Nation's soul on loan to war

Category: Americas, World Affairs Views: 4018
4018

So we bomb a school and then are aghast when seven children die. "If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that air strike would have occurred," a spokesman for what the media still bother to call "the coalition" said afterward, by way of explanation if not apology.

The public has mostly tuned out of these wars. Of those who still pay attention, many do so from behind Fortress Patriotism, with its ramparts of cliche: "freedom isn't free," etc. Thus when children die and it's our fault and publicity is unavoidable, the media will usually remove the stinger from each tiny death, and keep the American conscience untroubled, by putting the deaths in the larger context of U.S. strategy or mission.

We bombed the eastern Afghanistan compound, which contained a mosque and a madrassa (Islamic school), this past Sunday because we were hunting insurgents who may have been involved in the massive suicide bombing of a bus a few hours earlier in Kabul, which had killed as many as 35 people and wounded 52. 

Got it? Next question . . .

But I linger in anger and wounded silence because, lacking belief in the pretext, stated goals or covert agenda of any of Bush's wars, I have no way to numb myself to their tactics, which, no matter how you frame or justify them, amount to hunting individual Taliban or al-Qaida suspects, in populated areas, with bombs and missiles, all but guaranteeing a high collateral kill count. We've been doing this from the very start. How did we come to believe we had that right?

"The way chosen by the United States (after World War II) was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs. . . . No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice."

This is Dwight David Eisenhower, near the end of the Korean War - April 1953, addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors - seeming to lay down for all time what mattered about America and what sort of hope it brought to Planet Earth. The speech was called "The Chance for Peace." In it, Ike let loose about how fed up he was with the Cold War economy, making a famous cost-benefit analysis: 

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. . . . The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. . . . We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat."

He went on for a while with such comparisons, finally thundering: "This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Can we stand so much un-buffered idealism in a single dose? "This is one of those times in the affairs of nations," he said, "when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace. It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty. It calls upon them to answer the questions that stirs the hearts of all sane men: Is there no other way the world may live?" 

Read it and wince. Whatever turning point we were at 54 years ago has slipped quietly beyond "the hearts of all sane men" and now we hunt evil from the sky, bomb schools and affect surprise at the carnage. This affectation is the last pale remnant of American idealism and morality.

But what's most disturbing about Ike's speech is that either he delivered it with his fingers crossed or he had no control over the malevolent forces then operating in America's name. Even as he spoke, for instance, the CIA was meddling with Mohammad Mossadegh's democratically elected, populist government in Iran, which fell four months later; and the next year, the CIA engineered a similar coup in Guatemala. 

Even as he spoke, fallout from the U.S. military's above-ground nuclear-testing program in Nevada was poisoning livestock, milk and people - and government spokesmen were assuring millions of irradiated down-winders, privately dismissed by the Atomic Energy Commission as "a low-use segment of the population," that they were perfectly safe. In fact, they were guinea pigs.

In the Eisenhower years, America's overt role on the world stage was to be a powerful force for good, but in its shadows, it was fighting a dirty war and preparing for a dirtier one. The toll to be exacted on the future would be cancer, global rancor, terrorism and an eroded value system in which even torture has a good name.

As Ike spoke about peace, the nation's soul was on loan to the Cold War and we never got it back.

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer.

You can respond to this column at [email protected] or visit his Web site at commonwonders.com.

2007 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
Views: 4018
 
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Older Comments:
L. GELFAND FROM IRELAND said:
The following are the 4 short documentaries that the US tried to censor. It's all about winning their hearts and minds. Yes surely it is because the hearts and minds and other organs of innocent civilians and tortured individuals are now scattered all over Afghanistan and Iraq. For shame America, the Hypocrisy is astounding and the US media's silence is deafening. How can the UN allow this to go on? How can the EU turn a blind eye? Israel, the US and NATO allies are clearly implicated in these brutal murders and torture and the lot of them should be dragged before World Court as war criminals. The 4 documentary links are provided below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N77rjWtZVFY

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=74f_1182324385

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f99_1182427347

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=32d_1182427382

2007-06-25

NAJJAR FROM MOROCCO said:
Assalamou Alaikoum brother Abdul. What senses do you want these crocodiles to come to? Crocodiles have no sense, they only have ugly and powerful jaws, and that's all they use. You can keep appeasing them by throwing food at them, once you run out; they will definitely have you as dessert. They are only two ways to keep yourself in one piece when they are around, repel them, or break they jaws.

Ameen to your du3a.
2007-06-24

S. PETERS FROM ATHENS, GREECE said:
The 4 documentaries Ian mentioned appear on whatreallyhappened.com under the captions, 'Winning their hearts and minds" 1, 2, 3, & 4. It might be a good idea to view these before the US government pulls them. Its just amazing how the "Evil Empire" that defined The Soviet Union, by Ronald Regan, is now, in fact the United States. How times have changed. But I am bewildered how Americans and their media live in such a self delusional bliss? And they have the gall to hide under the banner of the Cross and the Star of David? If this is what Christianity and Judeism represent, then its obvious these are religions hijacked by the devil and his minions. Americans are living in a fools paradise. As it is in these few years Americans have lost all standing and respect and are now the laughing stock and object of ridicule, scorn and derision by the world. There was a time when for bright foreign students the first choice for higher education was the US, but now, you could not drag them to the US kicking and screaming. America is isolated. Americans are absolutely ignorant about any thing of any value or worth...and yet they hope to rule the world?
2007-06-24

ABDUL FROM MALAYSIA said:
.....AMERICANS!!!! you have to come to your senses!!!!!!.....May Allah guide us all with Al-Quran and the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad PBUH.
2007-06-24

IAN MCINTOSH FROM UK said:
The American nation has no conscience and has no soul. Honour, dignity, respect and compassion are only things seen objectively on Hollywood's obscene Neo-con propaganda 'feel-good-America' movies where Americans are always the heroes saving the human race while Muslims and Arabs in particular are the devil's spawn. Even their "educational" channels such as Discovery fully support blood and gore with lengthy programmes on glorified Americans weapons of war and how much 'wonderful' destruction they can do. There are 4 documentary clips that appear on whatreallyhappend.com which show the "True-American" action and compassion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is one of them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N77rjWtZVFY
2007-06-24