Human loss and “humanity” loss ~ they both countSandy Cook – 3/25/07 ~ Part 3 of 3 parts
In the first two parts we discussed the quantifiable losses in the war, open and hidden.In this final part we examine the qualitative costs of the war to all of us.
Beyond the “Human” cost of war is the broader “Humanity” cost of war. Those costs, tangible or intangible, that affect our way of life, our relationships with each other, and our place in the world.
We are losing the strongest elements of our history.
· Our American republic is being replaced by a moneyed aristocracy.
· The doctrine of separation of powers is being replaced by a “unitary executive” that brooks no checks or balances.
· The fundamental doctrine of habeas corpus is being replaced by “secret rendition.”
· The Constitutional provision that treaties are the law of the land is being replaced by the view that they are “quaint.”
· Thus, the Geneva and Hague conventions are now being replaced with “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
· The United Nations which we started and which we need is being replaced by a policy of “full spectrum dominance.”
Civilian control of an apolitical military is being replaced by militaristic civilian leadership of a politicized military.
Defense as a foreign policy imperative is being replaced by preventive war
Shared sacrifice has been replaced by shared greed and shared entertainment.
Space neutrality is being replaced by armed space weapons.
These are frightening losses, nor do I believe that the list is in any way complete. Mischief is afoot and more losses occur almost every day. Our founders believed that sovereignty rested with the people, and that a representative democracy was the practical way to exercise that sovereignty. They believed that the sovereign people’s representatives were first in the hierarchy of Government, thus their position in Article I. They knew that the representatives would need someone to run the place day-by-day, but not a king, thus the President with defined powers in Article II. And, they knew that no one could be trusted who did not have to submit his actions to review, and that the people needed protection from the powerful, thus the independent courts in Article III. They left us a clear message – let each part keep watch over the other parts – oversight, as we would call it today – and it has all but disappeared.
The three things our founders spent the most time cautioning each other on were that: treaties honored were the key to the new nation’s place in the world; massively inherited wealth would lead to a new aristocracy; and, a standing Army would present the temptation to use it.
What can I say about Geneva, The Hague and the use of torture? It appalls me as an American and as a soldier that torture is not only permitted, but in some circles it is lauded. This is a monumental loss for America from which we may never recover.
We built the United Nations, then we undermined it, and now we excoriate it. What we forget is that we need it.
In my experience we have had the least “militaristic” military in the developed world. “Militarism” in a republic most often comes from the power-mad civilian controllers, and they use the military to implement it. It is usually not the generals who want war, but the politicians.
George Marshall, general and statesman, taught us that in a republic there was a “ military ethic”, and that was, “A hatred of war and an avoidance of politics”. That view may be lost.
Surprising to some, “preemptive war” is a well-established principle in international law. Had the Polish Cavalry charged across the German border on 31 August 1939, they would have been conducting preemptive war in the face of an overwhelming and looming threat – a threat that manifested itself on 1 September when the Germans invaded. What is illegal is “preventive war.” Preventive war is the product of a policy best expressed by the Romans after their defeat by the Carthaginians early in the second Punic War, when they announced that no nation or tribe would ever be allowed to compete with Rome for supremacy. Because of that policy, the universal hatred of all people for Rome eventually brought it down. Our current government, unwilling to study history, has adopted the same policy for the United States. Calling “preventive war” “preemptive war” doesn’t change it’s nature any more than my calling you a genius or an idiot makes you one. The fact remains that “preventive war” is illegal.
Sadly, the idea of shared sacrifice has disappeared. We now believe that just thinking about the war, or ranting about it, or grieving over it is somehow sharing. I won’t remark on yellow ribbons other than to say that I never knew that patriotism and brotherhood sold for $2.95.
We are losing the present.
Nothing works better in recruiting opposition, particularly in the Middle East, than kicking down front doors and shaming the head of the family. It is almost as good at recruiting as the second best thing that we do which is to kill the innocent and call it “collateral damage.” We have destabilized the Middle East.
We have lost a sense of fiscal responsibility to our nation and to each other. We have a rigged economy based on the defense industry and foreign borrowing, that favors those who live on unearned income over those who work for a living.
We are losing a free and independent press. We are losing our right to privacy. We are equal before the courts only if we can afford high-ticket representation.
The opportunity costs are staggering. Public education, infrastructure repair, environmental conservation, research in alternative fuels, medical research, libraries, aid to the poor and indigent, and on, and on. Other present losses include 60,000 new military divorces, thousands of lost jobs and businesses, and increased industrial and political corruption.
We are losing the meaning of fundamental concepts such as truth, justice, democracy. In fact, it is our hypocrisy that taints the message of democracy.
The possible losses for the future are almost too frightening and too sad to contemplate.
The loss of manufacturing capability has weakened us strategically. The good “surge” of industrial output that let us win World War II could not be generated today. We would have to conquer or at least negotiate with other countries to regain the manufacturing capability that we have given away.
We are in danger of establishing for all time a government of authoritarian rule, with its associated destruction of civil rights. Along with that may well go our academic and religious freedoms, and freedom to travel.
We can expect increased world and national poverty as “corporatism” (Mussolini’s term for fascism) takes over.
Global warming approaches the tipping point from which mankind may not recover, and because of which world health may crash as tropical diseases invade temperate zones.
We are destroying trust among nations, and engendering international contempt for the rule of law. We are embarking on a period of permanent war – a bellum Americanum – with its accompanying perpetual arms race.
The dollar is sliding, and the international debt is climbing and we are headed for a financial meltdown.
It is hard to admit that I may well be leaving a world to my eleven grandchildren that is worse than the world my father gave me.
The remaining question of course is: did these young Americans in Iraq die in vain? Knowing that I will be attacked by some for saying it, yet I must say that the answer is “YES!”
Those who defend this war would have us believe that they only die in vain if we fail to send more to die after them, and if we do not achieve “Victory” – in whatever definition of “Victory” is in favor today. The President said in a White House news release in October of last year that, “"[r]etreating from Iraq would dishonor the men and women who have given their lives in that country, and mean their sacrifice has been in vain." I say rather that they can only die in vain if they are SENT in vain. Our history and even our political rhetoric supports that definition. And for those serving in Iraq, they have been sent in vain. Because of that, I believe that we can only honor those who have died by not letting their comrades also die. I am confident that that is what those who have died would want.
We have been warned.
"...There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. ... Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence...”
Daniel Webster: June 1, 1837
"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become victims of the darkness.”
Justice William O. Douglas
Recently in The Guardian Rebecca Solnit gave us all something to ponder. Ask yourself where you sit on this simple scale.
“There is resistance. But if it were enough, the crimes would have stopped, the war would have ended. When it does and they do, some will have been heroes, some will have been honorable but moderate, in times that did not call for moderation, and some will have consented, through inaction, to crimes against humanity.”
Rebecca Solnit: 03/14/07
If you are not yet a hero, begin working on it today.