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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
932 days/2y6m18d left/1364
the education-obsessed world begins today with you ..
.. let’s spend the $820,000 per minute Military Budget on education instead