Recently by Butler Shaffer: Overcoming Barriers to Killing
War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday living. We precipitate war out of our daily lives; and without a transformation in ourselves, there are bound to be national and racial antagonisms, the childish quarreling over ideologies, the multiplication of soldiers, the saluting of flags, and all the many brutalities that go to create organized murder.
~ J. Krishnamurti
Whenever I watch the Republican presidential debates, my mind is drawn to that important children's book, The Emperor's New Clothes. The six sock-puppets who have thus far managed to survive the musical-chairs comedy ballet wow Mr. and Mrs. Boobus with their visions of a violent, intrusive, policed, and war-loving America that equals, if not exceeds, what Barack Obama has been able to generate. It was but four years ago that John McCain choreographed his campaign around the lyrics "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." That so few people were repulsed by such psychopathic utterances is but one of many symptoms of a society in moral, spiritual, and intellectual collapse. The domestic police-state so passively accepted by most Americans — and insisted upon by the voices of the political establishment — reminds me of the comment made by the Prince of Wales in the 1934 film, The Scarlet Pimpernel: "if a country goes mad, it has the right to commit every horror within its own walls."
As America continues its slide down the razor-blade of history into total collapse, a growing number of men and women — whose membership is most prominent among those under forty years of age — have decided to end the collective madness that engulfs their lives and the society in which they live. While octogenarian survivors of Tom Brokaw's "greatest generation" cheer on the sock-puppets who promise an ever-more vicious and violent government should they be elected, those who envision a world grounded in peace and liberty have an alternative agenda. Like the sub-surface energies that erupt into expressions of "plate tectonics" (e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes), there is a life-force within nature that resists its own destruction. Those in charge of institutional abstractions, such as the corporate-state forces that dominate humanity, are aware that life is increasingly insistent upon its own self-directed nature. Institutions feed upon life and regard autonomous and spontaneous impulses as forms of entropy (i.e., energies unavailable for productive organizational purposes). In an effort to retain its anti-life nature, the established order responds with increasing levels of coercion, threats, and violence to keep its conscript herd intact.
Wars, torture, militarily-policed cities, concentration camps, surveillance, persons held without trial, increased criminalization of dissent and revelation of governmental activities, and the authority of a president to order the murder of any who displease him, are manifestations of the desperate states of mind of those who regard all of humanity as resources to be exploited and devoured for their purposes.
The millions who seek to liberate themselves from such institutional control have found in Ron Paul a catalyst for their concerns. Contrary to those who do not understand the dynamics that underlie his popularity, Ron does not direct efforts to humanize society, allowing it to become free, peaceful, and productive. Ron understands this when he differentiates himself from the message he communicates. He is channeling the sentiments of the millions who understand that modern society does not live up to long-held expectations; that it no longer works toward promised ends. Because the violent nature of politics has displaced the peaceful character of the marketplace, our world has become such a mixture of lies, conflicts, and contradictions that it is increasingly difficult for men and women to pursue reasonably predictable courses of action.
The factor I find most disturbing in the statists obscene efforts to sustain their formal instruments of repression and destruction, is their unapologetic use of the war system. In my childhood, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor served as a unifying purpose for a war of less than four years duration. Subsequent twentieth-century wars came to be seen as corporate-state undertakings having nothing to do with the "defense" of America. Current wars are conducted for purposes that have no more meaning than that the power structure wants to engage in them. That so many of the GOP sock-puppets are willing to echo John McCain's earlier words to bomb Iran — and throw in Syria — shows us how utterly evil and psychotic the American state has become. That the institutional order has resorted to — and will continue to escalate — campaigns to destroy the opportunities for Ron Paul's message to be heard, is illustrative of how depraved so much of this nation has become.
There is an unavoidable arrogance that accompanies those who want to exercise the state's monopoly on the use of violence. Like teenagers who go off to war with the sense that they are indestructible, politicians and other government officials behave as though their actions are never going to be called to account. War crimes trials, they tell themselves, are for victors to impose upon the losers. And what powerful political personality would dare allow his or her mind to consider the possibility that their side would ever face defeat?
"Crimes against humanity" — such as the torture and killing of civilians — was one of the principal charges leveled against many of the Nuremberg defendants following World War II. The trials of those charged with engaging in such atrocities have become familiar to most of us through Hollywood films. But it ought not be forgotten that the most serious charges brought against Nuremberg defendants were those associated with "crimes against peace," or undertaking wars of aggression. There are doubtless many officials of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations who carefully consider their foreign travel plans for fear they might be arrested and tried for their participation in concocting and carrying out wars of aggression in recent decades.
As long as the American military plays the bullying role in the world, foreign governments might be reluctant to capture and prosecute such practitioners of aggressive warfare. But what is likely to occur when — like the school playground bully who becomes incapacitated — the United States finds its hegemonic powers in sharp decline? Will George W., Obama, Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et.al., feel that they still enjoy an immunity from prosecution? What about the various GOP candidates who dutifully squawk their commitments to bomb Iran, Syria, or any other nation selected as the establishment's enemy-of-the-month? The old men in their pro-war baseball caps may cheer on their favorite war-monger without fearing a trip to the gallows, but what of the candidates themselves?
It may be argued by these politicos that, at this point at least, they are only engaging in rhetoric; that speaking in support of war is different from engaging in war. Those who believe this — including many self-styled "journalists" who use their positions in the print and broadcast media to promote such wars as continue to be fought — should remember the name of Julius Streicher. Streicher was a German newspaperman who was an enthusiast for Hitler and his programs during the National Socialist regime. He both wrote and spoke with fervor on Hitler's behalf. During the Nuremberg trials, Streicher was prosecuted, convicted, and hanged for his efforts on behalf of the German government. The excuse that he was only advocating — not participating in – such policies, served him not. At his trial, Hermann Goering, the highest-ranking German official to be tried, acknowledged that propaganda was one of the three important aspects of conducting a war.
Ron Paul is one candidate for the presidency who need not fear having to defend himself as a propagandist for war. Each of the others will have to decide whether their ambitions for that office are such that they are willing to be promoters of the war system as a prerequisite for the establishment selecting them. Those who answer "yes" to that question — along with those members of the lockstep media who play their part in war-mongering — might also consider the costs of constructing a bunker to which they can retreat should there be a turn in the fortunes of war.
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.