March 28, 2008

Morality, Justice and Life Destroyed: Lies and Slaughter Without End

Several decades ago, after another of the numerous instances of atrocity, barbarity, murder and destruction committed by the United States government, M. Scott Peck was appointed the chairman of a committee of three psychiatrists by the Army Surgeon General. The committee was to examine the causes of the My Lai atrocities. In my essay, "The Culture of the Lie: Creating Hell on Earth," I quoted Peck on the cultural dynamics that make such acts of barbarity possible, and that more generally enabled the Vietnam catastrophe itself:
Once again we are confronted with our all-too-human laziness and narcissism. Basically, it was just too much trouble. We all had our lives to lead--doing our day-to-day jobs, buying new cars, painting our houses, sending our kids to college. As the majority of members of any group are content to let the leadership be exercised by the few, so as a citizenry we were content to let the government "do its thing." It was Johnson's job to lead, ours to follow. The citizenry was simply too lethargic to become aroused. Besides, we shared with Johnson his enormous large-as-Texas narcissism. Surely our national attitudes and policies couldn't be wrong. Surely our government had to know what it was doing; after all, we'd elected them, hadn't we? And surely they had to be good and honest men, for they were products of our wonderful democratic system, which certainly couldn't go seriously awry. And surely whatever type of regime our rulers and experts and government specialists thought was right for Vietnam must be right, for weren't we the greatest of nations and the leader of the free world?

By allowing ourselves to be easily and blatantly defrauded, we as a whole people participated in the evil of the Johnson administration. The evil--the years of lying and manipulation--of the Johnson administration was directly conducive to the whole atmosphere of lying and manipulation and evil that pervaded our presence in Vietnam during those years. It was in this atmosphere that MyLai occurred in March 1968. Task Force Barker was hardly even aware that it had run amok that day, but, then, America was not significantly aware either in early 1968 that it too had almost unredeemably lost its bearings.


The research we proposed was rejected by the General Staff of the Army, reportedly on the grounds that it could not be kept secret and might prove embarrassing to the administration and that "further embarrassment was not desirable at that time."
I occasionally note one of the very worst aspects of the unspeakable crimes committed by the U.S. government against the nation and people of Iraq. Yes, the U.S. has committed genocide, which is forever unforgivable. Yes, we have entirely destroyed a nation, created a refugee crisis of huge proportions, and shown a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life comparable to that of the most vicious, inhumane and barbaric leaders in history.

All of that is terrible enough. Yet after all this, our governing class and the foreign policy establishment have learned absolutely nothing -- except to commit their future crimes more "efficiently" and "competently." The ruling class of the United States is determined to be a better and more ruthless serial global murderer -- and have no doubt: they will murder again. And again. For they still believe that the United States is "the last, best hope of Earth," and that the U.S. is uniquely entitled to determine how all other nations and peoples must conduct themselves. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton believe it; John McCain obviously believes it. Whoever is the next president of the United States will believe it. The U.S. will murder again on a vast scale, for our government's murders are righteous murders.

And there will be no justice, anywhere:
Military prosecutors dropped all charges on Friday against a U.S. Marine accused of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the 2005 shooting deaths of two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians at Haditha.

The charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, 26, were dismissed "in order to continue to pursue the truth seeking process into the Haditha incident," the Marines said in a statement.

Word of the development came as jury selection was about to begin in Tatum's court-martial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault at the Camp Pendleton Marine base in California.


Tatum was one of eight Marines charged in the November 19, 2005, killing of 24 men, women and children at Haditha that triggered international condemnation of U.S. forces and he faced 19 years in prison if convicted on all on all charges.

Iraqi witnesses say angry Marines massacred unarmed civilians after a popular comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel "TJ" Terrazas, was ripped in half by a roadside bomb. Defense attorneys maintain that the civilians were killed during a pitched battle with insurgents in and around Haditha.

Prosecutors have dropped charges against four other Marines in the case.


In previous hearings, Marines have testified that Tatum, who originally faced more serious charges of unpremeditated murder and negligent homicide, was among those who "cleared" two Iraqi houses after the roadside bombing, resulting in 19 deaths.

Another Marine testified Tatum told him to shoot a group of Iraqi women and children he found on a bed in a closed room. That Marine said he walked away but saw Tatum return and heard a loud noise, possibly gunfire or a grenade.
Be sure to appreciate the magnitude of the destruction involved: not only has the United States destroyed a nation and over a million human beings. As was true from the beginning, the U.S. is determined to destroy logic, morality, and your capacity to understand or make sense of anything at all: "The charges...were dismissed 'in order to continue to pursue the truth seeking process into the Haditha incident.'" [Added: Tatum was also given full immunity. Some reports suggest that the government seeks to use Tatum's testimony in a future trial against the squad leader. But consider that almost all the cases have already been dropped, and that the government has declined to pursue most of those involved in these horrors. If you believe that the case against the squad leader will be pursued in any meaningful way or that justice will be done on the scale required, I suggest you think again. And as noted below, what about justice for all the other criminals responsible for the monstrous acts committed by the U.S. in Iraq, beginning with Bush and with the invasion and occupation themselves? Anything even remotely close to full justice will not be found anywhere here.] When the world has gone mad, there is no longer any sense in attempting to understand. Our rulers count on you to give up the effort, to surrender, to submit, to do nothing.

And most Americans oblige.

There is much more about Haditha and related issues in an essay of mine from almost two years ago: "Countless My Lais, Hadithas Beyond Number, and Atrocities Without End." In that article, I wrote:
Our government ferociously denies it, and Americans refuse to believe it -- but the massacre at Haditha is not an exception. It is the norm.

We will not give up our vision of ourselves as "morally superior." We refuse to surrender our delusion that we represent the last, best hope on earth, and that we have the "right" to force everyone else to live as we do. And if they refuse, we believe we have the right to slaughter them.

Rather than question ourselves or our "ideals," we render ourselves deaf, dumb and blind -- and the atrocities and the slaughter go on, day after day after day. And we lie about all of it.
After I published that and similar pieces, a number of people wrote to me, questioning my insistence that atrocities like Haditha were widespread and that they had to be widespread, given the nature of war and the nature of our actions. More and more evidence of the monstrousness of what the U.S. has done and what it continues to do today has slowly made its way into the light, although only at the very edges of our national debate, far from the "mainstream." The information is available, as it has been from the beginning and before the beginning. But you have to search for it.

Most Americans are not interested in any of that, or in the truth of the U.S.'s sickeningly bloody immorality. We remain "the last, best hope of Earth," inherently superior to all other nations and all other peoples in history. The U.S. imposes justice on everyone else. We are the United States -- we are the perfect embodiment of justice. It is redundant and meaningless to suggest that justice be applied to our own actions.

The Democratic Congress has made certain that no one in the Bush administration will ever be held accountable for his crimes. The standards that apply to the ruling class also apply to their chosen instrument of death, our military. With rare exceptions, and only in the cases of the most insignificant military personnel on the lowest rungs of authority, no one will be held responsible. All of those in Congress who continue to fund the ongoing genocide are accessories to murder. They are all drenched with blood.

No new president will alter any of this. And yet we pretend that this election may result in significant changes. We lie to ourselves all the time, for we cannot survive in any other way. Meanwhile, the United States government prepares to do it all again, perhaps on an even wider scale. Most Americans, almost everyone in the media, and almost all bloggers do absolutely nothing. As I wrote at the conclusion of "Living Under the Guillotine's Blade":
So we see how the fourth blade connects to the third, and how all the blades interconnect and multiply the dangers. We have already destroyed Iraq, and we may yet destroy Iran and much of the Middle East. We may cause an international economic collapse, or severe economic dislocation at a minimum. We may see the final end of liberty here at home, and the installation of a dictatorship via a declaration of martial law.

And almost no one speaks of the incomprehensible catastrophes that lie in wait. Almost no one takes action to prevent even one of them. Our lives proceed as if nothing at all unusual is transpiring in our world, either abroad or at home. Occasionally, a few people shout warnings. They are almost entirely ignored.

The blade is suspended above us. With every moment that passes, the rope that holds it back frays and weakens still more.

Death hangs in the air.

We will not move.
Many of the people who do nothing -- certainly many of those who are informed about political events, and certainly most of those who write about them in any medium -- are profoundly immoral, soul-deadened husks of human beings. Torture, murder, genocide, bodies ripped apart with their guts falling out, minds destroyed for all time -- none of it matters to them, not enough to cause them to do a damned thing.

It is sickening and disgusting in a manner beyond description. I would say, "May God forgive them." But I do not believe in God and, if I did, I would not think He should forgive them -- or, perhaps, you.

Countless lives ended, maimed and scarred forever, and more ungraspably awful death and destruction still to come. And most people do nothing.

It does not bear contemplation. It is enough to drive you insane. As I noted above, that is one of the many purposes, one of the many targets of destruction.

This is now your world. And it will get worse.