Gratitude Attitude?

April 26th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Austro-Athenian Empire.

aftermath of Dresden bombing

Here’s my letter (needless to say, not published) to Dear Abby from a few weeks ago.

Dear Abby:

I couldn’t disagree more with “Proud Mom in Overland Park,” and with your reply to her.

The idea that we owe “gratitude” to members of the armed forces is baffling. The U.S. military travels all over the world, acting in our name, shooting and bombing innocent people who have never posed any threat to us.

How is this of any benefit to the American people? If anything, it makes us less safe, by fueling violent resentment around the world.

No, I don’t think members of the armed forces should be “cursed and reviled” either. They’re mostly victims, who’ve been tragically deceived by government propaganda.

I used to be a strong supporter of U.S. troops and U.S. military action myself. Then I gradually started to learn more and more about what the military actually does and how little it adheres to its supposed mission of defending American liberty.

I urge you to educate yourself and your readers on the actual causes and effects of U.S. foreign policy; two good places to start are Jonathan Kwitny’s Endless Enemies and Chalmers Johnson’s Blowback.

UNGRATEFUL IN ALABAMA

Roderick T. Long

[Read the original at Austro-Athenian Empire (2011-04-26)...]

Gratitude Attitude?

April 26th, 2011

This is a syndicated post, originally from Austro-Athenian Empire.

aftermath of Dresden bombing

Here’s my letter (needless to say, not published) to Dear Abby from a few weeks ago.

Dear Abby:

I couldn’t disagree more with “Proud Mom in Overland Park,” and with your reply to her.

The idea that we owe “gratitude” to members of the armed forces is baffling. The U.S. military travels all over the world, acting in our name, shooting and bombing innocent people who have never posed any threat to us.

How is this of any benefit to the American people? If anything, it makes us less safe, by fueling violent resentment around the world.

No, I don’t think members of the armed forces should be “cursed and reviled” either. They’re mostly victims, who’ve been tragically deceived by government propaganda.

I used to be a strong supporter of U.S. troops and U.S. military action myself. Then I gradually started to learn more and more about what the military actually does and how little it adheres to its supposed mission of defending American liberty.

I urge you to educate yourself and your readers on the actual causes and effects of U.S. foreign policy; two good places to start are Jonathan Kwitny’s Endless Enemies and Chalmers Johnson’s Blowback.

UNGRATEFUL IN ALABAMA

Roderick T. Long

[Read the original at Austro-Athenian Empire ()...]

Fun With Mommy

May 31st, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from Austro-Athenian Empire.

Last night I watched, on and off, most of a 1928 John Ford silent movie called Four Sons. It wasn’t a great movie (it’s gaggingly sentimental, for one thing), but it was surprisingly anti-war and anti-government for a Memorial Day movie.

Four Sons (well, two of them)

It’s about an elderly Bavarian woman whose four sons all go off to fight in World War I, three on the German side and one, who has emigrated to America, on the American side. The three who fight for Germany are all killed one after another (the third dying in the arms of the fourth), but despite this the mother is bullied and treated as a pariah by the local military authorities (played with entertaining villainy) because the fourth son is a “traitor.”

After the war her only surviving son invites her to come live with him in America, but the u.s. immigration authorities refuse to let her in because the bereaved and traumatised woman can’t pass the literacy test.

The ending doesn’t make much sense – panicked and bewildered, she wanders away from Ellis Island and onto the streets of Manhattan (how she “wanders” across New York Harbor is never explained, unless she is even more saintly than she appears), and when a policeman learns her story he implausibly delivers her to her son rather than back to Ellis Island; cue happy-ish ending.

The German military brass are portrayed as treating civilians with contempt and taking petty revenge on them for tiny slights; the American authorities seem nicer, but try to keep the woman from her surviving son anyway, explaining that they’re just following orders. The war is portrayed as utterly pointless. So, all in all, not a bad Memorial Day movie.

[Read the original at Austro-Athenian Empire (2010-05-31)...]

The Atrocity of Hope, Part 7: Our Ignoble Laureate

December 11th, 2009

This is a syndicated post, originally from Austro-Athenian Empire.

So our President Incarnate, his hands dripping (metaphorically – I’m sure he washes them regularly) with the blood of Pakistani and Afghan children, along with shredded bits of the principles of Nuremberg, jets off to Norway to accept a prize that is supposed to be awarded only to those who have worked for “the abolition or reduction of standing armies.”

Obushma

There, having given Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King a patronisingly dismissive pat on the head, he adds: “But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation [Note: clearly he must have taken some secret version of the oath of office, because that’s not what the public one says], I cannot be guided by their examples alone.” And then he has the effrontery to propound a bizarro version of history in which, “for more than six decades,” the united states has “brought stability,” “helped underwrite global security,” “enabled democracy to take hold,” and “promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea.” (I suppose this would be an example of the u.s. promoting peace and prosperity in Korea.)

And as if all that weren’t audacity enough, he has the nerve to tell an audience of Scandinavians that “a non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies.”

That’s right: the president of the country that turned away Jews who were attempting to escape the Holocaust belittles the accomplishments of the people who actually saved their Jews from Hitler’s goons through the use of nonviolent resistance. As Bryan Caplan reminds us:

Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch resistance to Nazism from 1940 to 1945 was pronounced and fairly successful. In Norway, for example, teachers refused to promote fascism in the schools. For this, the Nazis imprisoned a thousand teachers. But, the remaining teachers stood firm, giving anti-fascist instruction to children and teaching in their homes. This policy made the pro-fascist Quisling government so unpopular that it eventually released all of the imprisoned teachers and dropped its attempt to dominate the schools. … In Copenhagen, Danes used a general strike to liberalize martial law. …

But, surely the most amazing but widely neglected case of nonviolent resistance against Nazi Germany was the protection of Jews and other persecuted minorities from deportation, imprisonment, and murder. … Gene Sharp shows how the nations which nonviolently resisted National Socialist racial persecutions saved almost all of their Jews, while Jews in other Nazi-controlled nations were vastly more likely to be placed in concentration camps and killed. The effort to arrest Norway’s seventeen hundred Jews sparked internal resistance and protest resignations; most of the Norwegian Jews fled to Sweden. … When Himmler tried to crack down on Danish Jews, the Danes thwarted his efforts. Not only did the Danish government and people resist – through bureaucratic slowdowns and noncooperation – but, surprisingly, the German commander in Denmark also refused to help organize Jewish deportations. This prompted Himmler to import special troops to arrest Jews. But, in the end almost all Danish Jews escaped unharmed. …

The omnipresent pattern … is that totalitarian governments are not omnipotent. They need the cooperation of the ruled to exert their will. If a people denies cooperation, even a government as vicious as Hitler’s, bound by few moral constraints, might be unable to get what it wants.
(The Literature of Nonviolent Resistance and Civilian-Based Defense)

Then after collecting his prize and insulting the givers, Obama jets away again, snubbing the traditional ceremonies. Note to Scandinavia: don’t give our president any more prizes. Really. You don’t need to stay in this abusive relationship.

[Read the original at Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-12-11)...]

Non-Attack of the 120,000-Foot Man

August 8th, 2009

This is a syndicated post, originally from Austro-Athenian Empire.

Today on LRC, Laurence Vance quotes the following passage from Vicesimus Knox’s 1800 essay “On the Folly and Wickedness of War”:

The calamities attendant on a state of war seem to have prevented the mind of man from viewing it in the light of an absurdity, and an object of ridicule as well as pity. But if we could suppose a superior Being capable of beholding us, miserable mortals, without compassion, there is, I think, very little doubt but the variety of military manœuvres and formalities, the pride, pomp, and circumstance of war, and all the ingenious contrivances for the glorious purposes of mutual destruction, which seem to constitute the business of many whole kingdoms, would furnish him with an entertainment like that which is received by us from the exhibition of a farce or puppet-show. …

Knox and Voltaire

Knox and Voltaire

The causes of war are for the most part such as must disgrace an animal pretending to rationality. Two poor mortals take offence at each other, without any reason, or with the very bad one of wishing for an opportunity of aggrandizing themselves, by making reciprocal depredations. The creatures of the court, and the leading men of the nation, who are usually under the influence of the court, resolve (for it is their interest) to support their royal master, and are never at a loss to invent some colourable pretence for engaging the nation in the horrors of war. Taxes of the most burthensome kind are levied, soldiers are collected so as to leave a paucity of husbandmen, reviews and encampments succeed, and at last a hundred thousand men meet on a plain, and coolly shed each others blood, without the smallest personal animosity, or the shadow of a provocation. The kings, in the mean time, and the grandees, who have employed these poor innocent victims to shoot bullets at each other’s heads, remain quietly at home, and amuse themselves, in the intervals of balls, hunting schemes, and pleasures of every species, with reading at the fire side, over a cup of chocolate, the dispatches from the army, and the news in the Extraordinary Gazette.

(Read the rest.)

I can’t help wondering whether Knox’s idea of viewing petty human warfare from a superior cosmic standpoint might have been inspired by Voltaire’s 1752 novella Micromégas, in which a 120,000-foot giant from outer space comes to Earth and learns from a friendly philosopher what all the anthill scurrying at his feet is about:

“[A]t this very moment there are 100,000 fools of our species who wear hats, slaying 100,000 fellow creatures who wear turbans, or being massacred by them, and over almost all of Earth such practices have been going on from time immemorial.”

The Sirian shuddered, and asked what could cause such horrible quarrels between those miserable little creatures.

Micromegas“The dispute concerns a lump of clay,” said the philosopher, “no bigger than your heel. Not that a single one of those millions of men who get their throats cut has the slightest interest in this clod of earth. The only point in question is whether it shall belong to a certain man who is called Sultan, or another who, I know not why, is called Cæsar. Neither has seen, or is ever likely to see, the little corner of ground which is the bone of contention; and hardly one of those animals, who are cutting each other’s throats has ever seen the animal for whom they fight so desperately.”

“Ah! wretched creatures!” exclaimed the Sirian with indignation; “Can anyone imagine such frantic ferocity! I should like to take two or three steps, and stamp upon the whole swarm of these ridiculous assassins.”

“No need,” answered the philosopher; “they are working hard enough to destroy themselves. I assure you, at the end of 10 years, not a hundredth part of those wretches will be left; even if they had never drawn the sword, famine, fatigue, or intemperance will sweep them almost all away. Besides, it is not they who deserve punishment, but rather those armchair barbarians, who from the privacy of their cabinets, and during the process of digestion, command the massacre of a million men, and afterward ordain a solemn thanksgiving to God.”

[Read the original at Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-08-08)...]