If there is one consistent theme associated with US military involvement since World War II, it is the willingness of US forces to exploit the reasons for the intervention as a justification to kill large number of civilians, usually non-white ones. George Carlin addressed this subject with characteristic ruthlessness in a monologue about the First Persian Gulf War.And this country is about to elect a "peace candidate" - the Democratic Barack Obama - as president.
As the oft-paraphrased lyric of Moloko states, the faces change, but the game remains the same. And the game is tragically quite simple: substitute Rumsfeld for McNamara and McArthur, Iraqis and Afghans for Vietnamese and Koreans, Bush for Johnson and Truman, Fallujah for My Lai and Gogyegul. Over 58 years have elapsed since the beginning of the Korean War, a war that, incidentally, that has never formally ended, and the US military continues to conduct operations that treat the lives of civilians as acceptable collateral damage.
What are the reasons for the persistence of it? Of course, there are no doubt many, but recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan highlight an important one, and that is the unquestioning acceptance of perceived danger by US troops as a defense against the killings of civilians. A subjective sense of peril, no matter how implausible, irrational or excessive, is sufficient to relieve troops of any responsibility for their actions.
For example, as I recently observed in regard to Iraq, if a convoy erroneously travels down a civilian roadway near Baghdad airport, experiences a vehicle breakdown and encounters some Iraqi bank employees traveling to work as they had always done after passing through a high security checkpoint, then, they can kill them because they perceive themselves to be in danger, rendering it just an extremely unfortunate and tragic accident.
Monday, August 4, 2008
THE FACES CHANGE, BUT THE GAME REMAINS THE SAME