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.

Two Sources of Warmongering in the United States

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Bombs

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

It is almost impossible to halt any rush to war in the United States. One reason is the power of the military-industrial complex, but there are other key factors involved in warmongering. A major factor is the pragmatic alliance between the “mainstreams” of both the Left and the Right. Members of both these classes support a warfare state–sometimes for similar reasons, and at other times for different reasons. The result is the same–the United States gets involved in yet another war. Neoconservatives have taken over the Republican Party, with Ron Paul being a rare holdout. Neocons have an almost pathological desire to spread “democracy” throughout the world, by force if necessary. “Democracy” becomes a substitute religion that, like religion in the past, must be imposed on people for their own good. Those who disagree will feel the brunt of American missiles and bombs, especially if the country is an easy target. Iraq, for example, was weak, its economy and military capacity devastated by years of U. N. sanctions and bombing. Although American occupation has not been peaceful, with over 4000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, Neocons believe that the price is “worth it” in order to produce a democratic Iraq out of a tribal culture that lacks a tradition of democracy. Supposedly a democratization of the Middle East and of Central Asia will help keep the region safe–but at times Neocons seem more concerned with keeping the region safe for Israel than with the national security of Israel than with the national security of the United States. But forced democratization in nations lacking a tradition of democracy will ultimately make the world more dangerous. The threat of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over the government of Egypt is real. Hamas won on the West Bank, although they are now working with the Palestinian Authority. Do we know that Libya post-Khadaffi would be better off than Libya Khadaffi? We do not–what if a Muslim Brotherhood-like group ended up ruling Libya? What if Libya became open to Al Qaida establishing a base of operations in Libya? Would promoting “democracy by force” really create a safer Middle East? Most likely, such an action creates a more dangerous Middle East and kills hundreds, if not thousands, of people. In the tribal culture found in many Middle Eastern countries, this can produce thousands of suicide bombers bent on revenge.

The worst warmongers are, all too often, Evangelical Christians who are part of the religious right. Many are premillenialists who allow their tainted theology to determine their reaction to Middle Eastern affairs. They strongly support Israel and long for war against the enemies of Israel. I have been called “dark” for my opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–by a priest. Almost every conservative Evangelical I’ve known was hell-bent on invading Iraq. They would have been disappointed if the United States had not moved in and fought these nations. Some of them are absolutely bloodthirsty, wanting to “nuke” any country that “gets in America’s way.” I do not believe that Jesus would support such attitudes–certainly not the eagerness to go to war. This “God and country” Christianity is dangerous, reminding me of the movements by German churches in the 1930s to accommodate Nazi ideology. Every decision of the nation-state to go to war is supported, even if there are no good grounds for war. These “Christians” should be ashamed of themselves.

The Left is just as guilty of warmongering. The missionary-like zeal of Wilsonianism has long infected the left with the desire to “spread democracy” and to “nation-build.” Mrs. Clinton is an example of that kind of liberal warmongering ideology. Pro war Democrats outnumber anti-war Democrats in both houses of Congress. The only real debate was over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, not whether to fight them in the first place. Mr. Obama, sadly, has bought into the Wilsonian Democratic point of view–with the president and the majority of representatives and senators in both parties supporting the warfare state, the United States becomes more guilty of shedding blood and having the blood of its young people shed in war.

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have opposed warmongering, as has Walter Jones of Tennessee. Paul and Jones are men of the right; Kuchinich is part of the old antiwar left. It will take such a coalition to overcome the combined power of Neocons, the Religious Right, and the Wilsonian Leftists in their path to war. The debt crisis may slow the drive for wars since wars are expensive. If Conservatives would behave as true conservatives; if the antiwar Left works together with them; and if traditional Christians would really follow the “Prince of Peace,” Congress would have no desire to expand the United States’ role in any of the current wars raging in the world. Changing people is difficult. Sadly, so is killing people. This needs to change.