The Mills of the Gods

December 8, 2012

Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the emperor...

Augustus of Prima Porta, statue of the emperor Augustus in Museo Chiaramonti, Vatican, Rome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in March of this year, the New York Times ran a lengthy article about President Obama’s version of the war on terrorism documenting, among other things, his secret “kill list” and his embrace of a policy of civilian casualty counts that  “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”


In spite of these policies, which I loathe, I voted for President Obama again in November.  They are among the things I wrestled with (yeah, I know I use that phrase a lot on this blog) when justifying my own vote.

Now, comes an article in the Guardian, yesterday, that “The US Military is facing fresh questions over its targeting policy in Afghanistan after a senior army officer suggested that troops were on the lookout for “children with potential hostile intent”.” Apparently because “some were being used by the Taliban to assist in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces …”

Of course, targeting civilians – even children – is not a new policy in the human history of war.  After all, the birth of the Prince of Peace, heralded by Christians around the world this month, was ushered in as much by King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents in his attempt to stave off a rival to his title as King of the Jews, as it was by the bright star and angel choir of Christian mythology.  Nor is our policy of justifying our various civilian slaughters much different from that of the Roman Empire’s, Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” and others throughout history.  Most Americans have fully justified the fire bombing of Dresden and other European cities, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the killing of whole villages of women, children and elderly in Vietnam and, now, the slaughter of civilians of all ages in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia in our war on “terror”.  We only differ in the various methods of our madness.

We are no longer – if we ever were – that Shining City on the Hill, defenders of democracy and freedom around the world, no matter how loudly we proclaim it in order to drown out the truth.  We are an Empire in decline (and a rather ruthless one, at that).  For all our self-touted military superiority, we have not won a clear-cut victory in any of our wars for almost sixty years.  Most of our major industries have been shipped overseas or lie scattered in empty ruin across our “rust belt”.  Our cities, infrastructure and standard of living – once the envy of the world – have deteriorated under the weight of our costly wars, financial fraud, exorbitant spending and, now, our ignorant denial of climate change and diminishing resources.

Now, in our final delusion of ourselves as a benign nation beleaguered by enemies who “hate us for our freedoms”,  we have ceded both our responsibilities and our rights as citizens to an Imperial government that, in its dysfunction, will stop at nothing to maintain the illusion of power and business as usual.

And reading that article in the Guardian, yesterday, the sad thought occurred to me that, having now ceded those responsibilities and rights, as the Empire continues its inevitable decline, that same Imperial government, in its dysfunction, must eventually turn those policies on us in order to continue whatever illusion of power and business as usual is left.  In our self-delusion, we have given them the tools to do to us what we have done to others.  They have already begun the cannibalization of the nation’s wealth and resources to preserve the Empire.  At some point in its decline, we – our husbands and wives, our young men of military age, our children – will be the only thing left to cannibalize.

The ancient Greeks had a saying.  The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.



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16 Responses to The Mills of the Gods

  1. Nadia says:

    Your writing is elegant and precise. I would suggest that many (most?) Americans put a thick layer of blanketing between the brain and the information. Thanks, as always, for your “spot-on” perspective which helps me realize I have a distant comrade in arms.

  2. Nadia says:

    “The ancient Greeks had a saying. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”

    In other words…. Be prepared.

    • theozarker says:

      “children with potential hostile intent”
      You know, I’ve been thinking about those words since I first read them and started writing this blog post on Friday. I can’t get them out of my mind. I can understand the fear that drove Mei Lai and other atrocities. It’s a monstrous fear, but human. This “children with potential hostile intent” is not fear; it’s just monstrous. Everything I’ve written on this blog was written to remind us of our common humanity, to prepare us for the day – out there, in the future somewhere – when the Empire in its death throes would become “not human”. I think what I realized, reading those words, is that that day is already here. It’s good to prepare for food and shelter, but if we don’t prepare to remain human and humane through the fall of the Empire, what exactly will we have left?

  3. Nadia says:

    I’m not a member of any organized religion anymore; however, I recently watched a PBS program that described the hideous documentation in both church pictorial windows and sculpture as well as the lyrics of popular hymns the condemnation of the Jewish and their faith. Stunning. I was raised as a Baptist – but would describe myself as a humble evolving member of the universes now – It is despicable that this is not common knowledge. I have felt so confused about the Palestinian/Jewish conflicts but this put another block of information in my mind. I just couldn’t understand the whole thing and our American dialog does little to make things clearer.

    This would be a part of your phrase, “children with potential hostile intent”. As the parents react; the children “observe and carry on”.

    I lived in Africa as a teenager and saw the US from an alternative view. This was in 1969 and I also stayed in Belgium, the native country of my father, for two years in school. Europeans felt crushed by the huge reaching “arms” of the American way of life – as self-absorbed then as it is now. Americans aren’t mean at heart necessarily; just “dumb and getting dumber” because we speak in a huge voice and listen only to our own echoes.

    I remember how strange it felt to return home at 17. My own country felt chaotic and huge and filled with people driving everywhere and shopping all the time amongst caverns of products and choice that was mind-numbing. It took me 4 years to readjust.

    Last night I watched Amazing Race. Two of the three final teams of racers to the end were unable to recognize the symbol of the United Nations as part of a clue for a race task. Only the team with the eldest members knew this symbol. This is just another stunning example that shows how we are disintegrating in our own hubris despite our best and, trumpeted, intentions to the rest of this planet.

    Perhaps we should listen and only provide information or support when we are truly asked and teach our children the same. That would be true grace.

    • theozarker says:

      Yes, the Church’s persecution of the Jews because “they killed Jesus” was quite horrible. We worry about the “psychopathic” axe murderer or serial killer (which is relatively rare), but we are too often charmed by the real psychopathic leader who is so adept at using our own fear and greed to do his murdering for him.

      I remember reading a novel back in the early sixties titled The Ugly American, about our diplomatic dealings in a fictional Asian country. And the beautiful novel, The Poisonwood Bible, (from the 1990s) by Barbara Kingsolver, about a missionary family in the Congo and our skullduggery there during the Eisenhower administration.

      We are simply clueless that as five percent of the world population, much of the (over)abundance that we simply accept as our due comes from our shoddy dealings with much of the rest of the world and is mostly at the expense of their poor.

  4. eugene says:

    Personally, I think most Americans are just an arrogant, ignorant people. As an American, I was taught we are superior, better than, entitled, work harder and authority is always right. As soon as I entered the military (Vietnam) that all disintegrated. We have, from the very beginning, slaughtered anything and everyone that gets between us and what we want. It took some time but, eventually, I realized we are just another brutal empire rationalizing everything under the guise of goodness, religion and “we’re killing you to save you”. Like many other vets, I disintegrated in the process. As an old man, I have come to a level of acceptance meaning I can look at us for what we are and most of all, see myself for what I am. Killing children is nothing new. We have a couple of centuries of rationalizing that one. Some say 1.5 million of our own kids go to bed hungry every night but that hasn’t ever bothered us either. But in our ever present need to tell ourselves how wonderful we are, we never show things like that on TV. Reality is not our strong suit. I am thankful for an old vet I can talk to. Thankful for another one who writes a blog from Mexico. And I, recently, discovered this site.

    • theozarker says:

      You know, Eugene, the closer we get to collapse, the more I think the lucky Americans are the one’s life has kind of kicked in the nads to wake them up. I learned pretty early that life wasn’t always what people were telling me it was. Plus I was lucky enough to have teachers who actually taught critical thinking and questioning authority. Most schools really don’t teach that anymore and if people haven’t learned it, it takes those wallops from life to make us start questioning the status quo. Our leaders (political, religious, financial, social) and our military have preyed on our fear of others since this country’s inception – witness what we did to Native Americans almost from its beginning and blacks from before its beginnings.

  5. Nadia says:

    Thanks to Eugene, as well, for your insights.

    My dad passed away 2 years ago at 86. He was a naturalized citizen who came here, alone, as a 22 year old from Belgium and the rest of his family followed later. As a 20 something, I was, typically, impatient and found many situations wanting. I used to say, “how can anything get worse?” My dad would respond – you have no idea in the world how things can get worse and he described how, as a 12 year old boy sheltered by relatives in Berlin during WW2, his family – relatively wealthy at the time – sold everything they had on the black market to get food for their 6 children. They ate pictures of food to pretend that they had food. My father saw dead people piled up in the streets. I was silenced then but, now in this era, I have a conviction that this is a time like no other. It feels much darker and more “on-the-edge”. Spiraling somewhere unknown.
    No one wants to compromise or make do. Everyone wants the last word. No getting along.

    I have a very close friend who was a paratrooper in Vietnam and he has many of the same thoughts as you do, Eugene.

    It is a very sad commentary about the potential we have had, where we were, and what we have become – a cash poor, bloated,and drowning in stuff society that rarely looks beyond our own arrogance and entitled attitude enough to let the rest of the world live and let live as well as teaching us a thing or two.

    I thank my father for his world insights and attitude. We traveled a lot as my father spoke 6 languages and was, truly, a citizen of the world. I had the experience of living amongst other cultures and the joy of living small and with gratitude. I am very familiar with Barbara’s book, The Poisonwood Bible – she is a favorite author.

    It is very calming and reassuring to have found kindred spirits in these troubled times.

    • theozarker says:

      Thankfully most of my family was on this side of the pond during WWII (except for the uncles who fought over there), but your father’s stories remind me of some of the stories from our own Civil War. There’s a link over in the links section to The Turnbo Manuscripts, a collection of little remembrances from that war here in the Ozarks. They are heartbreaking. It’s sad that we so often tend to forget the lessons of history and assume things will always be as they are.

      Kingsolver rocks, doesn’t she? I’m glad you’ve joined us here, too, Nadia.

  6. graveday says:

    Let’s just hope the old adage ‘it’s darkest before the dawn’ works for us too. It has worked before or maybe that was just a grand illusion. I need to watch that movie again.

  7. Nadia says:

    I imagine that you have probably read Barbara’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” as you, too, have a garden. I really enjoyed that book as well and try to source and eat real fresh food from nearby.

    • theozarker says:

      No, I haven’t read it and I want to. The last time I was at the eye doctor I let him put me in tri-focals and I can’t read a print book through any of the three lenses! I can read a computer without my glasses, but not a book. So I’ve got a long reading list waiting until I get back to just bi-focals. 😀

  8. graveday says:

    Anything Kingsolver writes is gold.
    So, I have been trying to come up with some analogy, sparked by the ‘darkness/dawn’ bit, which ties the notion of civil twilight, that period of light after sunset with legal implications, to the state in which we find our nation. Sort of questioning, will there be a new dawn, or are we sun-setting in an uncivil yet spectacular nova blast?

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