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Humanism, Pacifism, and "Nation States" by Dana Williams

 

Often when I talk about the issue of US warcrimes with other Americans, they are instantly put on the defensive. It used to make me wonder why that was so, until it dawned on me why-- they were taking it personally. When I said that the US was responsible for atrocities and suppression against every single country in Central America, somehow they thought I was accusing them of personally doing the acts. Now, I believe, I can help others in understanding what I'm arguing.

When I say America is responsible for a warcrime, in say Nicaragua, I mean that the US foreign policy was such that it supported a militaristic and totalitarian regime which oppressed its citizens. Weapons and funding flowed from the US to the country, to the military who used them to keep people in line. The policy was created by many groups and individuals: the executive branch, including the President's administration, the Pentagon, the military, business interests who make arms and who have business "stakes" in the country. Was John or Jane Doe responsible for it? No. Absolutely not. On average, the Does did not even know of these activities and couldn't even be familiar with them, let alone disapprove.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the US pulled teeth worldwide to get economic and political support for a worldwide force to throw Iraq out. When I say US and Iraq, I'm referring to the official position of the nations, not what the average citizen thought, said, or did. The majority of people in Iraq do not support Saddam Hussein, despite what CNN would have the West believe (why would anyone support a leader who gases them, massacres them, creates ethnic tension intentionally, and murders his own family members?). When the US bombed Baghdad (for months) very few in the US actually considered that neither Hussein, nor his reputed Iraqi Republican Army, was there. Yet, the US continued bombing there, and thus we get an official death-toll of 200,000 Iraqi "casualties" (as if there was anything "casual" about murder), which was quietly admitted to by the Pentagon1. So, were all of those people so guilty by International Law that they had to be killed? Iraq may have been guilty for invading Kuwait, but who is "Iraq"? Hussein can be classified under that, as can his generals. But, can the average Iraqi? No. Iraq (aka Hussein and his generals) was wrong to do what it did, but the Iraqi people on the whole were not wrong at all, for anything. When the death-toll rose to 200,000 (most likely over), was the US responsible for all those murders? Yes, but who is the US? The US was George Bush, his generals, and the military. They were responsible for those murders, not the American people, even though many people openly supported the actions.

We cannot totally hold the American people responsible for their passive part in the slaughter because they had no real idea what was going on, right? Well, it is logical to assume that if heavy bombing takes place in a metropolitan center where millions of civilians live, even non-military targets are going to get hit. But, we were lulled to sleep by the idea of "smart bombs" that were wise enough to recognize the stars on a soldiers lapel and avoid civilians. It is estimated by one US officer that as many as 40% of the smart bombs missed their targets2. The American people liked the idea of only the bad guys getting killed. But, who really are the bad guys?

The tendency is for us to split the world's populace up into nice, compatible groups called nations. Whether or not this is bad is beyond what I want to discuss. But, when we do classify ourselves as members of one nation, we can easily see how it is possible to feel threatened by "that other nation" over there, especially since we don't live there. We also don't know what they are planning-- in fact, for all we know, they might be planning to kill all of us, just because of the nation we belong to!! And thus the roles are played out on both sides of the line, by all nations, some more wary than others.

Yet, I feel the average human is smart enough to realize that such differences do not warrant hatred or aggression. Therefore, the powers-that-be make a concentrated effort to strike fear into our hearts. America's stigmatism for years was the dreaded "communist". Iran had its "Great Satan", the Soviet Union had the evil "capitalists". Generations are born into eras where intense propaganda machines pump fear, ignorance, and false intentions into their own people. The US policy makers tactfully replaced the Evil Empire with (after the murderous drug lords) the Fanatical Muslims, or the "Green Peril". Power, it needs to be understood, needs a scapegoat. It needs someone it can point a finger at and say, "Look! It's their fault you're unhappy, not mine!"

Wonderful way to treat your fellow human beings, huh?

I'm not accusing the US of being the only country to do this-- chances are that every country does this on some level or another. The US has simply done it best, and for the longest period of time. It also has the most blood on its hands. So, when you read the papers and it says that the US is doing this, for this reason, etc., do not feel that you have to agree with its decision. Your leaders do not always know what is right for you (you're not surprised, are you?) Hey, if you disagree with more taxes, then you can also disagree with them on the subject of bombing Baghdad, regardless of what CNN proudly says.

So, if I suggest that we treat all of our fellow human beings the same most people will say (not just Americans, of course!) that this is impossible. It is impossible and a waste of time, they will say. It won't happen in our life time, nor will it ever happen. If that is the case, I'd say that we are a long way from calling ourselves "civilized". Maybe "partially-domesticated" would be a better way to describe us: a territorial species which hunts in packs and despises others on the basis of the smallest difference in geographic location. Just because some people claim something is "hopeless" is no reason to not try to change your attitudes!! Fuck you and your fatalism!!

Even though people say peace is impossible, I think that such an attitude is simply giving up. If there is any room for improvement for the human race, it doesn't have to do with simply prolonging the life expectancy rate, or profit margins, or even making the most colorful flag; it has to do accepting who we are, accepting our differences, and then saying to hell with those differences! Let's spend our time creating bonds with other nations. Let's spend our valuable and limited time coming closer together with those other Earthly inhabitants in a fashion that makes our nationality irrelevant in the name of humanity.

This view is plainly called "humanism", and you know what? I'm a subscriber. It is my belief that the death of 200,000 Iraqis is just as tragic as losing 200,000 people from my home state. The only difference is that I'm more likely to have known people from my state and not from Iraq. But, the grief of 200,000 mothers and fathers is equal. The sorrow of their children is equal. No one's friends mourn greater, American or Iraqi. And how could they? Simply because the state I reside in tells me to hate and destroy the "enemy", does not mean I will. It does not mean they are right. Such statements, to me, are pompous, unsubstantiated, ridiculous, and above all, completely inane. And any government, any media, or any propaganda mouthpiece that says such hilarities does not even deserve my attention.

 

[1] Solomon, Norman. "Keeping Us Posted On Our Worst Enemy".
[2] Zinn, Howard. "A People's History of the United States", p584.