December 8, 2012
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.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1354986411-a60fJ/niCXVz9HouHUKxWA&pagewanted=all
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 …” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/07/us-military-targeting-strategy-afghanistan
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.