Sunday, September 05, 2004

Truth And War

Adam Gopnik wrote an article entitled The Big One in the August 23, 2004 issue of The New Yorker about the causes and rationalizations for World War I. This bloody war had many justifications on both sides and all seem now to agree that it was an irrational, useless war, and that the thousands who died, died in vain.

He mentions a seeming paradox while the war was being fought: the more men died, the more urgently and desperately those financing, controlling and parenting the soldiers had to find a cause for men to die for and to justify the deaths of those who had already perished.

The rationalizations abounded: A war to end all wars. A war to defend liberal freedoms against authoritarianism. A war to make the world safe for democracy. A war to defend our women and children from rape and murder.

It is significant that Gopnik chose to write about this phenomenon as it applied almost 90 years ago when everybody involved is dead. Only when every human actually affected is dead can we look at the truth: The war was irrational and useless. We apparently cannot look at the truth when the deaths are still fresh in our minds.

It appears that while affected humans still live, the justifications for the deaths must be seen as valid and worthy. Humans simply cannot face the awful truth that the deaths are in vain. Humans cannot accept the truth that some humans may have grossly lied provoked a war and caused the deaths for financial or ideological or false theological reasons.

This may account for the strange passions about Kerry, the Swift Boat Veterans and Kerry’s telling the truth about the Viet Nam War at the time. Even though the chief architect of the Viet Nam War, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara now admits the lies that lead to a useless war and useless deaths, many of those veterans still alive who were actually involved cannot accept this truth.

This phenomenon may help to explain the strange lack of curiosity about 9-11. Most people simply do not want to know why Norad was shut down, who made the profits on stock market puts on United and American Airlines, what caused untouched WTC 7 to fall 7 hours after the twin towers fell, or why Bush has classified as secret every possible detail about those who aided or caused the 9-11 tragedy. This lack of curiosity includes prominent Democrats Lee Hamilton and Richard Ben-Veniste, the surviving firemen in the firehouse adjacent to WTC, and those in the adjacent Episcopal Church who treated the burns of workers weeks after the towers fell. We simply cannot face the fact that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were, of necessity involved in allowing 9-11 to happen or actually causing 9-11 to happen. Most cannot face the fact that our leaders could have been that lying, malicious and evil in causing 3000 deaths. We must find another cause for the deaths. We cannot see the leaders that we chose acting for secret malicious reasons.

The same phenomenon may account for the fact that most people support the Iraq war, when the President and all those around him lied to get us into the war, and when no WMD have been found, and when the war is an obvious quagmire probably worse than Viet Nam. We are again fighting for “democracy,” “freedom,” “ overcoming dictators,” and we seek a just revenge against somebody, anybody. Alan Penney, an American Editor for a Korean media company recently wrote:
“…1000 soldiers have now been killed in Iraq and to think that they have died for something dishonorable is too much to bear for most. That’s understandable. Who wants to believe that their son died because of oil and war profiteers?”

Jan Lundberg, in Culture Change e-Letter on Thursday 09 September 2004 wrote: “To most people in the U.S., any change that would disturb dominant society's definition of reality is frightening. In a stark portrait of an energy-deprived economic future, we lose our cars, computers, refrigerators, convenience foods, unending plastic objects, and most of the rest of modern life's accoutrements. To most watchers of TV news, this is not a realistic vision but a needless scenario of "doom and gloom."

Paul Krugman in NYT on 9-07-04 reviewed a new book by Chris Hedges, a veteran war correspondent, entitled WAR IS A FORCE THAT GIVES US MEANING. Quoting Krugman quoting Hedges: “’Lurking beneath the surface of every society, including ours, is the passionate yearning for a nationalist cause that exalts us, the kind that war alone is able to deliver.’ When war psychology takes hold, the public believes, temporarily in a ‘mythic reality’ in which our nation is purely good, our enemies are purely evil, and anyone who is not our ally is our enemy…..This state of mind works greatly to the benefit of those in power….The point is that once war psychology takes hold, the public desperately wants to believe in its leadership, and ascribes heroic qualities to even the least deserving ruler.”

Joe Bageant in an article The Covert Kingdom tells us of the beliefs of millions of born again fundamentalist Christians who support Bush, the War in Iraq and all of Bush’s policies because they see it all as predicted in the Bible. Israel must be established and maintained. Then Israel must occupy the Middle East as the return of Jewish Biblical Lands. Anyone who opposes Sharon is thus a tool of Satan. The combat death of the sons and daughters of these fundamentalists is viewed as a “holy martyrdom” who died implementing Biblical predictions, and protecting this country’s Christian values. Jesus will soon return to earth, take all believers with him to heaven, and wipe out the rest of the human race, Muslims, Jews, and all non-believers. This is the Armageddon predicted in the Bible that is now being implemented. These Fundamentalists can hardly wait.

Paul Tillich, a respected philosopher and theologian, taught that all humans have a profound anxiety about death and fate, about the unknown abyss of nothingness that follows death, about meaninglessness, and about guilt. We also have an anxiety about doubt. We deal with this profound anxiety in many ways: with depression, with happy optimistic talk, with phony inadequate views of God, with denial, and sometimes with anger and aggression. He taught that we need the courage to face all of this, and to choose to live despite all of this. In other words we need Courage to Be despite this profound anxiety. (The title of one of his most famous books.) It may be that Tillich provides some insight as to why we cannot face the gruesome causes of multiple deaths at the time that they are occurring.

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