War: The Health of the State, not so Healthy for Human Beings

At more than ten years into the US government’s never-ending “war on terror,” that government’s excuses for atrocity after atrocity keep getting less and less convincing.

“A few bad apples.”

“An isolated incident.”

“The video doesn’t tell the whole story, and when we find out who leaked it he’s going to jail.”

“It appears that you had a lone gunman who acted on his own in just a tragic, tragic way.”

That last direct from the lips of US President Barack Obama, now serving out George W. Bush’s third term in office, concerning the March 9, 2012 murders of 16 Afghans, including nine children, by a US Army staff sergeant.

The idea that these are “isolated incidents” which do not reflect on the overall character of war is, frankly, absurd.

Make no mistake about it: War is killing on a mass scale, in service to and for the benefit of the state, and that’s all it is. It’s not a natural human activity. The desire for it has to be inculcated in soldiers. They must be thoroughly indoctrinated, and “the enemy” — soldier and civilian alike — must be thoroughly dehumanized in order to move them to their “duty.”

Political warmongers have become quite adept at that dehumanization: I know better now, of course, but I recall the effect of the (false and manufactured) tales of Iraqi soldiers ransacking hospitals and dumping Kuwaiti babies out of incubators told to myself and my fellow US Marines as we prepared for Operation Desert Storm in 1991. We were out for blood against an inhuman enemy. We were brainwashed, because brainwashing is what it takes to get men to kill other men (and, yes, women and children) en masse without compunction.

Sooner or later, though — unfortunately it seems to be later in most cases — the brainwashing just isn’t enough. The human conscience will out, or it will shatter.

In the first case, the result is something like this (I quote William Tecumseh Sherman, because I simply have not the words for it):

“I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting — its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers … it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

In the second case, it’s Abu Ghraib, Collateral Murder, and what happened outside Kandahar last weekend.

From this end of a decade of unremitting violence, it’s not these atrocities which I find surprising — it’s that we don’t hear about more of them. And I must say that I suspect that there would be more of them to hear about if not for substantial de facto censorship of the news coming out of combat zones around the world.

The atrocities, shocking as they are, pale next to the “big picture.” Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, have died at American hands since 2001. The soldier lying dead beneath a cairn topped with rifle and helmet is no more dead, and no more or less personally outraged by it, than the baby murdered in his crib or the dead Taliban fighter urinated upon by troops not quite as at the end of their tethers as the killer staff sergeant.

And what is it for? Not to “end terrorism,” surely — for terrorism is what it is.

Nor to “protect America,” which has descended so quickly and thoroughly into banana republicanism that it’s scarcely identifiable as the same country we lived in as recently as, say, 1990. Al Qaeda didn’t have to destroy America. Uncle Sam did it for them.

In truth, the true and fundamental purpose of war is to aggrandize the egos and power-hunger of America’s Joe Liebermans and John McCains, and to keep wealth flowing from you (with those politicians as conduits) to the politically connected corporate players. To wit, the stockholders of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, KBR, Halliburton, et. al. As former Marine general Smedley put it, “war is a racket.”

Is that purpose — cannibalism on behalf of the corporati — worthy of so much as a drop of Afghan or Iraqi or Libyan or Syrian or British or Australian or American blood?

If so, hang your gold stars in your windows, turn on your TVs, and lose yourselves in the latest sitcom.

If not, understand: So long as you tolerate the state, this is the price Moloch will demand of you and yours.

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