Thursday, November 10, 2011

Post #65 - Do Unto Others as They Would Do Unto You, But Do It First

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
Iraq was not our first experience, as a nation, with preemption. We all remember the preemptive strike on the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Jim Douglass, again, reminds us of the hazardous period in the early '60s, including the incident when a U.S. general, on orders from the White House, provoked a confrontation with the Soviets at the Berlin Wall. At Checkpoint Charlie, "For 20 hours, U.S. and Soviet tanks stood facing each other with their motors running, each line of tanks threatening to open fire and spark a nuclear war." A year later, there would be the doomsday scenario of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Certainly," Douglass writes, "John F. Kennedy knew his military advisers took seriously the idea of a preemptive strike. They were pushing him to do the same, as revealed in a top-secret document declassified in 1993.” In a description which echo in today's plans on Iran, Douglass paints the picture within the White House:

"At a July 20, 1961 meeting of the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CIA Director Allen Dulles presented a plan for a nuclear surprise attack on the Soviet Union 'in late 1963, preceded by a period of heightened tensions.' Kennedy resisted them. After raising a series of questions to the plan, the President got up and walked out of the meeting in disgust. He found intolerable the idea of launching a nuclear Pearl Harbor attack on the Soviet Union.
"Besides walking out, Kennedy said afterwards what he thought of the proceeding to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. With what Rusk described as 'a strange look on his face,' Kennedy said, 'And we call ourselves the human race.'”

Merton was prescient in noting, “...step by step we come closer to it because the country commits itself more and more to policies which, but for a miracle, will make it inevitable.” And so we find ourselves once again in that same spot in this new century, as an attack on Iran is "on the table" as an option.

The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld agenda, as enunciated in some of the background documents of that era sometimes sounded like what Anton Dvorak about his music; he said he harbored the “perhaps too audacious but noble wish and intention to create for myself a new world.”

Francis Fukuyama (a conservative noted for his book The End of History), told a 2007 audience:

"I think there is a real problem when you instrumentalize democracy promotion in the fashion that the [Bush] administration has done to make it a tool of the strategic objectives of the United States of America...really two problems...First, it's based on a wrong theory about what's wrong with the Middle East. And secondly it, by instrumentalizing democracy actually I think makes the actual pursuit of democracy more difficult in practice because it taints what is otherwise a perfectly good and just activity with association with an extremely unpopular Americans administration, particularly in the Middle East...
"...we had this doctrine of benevolent hegemony grow up that the United States would simply have to act on its own to take care of these kinds of of the things that we simply didn't count on back six, seven years ago when we were hypothesizing about how the world might react to this was this large current of anti-Americanism that I think is absolutely structural in world politics today.
"The United States, by being so powerful, can reach out and touch and change regimes 8,000 miles on the other side of the world from it and they can't do a damn thing to us in return and I think that that lack of reciprocity in those relationships – economic, cultural, political – is what's driving a great deal of the opposition and pushback to American dominance and hegemony and ideas and all sorts of things today.

Or, as Prof. Nasr says, “ be free means also to be free to understand what one means by freedom...[rather than] imposed on them as an ideology by a more powerful West that knows better than they do what is good for them.” [from The Heart of Islam].

Air bombardment would sadly be just the tip of the iceberg if we go into yet another overseas war, even if it did not initially include nuclear bombs. Lest we forget, the figures of war dead never include those who have died from “non-hostile” causes, but who nonetheless owe their demise to the fact of the conflict. In human terms, the costs must be reckoned to include those in a wartime environment who lack healthcare and die from curable disease. We must account also those who suffer from neglect when systems of care are disrupted, and those who are malnourished due to erratic lines of supply. We have to consider those who trip and fall in rubble-filled streets, and those who are pushed to take their own lives rather than live in terror and despair.

A study conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the respected British medical journal The Lancet suggested that approximately 600,000 additional violent Iraqi deaths had resulted from the invasion (as compared with pre-invasion mortality rates), with only about 31% directly attributable to the actions of coalition forces. Although the British Ministry of Defense's own experts have vouched for the methodology used, neither the British nor U.S. governments have accepted the figures that came out of the study.

We citizens can never deny our own culpability on the grounds that national policy is the province of our nation's leaders or that they have more information than we do. A much younger, but well-known, writer said:

"I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone, are guilty of the war. Oh no, the little man is just as guilty, otherwise the peoples of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There’s in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again." [Diary of Anne Frank, 1952, entry for May 3, 1944, quoted in Perlmutter, ibid.]

Daniel Perlmutter wrote: "All peoples perpetrate horrors of war; whatever their rationalizations, their victims are equally dead. Some horrors of war demand justice; others seem justified. The quality of justness is always filtered through and determined by our prejudices, and the quality of mercy is always strained."

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