Human Life: Another Dispersed Cost

In what has become a sustained echo through the span of the war, BBC News reports that “Western forces have accidentally killed seven civilians in an air attack in” Afghanistan. Among those killed in the attack, which was ordered by NATO on March 25, were three children, this on the heels of a raid that resulted in the deaths of nine children just a few weeks ago.

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan, though the American Empire does its very best to conceal them, have become almost quotidian in the news cycle, to the point where we hardly pay them any mind. Where the statist, corporate media does attend to these tragedies, they’re quick to point out that they are inadvertent mishaps in what are legitimate pursuits.

This most recent instance of wanton murder came as a result of intelligence that indicated “a Taliban leader and several of his subordinates were travelling in two vehicles” in Helmand province. But a mouthpiece for the euphemistically-named International Security Assistance Force — the UN-mandated group of military thugs supposedly “invited” by the Afghan people — admitted that he “could not confirm” the location of that Taliban boss.

The truth is that whether the Taliban is ever fully exterminated, whether the United States “wins” in Afghanistan, is much less important than that the Empire continues to have something to nourish it. In limning his dystopia in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell explained that “the only genuine danger” to the state’s ruling class was “educational,” that skepticism toward power might imperil their continued dominance over productive society; the problem, he said, was solved, or at least combated, in large part by “the device of continuous warfare,” necessary for “keying up public morale to the necessary pitch.”

For the novel’s superpower Oceania, then, as for the United States, defeat of an enemy that is “unconquerable” by design is neither possible nor even desired. Since Afghanistan, in and of itself, is not the true object of the war in Afghanistan, the focus actually being the preservation of a particular political-economic system, the lives both of Americans and Afghans don’t matter.

The war industries in the United States have represented an ideal way to concentrate the profits of “private” businesses in a small circle of elites while scattering the formidable costs over the population at large. Corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and General Dynamics, as good as agencies of the federal government, give overwhelming momentum to the warfare state, gorging themselves on the provender of labor.

The inflexibility of a monopolized economic system, with its attending problems and imbalances, is neglected as a consideration of the war economy. After all, what choice do we have but to provide for “national defense,” to mobilize for “security” against foreign threats? War is the ultimate means of making a country overburdened by lining the pockets of elites accept their “duty.”

The state-protected corporate economy, structurally incapable of matching its production to the wants of consumers, needs some way to dispose of huge mounds of resources. And because Raytheon and Boeing don’t build consumer goods anyway, war becomes a tailored design for enriching the ruling class at our expense. This is why, as Orwell added, “In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is.”

The top of America’s political and economic hierarchy, those who depend on this system of war, cannot afford to see this for what it is. The murder of civilians thus becomes something to explain away rather than lament. The human cost is like all of the other costs, that is, not born by those who benefit from this enterprise of death.

Free market anarchism is constructed on the simple idea that no one ought have aggression at his disposal to achieve his ends, that voluntary interaction is the proper norm for human beings. War and the economic program that lives on it are the ultimate obverse of that idea, where the parameters of human relationships are determined by the continual need to assemble killing machines.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory