bush said in private about the US slaughter of civilians at Haditha, but we do know he and his military did not find the lives of the children killed by their invasion of Iraq worthy of even being counted.
When Israel bombed Lebanon pre-emptively during the summer of 2006 (purposely targeting civilian areas) with US-made cluster bombs–sort of a mini-Iraq invasion—which they excused as a response to the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers–UNICEF counted the children who died in the murderous hail. The number was 357.
834 adults were killed there, too–civilian adults, each one once a child, and maybe still having that child tucked somewhere inside, yearning only for a place to live happily in this world.
Some of those number were Hezbollah militiamen, too. These were not evil robots, but people just like any other people who see themselves as freedom fighters. It can be assumed young men enlist in Hezbollah with the same zeal as US kids enlisted in the Army after 9/11, or the same way a kid growing up in East LA joins a gang–for the glory, to fight in the struggle of that to which you belong. These soldiers of the world belong so mindlessly to a group, because they have never been taught to belong to themselves. They never learned creative morality, but were rather instructed in the passive morality of their religion.
That’s why they grow up into generals and rulers who think murdering slews of people is an acceptable sacrifice to pave the road to their schemes of domination–schemes that do not accomplish squat, year in, year out, as the decades and centuries pass slowly by.