The more I juxtapose logical world opinion with the Bush administration’s actions in the war on terror, I realize one overwhelming theme: hypocrisy. No one in any of the branches of government runs a physical risk to themselves by entering a war with Iraq, and we can bet that none of their family members are at risk, either. That is, until the next “terrorist” attack. I put “terrorist” in quotes because its definition is subjective, and I myself used to be in the Marine Corps, part of the most powerful “terrorist” organization on the planet: the U.S. government. Of course, we never call our operations “terrorism” because every operation is considered legitimate to us. When found guilty by the World Court for violence in Nicaragua, we ignore the decision. Too bad the nations we hurt can’t just ignore what we do to them. When the planet condemns us for killing between 2,500-4,000 people in Panama, we’re too busy planning the next invasion of a country that can’t fight back.
I oppose this war as a U.S. citizen, a veteran, and a doctoral student in history. While my military experience is what first made me skeptical about our government’s motives in the developing world, it wasn’t until I went to college and began reading hundreds of books and thousands of articles that I was able to truly grasp the profundity of our leadership’s contempt for the freedoms they claim to protect. As a rule, we have worked hard to prevent the rise of democracy in the developing world, all the while claiming legitimacy as “the world’s police force” because of our so-called “democratic” values. The hypocrisy is astounding. When one investigates our complicity in death squads, torture, massacres, rape, and mass destruction, one realizes that freedom often threatens the current power structure in this country.
I used to consider those incidents as anomalistic in comparison to the “protection” we offered the planet at seemingly no charge. But then I joined the Marines, and I realized why I had believed in the government: they were experts in manipulation. Barely out of high school, the Corps broke us down and built us up in order to shape us into machines, willing to defend the ideals of the power elites in Washington and corporate America. Just look at the companies, which are funding political campaigns, and benefiting from war: weapons producers, technologies, food, clothing, munitions, oil, pharmaceuticals, etc U.S. interventions since WWII have not been done in the name of the world’s people (although that is always the claim), but for the preservation of concentrated power. The fact that they have been carried out against the tenets of international law (i.e. the rights of non-intervention and self-determination), in itself deflates their validity. If the U.S. government were held to the FBI’s official definition of terrorism (“the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”), their list of victims since WWII alone would include:
Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, Chile, Granada, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Zaire, Namibia, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Iran, South Africa, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Iraq, Cambodia, Libya, Israel, Palestine, China, Afghanistan, Sudan, Indonesia, East Timor, Turkey, Angola, and Somalia.
In boot camp, deceit and manipulation accompany the necessity to motivate troops to murder on command. You can’t take civilians from the street, give them machine guns, and expect them to kill without question in a democratic society; therefore people must be indoctrinated to do so. This fact alone should sound off alarms in our collective American brain. If the cause of war is justified, then why do we have to be put through boot camp? If you answer that we have to be trained in killing skills, well, then why is most of boot camp not focused on combat training? Why are privates shown videos of U.S. military massacres while playing Metallica in the background, thus causing us to scream with the joy of the killer instinct as brown bodies are obliterated? Why do privates answer every command with an enthusiastic, “kill!!” instead of, “yes, sir!!” like it is in the movies? Why do we sing cadences like these?:
“Throw some candy in the school yard, watch the children gather round. Load a belt in your M-60, mow them little bastards down!!” and “We’re gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn, gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn!!”
These chants are meant to motivate the troops; they enjoy it, salivate from it, and get off on it. If one repeats these hundreds of times, one eventually begins to accept them as paradigmatically valid.
The demonization of the enemy is crucial to wartime planners, and the above examples of motivation techniques are relevant to the present. Before carrying out a security exercise in Qatar, my unit went through Muslim “indoctrination” classes. The level of racism was unbelievable. Muslims were referred to as “Ahmed,” “towlheads,” “ragheads,” and “terrorists.” We were told that most Muslim males were homosexual, and that their hygiene was so primitive that we shouldn’t even shake their hands. The object was demonization through feminization and dehumanization, so as to make it easier for us to pull the trigger when ordered to. But Qatar is our ally, so imagine the language being used today in these indoctrination courses about Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Iraqi population has suffered countless U.S. supported atrocities over the past eleven years. Not only were between 100 and 200 thousand people killed in 1991, but the bombing has continued ever since then, and sanctions have led to the deaths of possibly 1 million people, in a nation of 17 million. Former UNSCOM execs assert that they destroyed 95-98 percent of Saddam’s weapons by 1998, and that a nuclear weapons capability is extremely unlikely due to their devastated economy. According to this morning’s New York Times, the U.S. reasons that Saddam’s gassing of his own people and his hatred of the U.S. are what warrant our harder stance toward Iraq in comparison to North Korea. While we pursue diplomacy with North Korea (which has admitted to having nukes), we prefer to invade Iraq, who we claim is only looking for nukes. Have we forgotten the 1994 Congressional report revealing that we supplied Saddam with biological and chemical weapons during the 1980s? Although U.S. casualties will be lower than that of Iraq, let’s not forget the danger we are placing squarely on the shoulders of U.S. troops, who have been indoctrinated as I was. Funny how the people who are least likely to go to war are the ones working the hardest to convince others to fight it for them.
CHRIS WHITE is an ex-Marine and current doctoral student in history at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org