The End of Monstrous Means

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The End of Monstrous Means

   I was watching dear CSpan this morning and Ron Suskind of One Percent Doctrine spoke at also dear Politics and Prose Bookstore in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Washington DC. He spoke of the notion fiatted by Darth Dick Cheney, paraphrased, ''if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time — the United States must now act as if it were a certainty'' ‘making suspicion, not evidence, the new threshold for action.’

   This was a horrible but important talk which was chilling9 (cf  Vonnegut’s icenine in which a drop of the stuff turns everything to ice). However the piece that I want to remark upon is the notion Suskind brought up near the end of his talk. He mentioned that George Kennan of the Marshall Plan and of Cold War ‘containment,’ wrote that if we wanted to “preserve a moral departure point,” we could not allow the means, however noble the ends, of ‘more Dresdens.’

   I’ve been haunted not only by Dresden, a firebombing in which some 40,000 civilians were incinerated, but by the hideous firebombings and firestorms of the great wooden cities of Japan before Hiroshima (150,000 civilians dead) and Nagasaki (80,000 civilians dead).

“On March 10 1945, the US abandoned the last rules of warfare against civilians when 334 B-29's dropped close to half a million incendiary bombs on sleeping Tokyo.  
  “The aim was to cause maximum carnage in an overcrowded city of flimsy wooden buildings; an estimated 100,000 people were 'scorched, boiled and baked to death,' in the words of the attack's architect, General Curtis LeMay. It was then the single largest mass killing of World War II, dwarfing even the destruction of the German city of Dresden on Feb. 13, 1945.  . . . Even the city's rivers were no escape from the firestorm: the jellied petroleum that filled the bombs, a prototype of the napalm that laid waste to much of Vietnam two decades later, stuck to everything and turned water into fire. … ‘Canals boiled, metal melted, and buildings and human beings burst spontaneously into flames,’ wrote John Dower in War Without Mercy. People who dived into rivers and canals for relief were boiled to death in the intense heat. . . . The bombing incinerated over 15 kilometers of central Tokyo, left over a million homeless and opened the curtain on an orgy of destruction in the final months of the Pacific War that included dozens of similar raids on Japanese cities and culminated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. When the droning of bombers finally stopped on August 15, 1945, nearly 70 cities had been reduced to rubble and well over half a million people, mostly civilians, were dead. LeMay reportedly said: “If we had lost the war, we would have been tried as war criminals.”  [David McNeill, Japan Focus.] 66 other Japanese wooden cities the size of Houston and Baltimore and Chattanooga and Chicago were firestormed.

     Anyhow, the idea that will make us human as last is the grokking that you can not separate ends and means. Mr. Suskind mention a phrase from the Hebrew Bible: “Justice. Justice. This you must pursue.” One justice for the ends. One justice for the means. Suskind continued, “If you forget about the conflict of ends and means, you’ve missed it.”

  In their no doubt zealous desire to “protect the American people,” our leaders have spent the precious reputation of a country which tries to be better. (Now this is an illusion. I was certainly never taught in school here in USA about the M69 napalm firestorms in 67 of Japan’s wood, straw and paper cities.) How ever faux, the world saw us as somehow trying to be just. Now our Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and our general hysteria and grotesque hubris have made us distrusted and disgusting. It’s all about means and ends. Your ends can not be nobler than your means were. Amnesia and/or rationalization can blur the memory, but we must fight for means that, if not, forlornly, serene, are at least not vile.



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7 Earth . Caban . Earthquake. Heron . East . tzolkin 135 07.03.06 mon

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the education-obsessed world begins today with you ..

.. let’s spend the $820,000 per minute Military Budget on education instead


7 thoughts on “The End of Monstrous Means

  1. It is interesting. You are only a war criminal if you lose the war. I do remember that William Calley was tried for war crimes by his own country and certainly enlisted troops are being tried for “war crimes” in Iraq, but I don't know of any instances where the people making the policy or the big decisions have been convicted of war crimes by the “winning” or surviving side in a war.
    Interestingly Curtis Lemay ran for vice president a generation later as George Wallace's running mate in 1968.

  2. I don't know why I never made the George Wallace vp connection before. Ole ScorchedBoiledBaked LeMay — what a species.
    The bigger & higher up El Ladder a hideous-policy person you are, the bigger and more celebrity-ridden your funeral is.
    You wanna lead? Be willing to kill. Somehow if you do death + mutilation + torture on big enough a scale, you're glorified rather than vilified. Please give me the nice serial killer who only managed 5-10 mutilatees.

  3. As with most adolescents, America shifts and shivers behind a grandiose facade. The whole world will be happier and saner when we do some national soul-searching and become suitably humble.
    The meek haven't inherited the Earth yet. (But at least they won't have to pay an estate tax.)

  4. The trick is to stay engaged and grounded at the same time. It's easy enough to be detached and grounded. The temptation is to be engaged with rage. Tho rage is a rational response in these times made perilous by hubris and gigagreed, it ain't necessarily the most useful fount of energy.
    The alchemy of rage to courage perhaps needs to be tattooed/branded on the forefront of our thoughts/feelings. Very tricky indeed. They want our aversion to rage to prevent us from robust participation.

  5. A friend of mine said, “I killed a young man just like me, hopped up on the heroin of heroism and the poppers of patriotism, a death junkie. But when his blood ran out into the sand, his hour glass smashed, I was responsible for all his hours, all the hours I had and he hadn't — to live them for peace and for the little life. Because if I'd taken the lead, that's what I would have required of him.”
    So are we not responsible for all the lives we're losing because of implacable pride? To live them for peace and for the little life?

  6. Mr.POgblog,
    I was driving home yesterday and the car in front of me had a homemade bumper sticker.
    800,000/minute 2,000/second in Iraq.
    not sure about the math, but I took it as a lucid dreaming sort of sign.

  7. snopes, the little life indeed. If we all grokked the little life, I doubt we'd bear to kill, directly or by proxy. Thank your friend for letting you share his heart-wrenching thoughts.
    cl, It is a sign, a sign, for sure. It's actually more like $3333 per second in Iraq, but if the meme (idea virus) can get into the zeitgeist, hurray hurray. I hope you pulled along side this excellent citizen and waved and grinned with urgent fellow-feeling!

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