CXL – Marathon Dancing

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I
just returned from a conference in Prague,
where I met a group of young attendees
from Spain. Perhaps it was my Spanish
sister-in-law — with whom I share opinions
about the destructive and dehumanizing
nature of the state — who predisposed
me to liking these simpaticos;
in any event, meeting them was one of
the highlights of the conference.

In
a discussion of the war system, they
raised a point that requires a continuing
awareness and emphasis: that in criticizing
Americans' wrongdoing in Iraq we must
not overlook the fact that the opposing
organized forces have political ambitions
of their own; and are just as prepared
to inflict death, suffering, and destruction
on innocent people as is the United
States.

I
couldn't agree more with their comments
— and they understood, from my other
writings, that I held to this view —
but it does need reaffirmation from
time-to-time. For those of us who oppose
war as a matter of principle –
i.e., all wars, not just this
war or that war — it is sometimes
easy to get trapped into criticizing
just your own government, lest the same
criticism of the opposing side be misinterpreted
as creating some moral — or immoral
— equivalency from which an observer
is invited to select sides.

Throughout
the world and human history, men and
women have been conditioned in the view
that, because their political system
is aligned with the forces of u201Cgood,u201D
and opposing groups are the epitome
of u201Cevil,u201D there must be a u201Cgoodu201D and
a u201Cbadu201D side in every war. President
Bush recites this mantra with nary a
break in meter, reminding the boobeoisie
that an u201Caxis of evilu201D threatens their
lives. But Osama bin Laden and the forces
of al Qaeda are peddling the same mindset
to their followers. While the
United States employs sophisticated
weaponry to kill and maim innocent civilians,
al Qaeda recruits suicide bombers to
carry out the same insanity. But what
is important to understand is that each
side is playing the same deadly game
and for the same purposes: to control
— and, in so doing, aggrandize power
over — their own populations.

The
vigor that one sees poured into the
war system reminds me of marathon dancing,
a craze that infected the minds of many
in the 1930s. While war is destructive
and dancing only tiring, each benefits
from a total commitment by its participants.
As with fighting, marathon dancing is
done only by the young, who have both
the energy and innocence to see it through.
At the outset, there is a clarity of
purpose to it all but, as the action
continues, doubts begin to settle into
the minds of the participants. But doubt
must not beget thoughts of withdrawal
from the contest. An enervated spirit
combines with a growing uncertainty
of purpose to increase the frenzy of
one's participation. One-by-one, the
dancers fall by the wayside, until there
is a general collapse. In total exhaustion,
and anti-climactically, the last-standing
couple is declared the winner. The observers
— having cheered on their favorites
— take advantage of the temporary respite
to return to the conduct of their daily
lives, while the dance organizers busy
themselves with plans for yet another
contest in another venue.

War
is an activity coolly organized by masters
of the state machinery to manipulate
— through fear and self-righteous indignation
— the populations of their respective
states into a frenzied effort to destroy
more of u201Cthemu201D than of u201Cus.u201D Wars require
the participation of two or more state
systems willing to pair off into the
dualistic roles of u201Cgood guysu201D — with
which to amass the support of their
countrymen – and u201Cbad buysu201D — around
which the other state will mobilize
its populace. That tens of millions
will die in the bloody processes of
a war is of no relevance whatsoever
either to state officials or, amazingly,
to the citizenry who eagerly and proudly
send their own children into the slaughter!
Parents who worry that a sexual predator
might be prowling schoolyards looking
for victims, express no concern for
military recruiters using the same school
facilities to enlist more cannon fodder
for the war machine!

One
cannot understand the war system without
realizing the symbiotic nature of the
undertaking. As in the more peaceful
field of sports, there is no purpose
to having a baseball or football team,
unless there is an opponent to play.
Every state requires a threat, an enemy,
with which to control its own people.
In order to keep the u201CCold Waru201D going,
the United States needed the u201Cevil empireu201D
of the Soviet Union for the same reason
that the Soviet Union needed the u201Ccapitalist
exploitersu201D of the United States.

I
first became aware of the carefully-orchestrated
nature of the war system when I was
a child. I was ten years old when World
War II ended and, up to that time, I
had been carefully indoctrinated in
the view that Russia and China were
my u201Cfriends,u201D while Germany, Japan,
and — for awhile — Italy, were my u201Cenemies.u201D
No sooner was this war over, than members
of the repertoire company switched roles
to perform in a succeeding play. Now,
Germany, Japan, and Italy were my u201Cfriends,u201D
while Russia and China had become my
u201Cenemies.u201D It was enough of a paradox
to engage an adolescent's mind but,
sadly, not the thinking of adults who
made their costume changes and memorized
their new lines with the same unquestioning
ease that allowed them to support American
involvement in World War II. In time,
I began to wonder if there were any
children in Germany or Russia who experienced
the same transformation of u201Cfriendsu201D
and u201Cfoes.u201D

Wars
are intentionally put together by two
or more states to enhance their power
interests. To be effective, they must
be conducted at least every twenty to
twenty-five years in order to (a) not
totally exhaust a society's productive
base in endless fighting and destruction,
and (b) reinvest the minds of the next
generation in the u201Cgloriesu201D and u201Cnecessityu201D
for war. Any warring culture must always
have an abundance of military veterans
around to instruct the youth in such
matters.

In
connection with the abattoir now raging
in the Middle East, a clear distinction
must be made regarding the legitimate
role for self-defense. The Iraqi father
who, in an effort to protect his family,
shoots armed storm-troopers breaking
into his home, is engaged in an act
of self-defense, as are militia groups
whose sole purpose is self-protection
against invading forces. But so-called
u201Cinsurgencyu201D groups may have appetites
for political power that go beyond matters
of self-defense. This is certainly the
case not only with al Qaeda forces,
but with such groups as Hezbollah, each
of which has ambitions to exercise power
over local populations.

How
would we know into which category any
particular group might fall? An answer
may be found by looking to the tactics
of a given group. If its members confine
the targets of their attacks to invading
forces, it may well be a self-defense
group. But when a group engages in indiscriminate
attacks upon the general population
— such as suicide-bombers killing people
on a bus, or in a mosque or shopping
area — you can rest assured that the
purposes of its acts of terror
are no different from the terrorism
practiced upon the same people by the
United States: to reduce the Iraqi people
to obedience through u201Cshock and awe.u201D

It
is a deadly mistake for any decently
principled person to put himself or
herself in a position of choosing between
one side or the other in a war. Wars
are creatures of state planning and,
for this reason alone, cannot be thought
of in terms of u201Cgoodu201D or u201Cbadu201D sides.
This was a mistake that Jane Fonda —
and many others like her — got into
during the Vietnam War: that the United
States was a clear wrongdoer did not
confer any sense of righteousness on
the North Vietnamese who, like the Americans,
wanted nothing more than to subdue the
Vietnamese people.

When
the Israelis and Hezbollah go after
one another; when the Indians and the
Pakistanis conduct their periodic forays
into each other's territories; when
American and al Qaeda forces shoot at
and bomb one another in Baghdad streets,
it serves no principled purpose to take
sides. Identifying ourselves with one
side or the other is the mindset into
which state systems have conditioned
our thinking. There never has been,
and never will be, a u201Cgoodu201D war. The
warped minds who think otherwise are
telling us that some end they value
is worth the deaths of millions of people
— as long as they are not among the
casualties. When the twisted thinking
of a Madeleine Albright can regard the
boycott-induced deaths of 500,000 Iraqi
children as a u201Cpriceu201D she was willing
to pay — even though it was the children,
not Ms. Albright, who paid the price
— you can rest assured that the state
has abandoned even the pretense of moral
direction.

Those
who value both peace and liberty should
see the death and destruction of war
as a signal to withdraw one's support
from all political systems, regardless
of who is running them, or under what
rationale, or the duration of their
respective claims upon the bodies and
souls of people. When all casualties
of the war system have been accounted
for — not only in terms of the dead
and the wounded, but those whose lives
have been severely affected in other
ways — it will be necessary for each
of us to assess our contributions to
such organized insanity. We may then
discover a truth that pervades all of
our relationships with others, namely,
that anarchy means never having to say
you're sorry!

Meanwhile,
the marathon continues, and may soon
be coming to a dance hall near you.
As with so many other dance teams that
have paired off into their deadly choreography,
you may select your own partner or allow
the state to choose one for you. In
the alternative, you may discover more
peaceful and productive ways of investing
your energies, ways that your children
and grandchildren may live to appreciate.

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