Monday, October 06, 2008

Pals Around With Terrorists?

Today is Monday, 6 October 2008.

Given that Sarah Palin is smearing Barack Obama for “paling around with terrorists”, this is an apt moment to amplify a previous column in which I judged John McCain (and other supporters of the Indochina War) to be a war criminal.

Let’s begin with members of the military who served in Indochina or in out-of-country support roles.

Draftees. Draftees were males who were forced at gunpoint, and under threat of imprisonment, into the military. Some will regard “at gunpoint” as cant and hyperbole. Consider: if one refused to acknowledge that one’s life and body were government property, and refused to be drafted, one could be arrested by the FBI. Be assured, FBI agents carried guns and were authorized to use them. If one were tried for draft resistance, the security officers of the court carried guns. If one were convicted and imprisoned, prison guards had guns. Hardly cant and hyperbole.

Never forget: the ultimate sanctions of any extant government are violence and death.

(I will note in passing: I’ve long been disgusted by the hypocrisy of conservatives who crow about the absolute virtue of small governments with strictly limited powers, while believing that the ability of males to commit violence and of females to reproduce are government property.)

Draftees bear the least guilt. If they believed it was right to slaughter in Indochina, they were victims of their country’s cruel, neo-fascist socialization. If they believed it was wrong, they were victims of their inability, for whatever reason, to resist.

Enlistees. They enlisted because they believed the War was right, because they came from impoverished areas (e.g., inner cities, depressed rural areas) and were thus victims of an economic, as opposed to a political draft, or both, or they were forced to enlist to escape jail time.

Enlistees also bear relatively little guilt. If they enlisted in good faith, they were victims of their country’s cruel, neo-fascist socialization. If they enlisted for economic reasons, they were victims of a political system which mandates the manufacture of poverty as well as prosperity. If they enlisted to escape jail, they were victims of a political system which forced upon them, at a too-young age (like other enlistees and draftees), the cruel choice between degradation by a penal system meant for retribution, not rehabilitation, or degradation in an unjust war.

The previous refers to those below the rank of second lieutenant: non-officers. The officer class is a different question.

(It is instructive to note that some 80% of all males serving in Indochina, below the rank of officer, whether draftees or enlistees, were from the lower 1/3 of the population, as determined by economic background, and would thus have had, in most cases, more limited educations than the officer class, excepting those officers who were promoted from the ranks by graduating from Officer Candidate School.)

Let us consider those officers with college diplomas. In college, they should have acquired the logical skills and factual knowledge enabling them to reject the Cold War falsehoods inculcated by socialization. That they did not is testimony to the powerful and degrading impact of socialization, and perhaps to a certain lack, either in the content of educations, or in individual applications to the discipline of learning.

(In regard to socialization, it is worthwhile to note the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the eminent German theologian and martyr of the German resistance movement: “It is not that people are born stupid, are born full of folly and foolishness, but that, under the impact of overwhelming power, they are made stupid, and full of folly and foolishness”.)

These officers bear much more guilt.

Consider the elite among officers: the graduates of the military academies, which latter may be regarded as the military equivalent of the Ivy League. Their schooling combined levels of understanding of the tactical and strategic aspects of war usually unavailable to others (except those willing to undertake intensive self-education), with an even higher level of socialization than imposed on the general population.

These officers all bear much higher guilt, and the higher the rank the higher the guilt.

Consider the civilians, in government or out, who supported the War with their mouths and taxes (while frequently whining about the taxes, as if one could make omelets without requisitioning and breaking eggs), yet refused to enlist, refused to leave jobs and careers for employment in war industries, and refused to serve as civilians in Indochina, while demanding, under penalty of law, that others submit to forced service.

These cowards and hypocrites bear the highest guilt.

Those civilians, including HH, who opposed the War and chose to remain in-country and actively struggle against it, bear guilt because we paid taxes. (While some few refused to pay war taxes, and some were imprisoned for it, so few were willing to take this step, that it was never a viable tactic; it simply diminished the number of those trying to mount a meaningful struggle.)

Perhaps McCain was a “patriot”, precisely whatever that is. He engaged in a criminal war of aggression, from whatever motives, murdering the innocent and ethically damaging his country in the process. His suffering at the hands of those he would murder cannot absolve him of his weighty guilt, nor transmute him into a war hero. McCain also supported, as a member of Congress, criminal wars of aggression in Central America and Iraq.

McCain is a war criminal.

It's Palin who pals around with a terrorist.
________________________________________________

In reference to the short story, “I, Too, Wished to Walk on the Moon”. It was inspired by a short story, “The Man Who Walked on the Moon”, by one of my favorite authors, J. G. Ballard, which may be found in the collection, War Fever (Farrar Straus Giroux: New York City, 1990), which includes “War Fever” and “The Secret History of World War 3”.

The film Empire of the Sun is based on Ballard's novel of the same title, based on his childhood experiences during World War 2 in a Japanese internment camp near Shanghai. I believe I’ve previously commended his most recent work, an autobiography, Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton (Fourth Estate: London, 2008).

Originally ghettoized as “merely a sci fi writer”, Ballard has always deployed speculative fiction to explore psychological and sociological spaces. No less than The Sunday Times of London names him “Britain’s number one living novelist”.

2 Comments:

Anonymous faithful reader said...

I'm glad you've been so active lately. I always look forward to your columns. Although I don't necessarily agree with everything that flows from your pen, you are obviously thoughtful and well-informed. I also enjoy the breaks from the political and historical commentary: the music, the poetry, the short story.

Since you put yourself "out there" so often, I just wanted to encourage you and let you know that your work is appreciated. I also enjoy challenging your views, which I have done on occasion.

I will continue to watch for your columns with interest.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Military Brat said...

HH said:

"Consider the elite among officers: the graduates of the military academies, which latter may be regarded as the military equivalent of the Ivy League. Their schooling combined levels of understanding of the tactical and strategic aspects of war usually unavailable to others (except those willing to undertake intensive self-education), with an even higher level of socialization than imposed on the general population.

These officers all bear much higher guilt, and the higher the rank the higher the guilt."

My father was a military academy gradute. I do not consider my father a terrorist.

From your view, EVERYONE is guilty of war. No matter what, EVERYONE is responsible. If you want to continue to carry around guilt day and night, you go right ahead. Some of us have lives to live, and have plenty to deal with right under our noses. Some of us do not have the luxury of free time, nor the fortitude that you apparently have to carry around the burden for things over which most of us have not control. How do you deal with the burden? Drink, drugs, sex? You must have some majic thing going on.

11:20 AM  

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