Iraq, Militarism and the American Myth
Matt Taibbi has an interesting post about the role of the military industrial complex in the promotion of war and the resultant savagery. Matt starts by reprinting an email that was sent to him by Franklin Spinney a defense industry whistle blower. The email was from a pilot in Iraq.
"The fellas from 121 started showing up the other day. It's starting to sink in...I'll have to go home, the opportunities to kill these fuckers is rapidly coming to an end. Like a hobby I'll never get to practice again. It's not a great war, but it's the only one we've got. God, I do love killing these bastards...Morale is high, the Marines can smell the barn. It's hard to keep them focused. I still have 20 days of kill these motherfuckers, so I don't wanna take even one day off. "
-- Letter home from an unnamed Marine F/A -18 pilot in Iraq
Spinney in a comment to Matt said:
Hopefully, the man who wrote this ghastly thing is an aberration and not at all representative of the men and women in our military.
Matt then goes on to say:
It's not that I don't believe these stories, and not that I don't want to hear them. I'm just wary of sullying the debate over this war with a referendum on the behavior of young soldiers who have been placed in an impossible position, sent to fight in a strange and hostile place with no clear mission and no detectable strategy for securing peace or victory. In my mind, all the people in the Bush administration and in Congress and in the media who got these kids sent there in the first place have to be the first ones held responsible for whatever those kids do after being thrown into the fire.
He then goes on to posit that it’s a tail wagging the dog situation and say's that the behavior of this pilot is
an inevitable consequence of the entire structure of our economy, which is based heavily on government spending in the area of high-technology defense manufacturing
Matt has a point in that without a strong military and backed up by a weapons industry the probability of going off to war becomes less. However, I think history teaches us that the dog is indeed wagging the tail. And history also teaches us that Mr. Spinney’s comment is terribly naïve.
I maintain that American militarism and the brutality of its troops as well as the warfare itself is a fundamental characteristic of the American experience and, therefore, should surprise no one who is familiar with the details of history. It all flows from the founding of this country. The Purtitans saw themselves as creating a “city on the hill”. This concept of American Exceptionalism having its roots in events 300 years ago still drives American action and policy. American Exceptionalism is a component of the forces that drove the immigrants to settle the west. A fundamental component of American Exceptionalism is that Americans are more advanced morally and politically than other peoples. This has been amplified to a point where today we are told, in essence, that everyone craves our way of life and, by the way, if they don’t it is our duty to drag them kicking and screaming into modern times. But, lets pause and go back in history where we will find the future.
The book which literally led to my awaking was “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown. I am an engineer by training and was not very strong on American History. This book peeled away decades of indoctrination of the American Myth. There is much in the book I could talk about, but I’m going to try and keep it pertinent to today’s topic. I have previously posted on the massacre at Sand Creek Colorado in 1864. Briefly, the Camp of Black Kettle was attacked by soldiers. Black Kettle and his family stood around the American Flag that had been presented to him by Congress thinking that would show the soldiers that they were friendly and to be trusted. But the agenda was to slaughter the Indians. The soldiers killed men women and children. They took over 100 scalps of the Indians. Cut the babies out of pregnant women, cut the scrotums off of males and used them as pouches. [Pages 86-93]. So atrocities committed by American soldiers are not isolated. They have been found in most wars, but especially in the genocide of the American Indians, in the Philippines, Vietnam, and now Iraq. And let’s not forget atrocities committed by proxy all over South America. These atrocities flow not only from within each soldier but commonly reflect the attitudes of their leaders and the politicians.
In a public speech made in Denver not long before this massacre, Colonel Chivington advocated the killing and scalping of all Indians, even infants. “Nits make lice!”, he declared”
Implicit in American Exceptionalism is the tenet that others are inferior. I mean if you believe you are superior then what’s the obvious next step? So now we have arrived at the two most important principles that are used to advanced the use of the military against other countries and/or peoples. First you are superior and second they are inferior. Then all that’s left is to construct a threat and let the slaughter begin. And since the people have been brain washed to believe that they are indeed superior to those [insert enemy here] it doesn’t take much evidence to make the threat sound plausible.
It is clear to those who study the details of American History that the above paradigm has been utilized by both political parties to advance their agenda [ read Stephen Kinzer’s book on American Interventions] for hundreds of years. And for the most part the agenda has been driven by business interests, whether it is to open up land for ranchers in the West, protect the interests of United Fruit in South American or big oil in the Middle East. The spoils go to the rulers and business leaders, the dead bodies go to the average American parents.
The successful implementation of this strategy requires the propagation of the American Myth built on half truths and cartoon representations of our history. So the only antidote is knowledge.
Failure to understand the history and mythology of America cause people to underestimate the size of the effort required for change. It also keeps them from addressing the real issues rather than the phantoms put out there by those who demand the status quo.