The Reluctance To Kill Is Disappearing

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Recently by Michael S. Rozeff: Get Off the Road to War: Stop the Sanctions on Iran

     

The beliefs of America's leaders are deeply ingrained. They have been recruited and made leaders because they have those beliefs and hold them quite inflexibly. For example, American leaders believe in making wars conducted by the state, including such military wars as Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and such social wars as the war on drugs and the war on poverty. In this belief, America's leaders are supported by large numbers of Americans, enough so that they can institute and carry on these wars.

Military wars entail the suspension of ordinary morality. They are viewed as extraordinary events in which ordinary people don uniforms, take up arms, fly airplanes, launch bombs, throw grenades and routinely kill other people without fear of punishment. War is supposedly a case when the ends justify nasty and immoral means. By creating the appearance of wars or semi-wars or crusades against drugs, poverty, terror, discrimination, obesity and diseases, to name a few causes, the same kind of suspension of morality can be invoked. The leaders make it seem "all right" to suspend people's rights and to force them to do what they want.

Look at what the war on terror has done in this respect. It now is supposed to be all right to detain suspects, torture them, hide them away in prisons in foreign countries without charges, trials or due process of law. The President is taken to be doing the right thing by assassinating whom he wants to or arresting whom he wants to, even if they are Americans, and if only he suspects them of terrorist wrongdoing. The TSA is allowed to assault travelers sexually. Travelers are forced to pass through x-ray machines. Police have become militarized. Searches and seizures face vanishing barriers. Probable cause is a memory. Border crossings are no longer routine.

And all of this and more are things that America's leaders want us to think are right. Well, they are not. They are wrong. They are as wrong as the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. They are as wrong as every one of the social wars instituted by the U.S. government. All of them violate rights. All of them violate any decent morality. All of them are pragmatically wrong as well.

By now it is or should be obvious that all of these wars, without exception, have been and still are losing propositions for America. This is beyond debate, but neither Democrat nor Republican partisans, who criticize the policies of their opponents, admit that their particular hobby-horses are failures. Both sides are always ready to tinker around the edges with a government program or add to it, but neither side presents radical criticism of longstanding assumptions and institutions. Meanwhile, the American people are largely fast asleep at the wheel. They present no systematic resistance to the immoralities of their state and empire.

Consistent failure of their wars does not sway America's leaders, who are now prepared to start an aggressive war on Iran. The very concept of such a war is wrong. The policy of domination of Iran that goes back well over 50 years is wrong. It should be replaced, but this is not obvious to America's leaders because they have been taught otherwise and have taken power while firmly believing the opposite. A notable exception occurred when Nixon went to China.

Obama hasn't gone to Iran. He completely failed to follow up on his 2009 "new beginning" speech in which he mentioned a sound basis from which to proceed with Iran, namely, "mutual respect". He and his appointees instead followed through with the very threats that he said at that time wouldn't work: "This process will not be advanced by threats." Is it any wonder the Iranians suspect duplicity?

In making all of its wars, military and social, the American leadership regards people as mere names and numbers, mere parts of a social puzzle that can be moved around and manipulated at their will. This is a wrong idea in practice and it is a wrong idea morally. It is at root immoral, since it is anti-person and anti-humanity. America's leaders do not see their wars in that way.

America's leaders believe in their own power and superiority, and this implies that they believe in the powerlessness and inferiority of the masses in America. A fortiori, they regard foreign states and their peoples as inferior and objects to be manipulated. These ideas are also wrong morally and practically. There is literally nothing that endows America's leaders with an inherent superiority that justifies treating others as inferiors. Their power doesn't make them superior. A robber who points a big gun at one's head has power, but that doesn't make him better or superior. His aggression in fact makes him morally suspect. Nor does the decision to pursue or attain power make one superior any more than does the decision to become a robber. Treating others as fodder for American bombs or as political or economic pawns that are subject to threats and manipulation is bound to backfire in the long run.

America's leaders believe in their ability to achieve their ends, and they believe in the rightness of their having the power to choose and shape these ends. These too are erroneous ideas. Anyone but them can see easily that their wars have been failures for mankind. Had they been successful as leaders, these wars would have not occurred. They would not even have been regarded, even mistakenly regarded, as needed.

It is surely not right to believe that one or a few persons should have the power as leaders to choose the ends of everyone else or the power to shape those ends. Such an idea is obviously directly at odds with the idea of liberty for every person.

All of these wrong-headed ideas and beliefs of the American leadership are more and more clashing with reality. The false and immoral beliefs outlined above when put into practice are bankrupting the nation, causing misery and retarding the progress of Americans. More and more it is evident, even to the true believing leaders, that something is rotten in their empire. Some see the light and abandon their unworkable ideas. They leave government. Others remain but become cynical. Others retain their statist faith but are unsure what the sources of the rot are. They keep up the heart and soul of their failing philosophy of power while making cosmetic changes. They continue to repeat the past errors. They even redouble their failing efforts out of the erroneous belief that others before them just didn't try hard enough.

Americans need to understand that there are educational and media institutions in place that support the state and empire by continually raising new crops of leaders who keep up these false beliefs and wrong ideas.

Class after class of American youth have been taught that Americans may kill other peoples to achieve American political aims and that this is good, for other peoples are children or savages or inept or ignorant or inferior, while the American ways are superior. Americans have in the past imagined themselves the reluctant killers and victors, without the aims of conquest of past civilizations. They have imagined themselves as the kind, generous, and beneficent empire while not counting those whom they have murdered. For America is good. It has a big heart. It may make mistakes, but its intent is noble. It has a good heart. These have been the myths cultivated in the breeding grounds of those who man the machinery of empire.

The murderous intentions and false ideas are coming more and more out into the open. The reluctance to kill is disappearing. How many Americans joke about "nuking" other peoples? In the 2007 movie "In the Valley of Elah," one young soldier back from Iraq has these lines:

"You know Mike, he loved the army. Couldn't wait to get there, save the good guys and hurt the bad guys.

"They shouldn't send heroes to places like Iraq.

"Everything there's f****d up.

"Before I went, I'd never say this, but you ask me now…they should just nuke it and watch it all turn back to dust."

This captures a naive belief in American superiority and a belief that it was right to invade Iraq as if the invasion were some kind of heroic rescue operation. It also captures the psychology of blaming the victims and wanting to nuke them. Get them out of one's mind. Remove the burden of having lived through war's horrors and not having achieved anything.

Laurence Vance quotes from the deadliest American sniper in Iraq:

"Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy u2018savages.' There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there. People ask me all the time, u2018How many people have you killed?' My standard response is, u2018Does the answer make me less, or more, of a man?' The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives. Everyone I shot in Iraq was trying to harm Americans or Iraqis loyal to the new government."

This soldier believes in his right to kill, under the American flag, even if uninvited to a foreign land. He believes in the rightness of the American presence and cause, and therefore if someone is trying to kill Americans in Iraq, to him they must be evil savages. And he believes the converse as well. Since they are savages, we have a right to fight and kill them. The sniper's account is valuable. It expresses openly a few of the hidden immoral presumptions of American leaders. It expresses the hidden beliefs of a great many Americans who, with their leaders, usually hide them.

Generations of Americans have been schooled in myths that have subverted mankind's moral knowledge and replaced it with a devotion to the state and to empire, all the while proclaiming that Americans were doing God's work. A system was erected by which youths were selected who were the most willing and able supporters of state and empire. Internships were granted as were scholarships and fellowships. Universities were funded to act as ways to filter and credential those willing to support the state. Military service became one route to election. The myth of public service was cultivated. Military service was made out to be attractive to young men (and women) with the requisite propensities.

A deep belief in the goodness of the state and of government was inculcated. A deep distrust of the masses and of freedom naturally accompanied it.

A system of ensuring the continuity of the empire and its guiding myths was built up. Now centered in Washington, D.C. but with tentacles that reach deeply into every major university and into a ring of centers, foundations, think tanks and the like, America raises up generation after generation of men and women of empire. The moral influences from other sources are dwarfed by the devotion of these cadres to their careers and to state and empire. While there are numerous cynics among them, many of them believe in the goodness and rightness of their chosen course. This is what allows them to be part of the machinery within which they pay others mercilessly to murder foreign peoples when they decide to. This belief in their own rightness and goodness is what allows them to cloak their deep immorality in the language of the morality that they have rejected and that is absent from their hearts, having been extinguished by long years of the opposite training.

By no accident, America is a ship headed for the rocks. This course has been built into America and Americans for many years. Entire generations have been born and bred to man the government that is steering the ship to its final collision. Generations of Americans have been born and bred to accept state and empire.

America's leaders charted this course for America many decades before 9/11. For years the seas looked calm and the winds favorable. Most Americans were blind to the collision course, supported it and applauded it. Even as large an event as the Vietnam War did not cure the blindness. Economic woes have not cured it. An event like 9/11 made matters worse. Far from being a warning beacon to change course, 9/11 has been a Siren luring America to its destruction. In one of the worst decades for liberty in American history, Americans turned to aggressive wars, to more and more intense monetary and economic manipulations, to new forms of welfare, and to the destruction of the Bill of Rights. The ship is being torn apart on reefs and draws closer to the jagged rocks that threaten to sink it altogether.

America's leaders are now bringing America again to the brink of a new war, with Iran the target.

The two options regarding Iran are now and always have been the same: develop peaceful relations based on mutual respect, live and let live, peace, neutrality and non-interference; or else attempt to control and dominate Iran for the U.S.'s own ends.

Option 2 is the empire's option of choice. It is an option consistent with its immorality, self-righteous attitudes and long held assumptions.

Following option 1 means a comprehensive settlement of the issues relating to Israel. The U.S. keeps rejecting offers to negotiate such a settlement, not only because the U.S. prefers power plays, but also because U.S. foreign policy is catering to Israel in important respects, and any such settlement will have to settle thorny issues such as the "nature and character" of the state of Israel that Israel's leaders prefer to avoid. They'd have to give up something in order to get some of the things they want.

It is the responsibility of all those states that participated in Israel's creation, those peoples who have been most affected by it, and those that have a stake in the region to settle these issues by negotiation. For the U.S. (or Israel) to go to war with Iran partly as an indirect result of failing to confront the issues is both morally wrong and irresponsible, being unresponsive to the underlying problem, which is the nature of Israel and its relations with its neighbors.

The wrong ideas of America's leaders got us to this point, and now, if these ideas do not change or if Americans do not rise up and stop them from being put into practice, the leaders are going to pursue them to their logical and destructive end. A disaster for America and Americans looms directly ahead because a military attack on Iran opens up all kinds of unpredictable consequences, some of which could last for another 100 years. This is no way to build a constructive world.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

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