Thursday, June 19, 2008

Brothers in Arms

Okay, so we're at war.

What else is new.

And if by "we" you mean all of humanity, then the war has been going on for uncountable generations, without a break, even for a single day, like, ever.

But unless you take the view that war is a necessary check on population growth (making you both an extremely cold motherfucker, and an idiot who has never heard of condoms) then this perpetual war of all of ours is just too big and too sickening to wrap our heads around. So we usually only focus on those chunks of war which hit closest to home. Okay... so... Iraq.

At this point, there ain't a lot of popular support anywhere in the world (including here in America) for American involvement in Iraq. At first, there were plenty of Americans who thought it was a good idea, or at least, allowed themselves to be convinced (by lie after lie after Goebbels-level lie).

But now, more than five years later, far fewer Americans are still into it.

Of course, there are those who still believe. How this is possible is quite mysterious and I suspect mental retardation might play a role. Or the consumption of special CIA-developed Kool-Aid. Or both. Regardless. The situation is what it is. We have volunteer soldiers (all lower-class kids) and professional mercenaries (all getting rich) over in an oil-rich country, killing people we've labeled "insurgents" and "terrorists" many of whom are backed by Iran apparently.

My parents are of both the Jewish persuasion and of that generation who were impressionable children during The Holocaust-- just old enough to be highly aware and deeply frightened by it (an experience that has left them forever uneasy regarding all Germans and many other non-Jews, notably Arabs and anyone practicing Islam). Like many people, my folks view the Iraq situation as part of a larger, ongoing conflict with Islamic fanatic terrorists. They also view everything that happens in that whole region of the world, through the "how will it affect Israel?" lens. They would never live in Israel, nor would they even want me ever to visit Israel, but on some level they consider it their country. They will vote for a President of the United States based solely on who they think will help defend Israel the most, even if that means voting for McCain, who, if elected, could lead to the end of civilization (which -- Mom and Dad -- includes Israel.)

I think my folks are saddened by loss of life generally, but I also think that when push comes to shove, they'd say "better them than us." After all, no matter what you can say about us, at least we don't train our children to be suicide bombers, killing innocent civilians in public places for no reason. Therefore, we are morally superior to them and our culture is worthy of being preserved while theirs is not.

But are we really so different from them?

Peter Ustinov famously pointed out that terrorism is war waged by the poor, and war is terrorism committed by the wealthy. Obviously, right. Poor people, with barely any food to eat, or clean drinking water, lack the means to raise a uniformed fighting force. But that doesn't stop them from wanting to defend their land, their homes, etc. And if there happens to be a fuckload of oil underneath their land, and if they could just manage to get rid of the foreign meddlers, then they might not have to be so poor anymore. But in the meantime, their only warlike options are pretty meager and to get the most bang for their dinar, they've got to take an approach which might seem downright cowardly and underhanded to us. After all, what can an innocent civilian possibly do against a teenager suddenly exploding at the next table?

Our methods are far more civilized. We arrange for bombs to fall out of the sky. We usually hit strategic targets. Every time we kill innocent civilians, it is unintentional. Of course, it couldn't possibly seem unintentional to the people on the ground. Just because the explosion comes from above instead of the side, does way more damage and isn't delivered in person, doesn't mean it's more morally acceptable. I'm sure we've killed many more innocent people just in the last 5 years than the whole of "terrorism" has killed from 1950 to now. And that includes the 9/11 death toll.

Still, it's gotta be a truly sick culture that would actually train their children to go off to certain death just to strike at a few coffee drinkers or bus riders. Let's do a little head to head comparison...

Average suicide bombing terrorists...
- probably take their religion very seriously
- are probably from the lower economic classes
- have volunteered for service but are being exploited by more powerful higher-ups
- have been taught to believe they are acting for the greater good
- are willing to die for their cause, which they believe is just
- face certain death
- target anyone including civilians
- are taught to believe that in death, they will be honored by their people and rewarded in the afterlife

Average American soldiers...
- probably take their religion seriously
- are usually from the lower economic classes
- have volunteered for service but are being exploited by more powerful higher-ups
- have been taught to believe they are acting for the greater good
- are willing to die for their cause, which they believe is just
- face varying likelihood of death and severe injury
- target combatants intentionally and hit civilians unavoidably
- aren't officially taught to believe anything specific about what happens after death (to my knowledge)

So the main difference is that they are both more prepared for, and much more likely to experience, their own death.

As far as I'm concerned, our guys are just as misled and exploited as theirs, if not more so. We're just so much better equipped that even when we try not to be, we're still way more lethal to innocent bystanders than they are, including those times when they only target civilians.

Most other differences are just stylistic. Our leaders use religion and honor and lies about the greater good just like their leaders do. And our young people from lower-class communities who don't see many options for their futures, can be convinced to go do the bidding of some truly wicked people. Just like theirs. Most of ours (who don't get continually "stop-lossed") come back. Most of theirs don't.

Is it possible that people are actually the same everywhere? Holy shit who knew.

That means that the real enemy of humanity might not be the other misled poor people around the world, but rather the uppermost elite who call the shots both at home and abroad. They're the ones who tell all the lies. They're the ones who foment the hostilities. They're the ones who continually fan the flames and, at least here in America, they also happen to be getting richer and richer off of all of it. It's not a clash of cultures after all. Turns out, the only real war is the class war, and the rich folks are kicking all our asses! Our hard-earned money is being sucked up by the BILLIONS as taxes, and instead of providing for our general well-being, that crazy Iraq-machine funnels it directly into the laps of a few rich guys running companies like Halliburton. And the well-meaning poor kids keep dying and getting their limbs blown off. Woo hoo!

But the terrorists must be stopped because they hate us for our freedoms cha cha cha.

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