American Militarism and Support of Atrocities

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No one can deny that it is heroic to be willing to lay down one’s life for others. That is what Memorial Day should be about, and often, it is. However, I see more and more evidence that it is becoming a celebration of militarism and war itself as well as a justification for atrocities in war as long as Americans commit those atrocities. One example is the zeal of people who condemn President Obama for apologizing to the Japanese for the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now I am not a fan of Mr. Obama overall, but in this case he did the right thing.

Japan was on the brink of surrender by July 1945. A few hardliners in the Japanese government were holding on, but many American officers, including Generals Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Lemay (!) opposed the use of the atomic bomb, believing that an American naval blockade and bombardment would convince those in the government suing for peace to capitulate by the end of 1945. The bombs themselves were obviously devastating–the Hiroshima bomb was designed as a 20 kiloton bomb; it was a partial dud, producing only 10 kilotons of explosive power, yet killing 80,000 people. The bomb at Nagasaki was not a dud, but it missed its target; it struck a surrounding city and some suburbs, yet still killed 60,000 people. If it had hit its target head-on, the death toll would have been higher. Nagasaki and the surrounding area was the most Christian area of Japan, yet have any of the supporters of the atomic bomb seen photos of the churches destroyed by the bomb?

War against the civilian population in general is condemned by just war theory. Yet that has been a common American practice since Lincoln instituted it in the War between the States. Sherman’s path of pillage, rape, and death was the prelude of his genocide, with the help of one General Sheridan, of the Native Americans of the west and southwest. In the Philippines, U. S. policy included mass shootings of men, women, and children. In World War II, American saturation bombing in one Tokyo raid in March 1945 killed 100,000 people, and such raids occurred almost daily in other Japanese cities before the atomic bombs were dropped. The American occupation of Germany after World War II was no piece of cake, with about 1 million Germans who died in the year after the war’s conclusion.¬†While some deaths were due to starvation and deprivation that occurs after every war, the occupation itself was quite brutal. A veteran who was over there told of an incident in a bar in which a German woman was murdered by an American. The commanding officer said, “We came here to kill Germans, and we killed a German.” There were no attempts made to find the killer. While some deaths were due to starvation and deprivation that occurs after every war, the occupation itself was quite brutal (as opposed to the occupation of Japan, which MacArthur ran well).

In Vietnam, American troops engaged in torture, including wrapping wires around a man’s genitals and shocking them with electrical current. Murders of civilians were routine; Lt. Calley was not the only one who mowed down civilians. Yes, the conditions were difficult, yes, the VC and NV regulars were brutal, but modern warfare brings people, including Americans, to barbarism.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, torture was standard U. S. policy until Mr. Obama stopped its use by American troops.

“What about the enemy’s actions?” militarists ask. Yes, the enemy often could be brutal, especially the Japanese, North Koreans, Chinese (in the Korean War), and Vietnamese, and no one today would accuse ISIL of showing mercy. But that does not imply that the U. S. military is somehow justified in committing atrocities. Sometimes silly pseud0-“Patriots” claim what whatever American soldiers do is morally justified. The implication is strong that somehow American soldiers are beyond original sin, an obviously heretical belief.

There are those who argue for the “war is hell” theory, that “all is justified in love and war.” This puts warfare beyond the realm of morality and would justify doing literally anything to win. That position is pure evil. If war really is that way, then all war is wrong and all who participate in it are committing sin. I am not ready to go that far; there have been just wars in history (I would include the First Crusade as well as World War II). But for a war to be just, it must be fought according to the rules of military justice, or else both sides stoop to the same level.

Christians (especially Southern Baptists and other southern Christians) too often glorify war. That is an offence for which they should repent, for is opposed to love and contrary to God’s will.

I am glad we won World War II but regret many of the means used which were not only immoral in themselves, but militarily unnecessary. They lowered the bar for future wars.

To be fair, some soldiers regret it if they did something unjust in war. They often suffer PTSD in part because of this. Any sin can be forgiven if a person repents, and no matter how bad their actions were, they can be forgiven by God. The vast majority of soldiers did their duty bravely and did not commit atrocities in combat. Some stopped atrocities from continuing, as the brave American helicopter pilot who halted the My Lai massacre (and who, unfortunately, was mistreated and called a traitor by many Americans).

Being a warmonger and militarist is contrary to the Christian faith. Supporting anything the U.S. does in war, even if it is immoral, is contrary to the Christian faith. Those who claim Christian identity and are warmongers and supporters of atrocities need to reconsider their positions, repent, and pray for forgiveness.

40% of South Carolina Republican Voters are Stark Raving Mad

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English: Newt Gingrich

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I look at my fellow Southerners in South Carolina with a feeling of exacerbation. Newt Gingrich, a pseudo-conservative, a “big government conservative,” a supporter, along with the late Jack Kemp, of affirmative action, a warmonger, and a supporter of torture as U.S. policy, won the Republican primary. He seems to desire conflict with Iran every much as Mr. Santorum. While I appreciate his conciliatory tone tonight, he resembles George W. Bush too much on both foreign and domestic policy. Ron Paul, who has the only sensible policy on foreign policy, received only 13% of the vote–thank goodness for the 13% who see beyond the lust for war and an ignorant Premillenial theology that has led to an unbalanced support of Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Paul has opposed the arrogant Wilsonian triumphalism that Mr.Gingrich supports.How does Mr. Gingrich expect to balance the budget while expanding defense spending and pushing toward military conflict with Iran?

Mr. Gingrich said some good things in his acceptance speech about the Tenth Amendment–but this does not seem consistent with his policies earlier in his career. I have other questions: Does Mr. Gingrich support the free trade policy that has effectively destroyed American manufacturing? Does he really mean to appoint only strict constructionists to federal courts who will neither support the radical secularist agenda nor expand the power of the federal government over matters that should be reserved to the states? Is he willing to reconsider his position on torture? If American is as “exceptional” as he claims, surely he could support America being on the moral high ground by never participating in nor officially supporting waterboarding and other forms of torture? I doubt it,and unless I see evidence of a change of Mr. Gingrich’s positions on foreign policy and on torture, and if Mr. Gingrich wins the Republican nomination, I and other antiwar Republicans may have no moral option other than to vote for either the Libertarian or the Constitution Party candidate. The only votes that are wasted are those that violate one’s conscience. If Mr. Obama wins re-election as a result, so be it.

Republican Candidates and Waterboarding

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Official photo of Congresswoman Michele Bachma...

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Herman Cain speaking at a press conference to ...

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Although as a traditional conservative I cannot vote for Mr. Obama, I also cannot vote for Mr. Cain or Ms. Bachmann. I am voting for Ron Paul, and would be open to voting for Mr. Huntsman if he got the Republican nomination. I can swallow hard and vote for neoconservative warmongers such as Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum, but I will not vote for a candidate who supports waterboarding. Mr. Can and Ms. Bachmann explicitly said that they would reinstate waterboarding, which is, despite their denials, a form of torture. Mr. Perry hinted that he could support waterboarding, and that adds another reason I could not vote for him. Torture is objectively morally evil, and for candidates to claim Christian identity while supporting a crass utilitarianism that would countenance torture reveals their hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of their “Christian” supporters who also support waterboarding and other forms of torture. I am not so naive so as to believe that the United States has not used torture in the past, but torture has not been a part of official U. S. policy–at least it wasn’t until the administration of George W. Bush. Even Mr. Obama has only added window dressing in limiting torture, letting other countries do the dirty work. To support torture or to deny that waterboarding constitutes torture reveals a major character flaw that is incompatible with a person being president of the United States. Even if we could obtain actionable intelligence from waterboarding, which is doubtful to the point of being practically impossible, this would not morally justify the practice. Mr. Cain and Ms. Bachmann (and perhaps Mr. Perry) find themselves supporting an evil practice that strips human beings of their dignity, a dignity presupposed in the Geneva Conventions. If an open supporter of torture receives the Republican nomination, I will vote for a third party candidate. Critics of Mr. Obama might say that any Republican would be better than him, but a Republican who states that he or she would reinstate waterboarding would not be better than Mr. Obama.

The problem is that both major parties have been purchased by warmongers, to the point that critics of war and or torture such as Mr. Paul, receive limited air time in a lengthy debate. Mr. Paul only received ninety seconds of air time in last night’s debate. That is a travesty that reflects the extent to which the military-industrial complex has captured the U. S. media. The fact that so-called Christians criticize Mr. Paul for opposing torture in all forms and for opposing unnecessary wars reveals the so-called “Christian right” to be neither Christian nor truly right wing. The traditional right would neither have supported torture no engaging in unnecessary wars. The Cold War was the beginning of the fall of the right into warmongering. Afraid of Communist world domination, which could not have happened given the inevitable inefficiency of Communism, the American right supported the major U. S. military buildup of the 1950s. Southerners, who should know better after the War between the States, strongly supported this warmongering policy, as did the leaders of the Christian right in the 1970s and 80s. When¬† the U.S. engaged in torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and with the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, these same groups supported the U.S. practice of torture. There are a few people on both the right and on the left who oppose torture. They should work together to change U. S. policy to the point that it cannot engage in torture anywhere and at any time. If they fail, the United States will pay by losing support in the world community–and by losing its soul.

Private Manning’s Detention

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Private Bradley Manning is the solider who allegedly leaked documents to Wikileaks. Whether or not he is guilty of a crime, his present treatment at the hands of the United States government is reprehensible. I had hoped that Mr. Obama would have reversed the barbaric Bush administration policies authorizing torture. Torture is evil in itself whether it involves foreign nationals or American citizens, but it should be particularly disturbing to all Americans that a citizen of the United States would be treated in a barbaric fashion. Mr. Obama, unfortunately, has only given lip service to stopping torture by American law enforcement and military officials. In practice, his administration has been every bit as brutal as the Bush administration. One positive development is that there are a number of critics from all sides of the political spectrum who have opposed the brutal treatment of Private Manning; see the link at http://balkin.blogspot.com/2011/03/statement-on-private-mannings-detention.html. With sufficient public pressure, perhaps Mr. Obama can be moved to reverse this atrocious treatment of an American by his own government.