I suspect that many Americans who outwardly support “their” government’s mass-murderous, illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq do so with a certain degree of ethical uncertainty.
They line up with the imperial Bush war-crime family only with real limits and ambivalence. In some cases their assent to the imperial state crimes in question are rooted in a fatalistic sense that the “war” on Iraq is a terrible operation we “have no choice” but to continue.
Many in this broad category are within some measure of reach for useful dialogue with people who are on the side of peace, democracy, and justice and an end to the occupation of Iraq.
But for some Americans of proto-fascist and messianic inclination, things are very different. For them, the criminal U.S. war and the American war crimes currently being carried out in the name of “freedom,” “peace,” and “democracy” in Iraq are part of God’s good and glorious plan to liberate the world from the “spiritually bankrupt” and “ignorant” forces of Islamic, secular, and Marxist evil (i.e. the Devil).
As an example, I have pasted in (a few paragraphs below) the angry, righteous, and (for some) reassuring words sent from the oldest pastor brother in the family of one highly effective soldier whose name was highlighted in a jingoistic Time Magazine article that I quoted and analyzed at some critical length in late November (see my article “Loves, Hates, Kills, and Dies,” Dissident Voice, 11/25/04). The Time piece gave a flattering (for some) account of how this soldier, named David, single-handedly killed a number of Iraqi “insurgents” in Fallujah. Rightly or wrongly, it portrayed David X [I will dispense with last names but have to keep the first name for reasons that will become apparent below] as something of a modern-day imperial warrior-prince, noting that he was ready to talk about the Renaissance and Eastern European politics between bouts of bloody (but apparently somewhat one-sided) combat with Iraqi “insurgents” (an interesting term to describe people defending their own nation and/or ethno-religious civilization from alien imperial invasion).
My article was not primarily about David X but about Time’s coverage of the war and the curious juxtaposition between the rugged macho killing portrayed in its war journalism and the soft, officially feminine consumerism displayed in its advertisements.
Nonetheless, my article elicited critical notes from David X’s family, including people who struck me as understandably concerned that David not be painted out as a criminal in “a war he did not declare.” American GIs, I was told, are simply trying to get themselves and their comrades out of Iraq alive and in one piece. I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that.
Thinking about this, I didn’t really get all that upset about being called “a traitor” and “a coward” by some of these note-writers. That is the normal Pavlovian charge that is leveled against antiwar activists.
Some of the note-writers softened when I clarified my position about who is really responsible for this war. They even seemed vaguely amenable when I explained that there are wars I would have fought in (primarily WWII and the Civil War [for the Union Army]), but not this and not Vietnam, and indeed not any other major US engagement that I could recall for that matter.
Then came the note forwarded to me from David’s oldest brother, “Pastor Dan,” whose comments denouncing me as an “ass” and a de facto Stalinist were prefaced by another brother’s (Bill X’s) comment that the note “states this family’s position and MORE IMPORTANTLY THE LORD’S BIBLICAL POSITION” [on the illegal racist OIL war for which David X has been ordered to risk his life, limb, and sanity in Iraq, that is, P.S.].
Before I paste in the note, I should ask European readers to sit down before I tell them that a third of the United States’ population holds evangelical Christian beliefs in the literal truths of Old Testament prophecy and doctrine and the superiority of God’s Law over merely human covenants like the US Constitution, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Charter. According to many of these fundamentalist Americans, Israel’s terrible violence against the Palestinians is good because it may lead to Armageddon and the Second Coming. The horrors of Middle Eastern war are welcomed by many of these folks as the prelude to the ascendancy of God’s will on earth --- an event that is given imaginative fictional portrayal in a wildly popular set of novels (the “Left Behind” series) penned by two creative American Evangelicals.
How much of the total fundamentalist-militarist war perspective “Pastor Dan” has swallowed I am not quite sure, but my guess would be that he’s rather far down the full evangelical war path, whose zealous spiritual point-walkers know that the readers and writers of journals like ZNet and Dissident Voice are hopeless “sinners” and “Philistines” -- people who probably need to be killed in order to be saved, like those dastardly sons of Mohammed who dare to defend themselves against the wise and benevolent crusaders from Christian America.
I should also brief readers (you’ll see why if you read on) about the Old Testament story of King David, whose bloody ways receive partial exoneration in “Pastor Dan’s” note.
In biblical history, David ruled Israel between 1010 and 970 B.C.E. As far I can tell, he came to influence after he impressed King Saul with his martial heroics, which included slaying a giant named Goliath. At some point, it appears, David got to take over the “sword, bow, garments, and girdle” of Saul’s son Jonathan. Endowed with Jonathan’s military hardware, the bible tells us, David was sent out by Saul to kill “the Philistines.”
He apparently did a good job of it. “When David was returned from slaughter of the Philistines,” the Old Testament’s script-writers tell us, “the woman came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing to meet King Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his tens thousands.”
This disparity in evident mass-homicidal capacity made Saul “very wroth” and “displeased.” He said “they have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands...what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David [warily, P.S.] from that day forward.”
Soon their followed some romantic intrigue. David the super-killer loved Michal, who was the daughter of Solomon the not-so-super killer. Michal loved David back. So they went and told Saul that they loved each other and wished to be be married. This “pleased” Saul but not for a good reason. It gave Saul a naughty idea on how to kill his younger rival. There was this little matter of a dowry. How would David, who came from a modest tax bracket, pay for Michal’s hand? Saul had his servants tell David that “The King desireth not any dowry but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.”
Saul didn’t think that David could pull (or cut) this (or these) off! He figured the Philistines would have a thing or two to say about the matter at hand and that the whole assignment would “make David fall at the hand of the Philistines.”
But David sure showed Saul. He “arose and went,” The Bible explains, “he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he [David] might be the King’s son-in-law.”
David got Michal. Things went even further downhill between and Saul, who even tried to get Jonathan to kill David. David became King after Saul died “and thus began the golden age of Israel.”
Later on, King David got into ---- and then out of ---- some more officially serious moral trouble when he spied a pretty woman in the act of bathing. He had this woman brought to him and they proceeded to conceive a child. The woman’s name was Bathsheba. Her husband was Uriah, “a loyal soldier to the Kingdom.” When attempts failed to make it appear that Uriah was the father of the child, David had Uriah killed by sending him into battle without military backup. David then took Bathsheba for his wife.
That was pretty bad, but “God forgave David,” a respectable American “Daily Bible Study” web site explains, because “David had repented” (how noble of him) and “for the sake of the assigned role that The Chosen People were given in God’s plan for salvation for all humans, all sinners.”
I learned from a different web-site that David “was an ancestor of Jesus Christ [even I already knew that, P.S.] and [here’s the part I didn’t know] the Royal Family of England are also descended from him. Queen Elizabeth II is of the House of David...Her throne in London will eventually be taken over by the Son of David, Jesus Christ the Messiah, when he returns to the earth in power and glory. WHAT A WONDERFUL FUTURE WE HAVE IN STORE WITH THE KINGDOM OF GOD RATHER THAN MAN-MADE GOVERNMENTS AND KINGDOMS WHICH DO LITTLE TO INCREASE THE STANDARDS OF LIVING FOR ALL MANKIND.”
Interesting, yes, that line about the standards of living? I guess the authors of that formulation are not likely to examine the roles that corporate globalization and neoliberalism have played in undercutting governments’ ability to serve the common good.
Here, finally (sorry for taking so long to get here) is the advertised note from “Pastor Dan,” commenting on my “Communist” article and using the story of King David to differentiate between righteous Godly killing in the name of “love” and “liberation” and merely “murderous” killing in pursuit of selfish advantage and bloodlust.
I am going to comment on “Pastor Dan’s” rant through bracketed interjection.
PASTOR DAN: “Family: Here is my take on this ass -- who wrote the article and the other leftists who criticize our troops in harm’s way.”
[Street: Watch thy tongue, “pastor.” My target of criticism is the war and in this case the war coverage in Time. And by the way, who put “our troops in harm’s way”?]
PASTOR DAN: “I am angry that they speak/write only in Marxist language, still speaking in terms like bourgeois and occupation. I am pissed off that they speak of David as a killer (though I was immediately concerned that they would). I am mad not because they are factually incorrect, but because they are incorrectly interpreting killer as murderer. David is not guilty of breaking any human law or code (including any biblical codes).”
[Street: I can sort of see why he’d call “bourgeois” “Marxist language,” but “occupation”? Be warned fellow leftists: “occupation” is now an officially communist word! There was no specific interpretation along these lines in the article “Loves, Hates, Kills, Dies.” There is the assertion, based in fact, that David killed but I argue that this action took place in an imperial combat operation ordered by higher military and state authorities. It is worth noting, however, that the war is illegal under post-Nuremberg international law and there is legal basis for refusing to undertake illegal orders. We are talking about human codes if that’s alright: the biblical codes don’t sound very stringent I must say. I mean Christ, King David got away with premeditated murder (not to mention adultery) because he told Big Holy God that he was sorry and also because he was the head of The Chosen People and they get to have special rules because they are so good]
PASTOR DAN: “His name-sake, King David, once killed 200 Philisitines [sic] in order to harvest their foreskins for a dowry. He is not viewed biblically as commiting [sic] any offense against God or man. He is not punished for battle-field atrocities (and harvesting foreskins may well be considered an atrocity). He is however, punished for the murder of Urriah the Hittite. The scripture distinguishes clearly the difference between being a warrior and a murderer."
[Street: Excuse me, but what kind of dope is pastor Dan smoking after the parishioners go home? I mean what kind of God or bible that any sane person would want to obey would not see it as offensive and illegal to kill 200 people to “harvest their foreskins” for a dowry? Is a deadly dowry like that a noble and liberating “warrior’s objective?”
I’m sure I’m missing part of the full biblical story here, but I am going to go out on the limb and declare that little mass killing operation illegal and offensive.
I guess home wrecker David got punished for that little Bathsheba and Uriah episode (I didn’t read that part of the Book of Samuel), but he got out of the usual “so you broke one (at least 2 in his case) of the Ten Commandments” punishment -- death, in all kinds of interesting ways -- thanks to that Chosen People Go Free card he carried around in his girdle.
Oh, by the way, where does the real US objective of securing greater control over strategic Middle Eastern oil resources figure in all this? Is that like the noble warrior David’s pursuit of Philistine foreskins or more like the more ethically troubling murder of Uriah? Fundamentalist pastors need to step up to the plate and answer that one]
PASTOR DAN: “The true point of my anger is not whether one can defend David’s actions (one can), but the fact that we have to. This is the true moral calamity. The difference between WW2 and Vietnam/Iraq, is not that difficult to understand. It is not the change in genertational [sic] assumptions, but the simple fact that the Communist party (post Nazis invasion of the Soviet Union) benefited [sic] from our actions in WW2 (when we took pressure of the USSR) and they don’t benefit from those post WW2 conflicts."
[Street: “Pastor Dan” believes that American military actions are self-evidently noble and right. Yes, these fundamentalist neofascists feel not only empowered but also entitled to support mass murder with impunity -- as long as the killing is being justified in the name of noble “warrior” objectives like....uhh...the harvesting of Philistine foreskins The CHOSEN PEOPLES’ killing operations do not need to be defended and it is a “TRUE MORAL CALAMITY” that anyone could imagine such defense is required!
Then he says -- in essence -- that the only reason Street would have enlisted in WWII is because WWII helped “the Communist Party.” Right, I couldn’t have been motivated to fight in WWII by hatred of German and/or Japanese fascism or simple basic national/humanitarian fear of the global military, economic, and political threat posed by the Axis, whose German leaders also spoke of their special God-ordained right to occupy weaker nations in the name of “liberation,” “love,” and “preventive war.”
“Pastor Dan” needs to take his head out of his copy of “The Old Testament for Neo-Nazi Idiots” and study some actual history, including the record of the Allied Forces’ long delay on opening a second Eastern front and the related fact that the Russian people bore the greatest brunt by far of the militantly anti-Marxist Nazi onslaught: the Soviet Union lost 25 million people in WWII. We sure “took the pressure” off of Russia.
I’m sure Pastor Dan missed the sorry history of the liberal west’s long appeasement of interwar Italian and German fascism, driven by a sense that he seems to share: that “marxism” and not authoritarian right nationalism poses the real threat to human freedom].
PASTOR DAN: “Remember it is the hard-left (ie Communists) that have and are organizing the protests. They are attacking us (as they always have) under the cover of their moral superiority. Remember the old Soviet backers, whatever they did wa [sic] justifiable. Whatever we did was not. They are a very moral people, it is just that their morality is based on Marx-Lenin-Stalin and the promise of heaven on earth through the Marxist conquest, and not any biblical morality.”
[Street: “Pastor Dan” thinks antiwar-demos are being organized primarily by “communists”. I would imagine there are more self-described left-anarchists and genuinely Christian peace and justice activists than Marxists running the peace movement. Someone needs to tell the pastor that the Cold War is over. He also apparently never heard of the 1950s-1960s New Left, which managed to criticize both western capitalism-imperialism and Soviet empire and authoritarianism at one and the same time --- imagine! I personally haven’t read anything by Lenin in more than 15 years. Stalin? Read Isaac Deutscher’s Trotskyist biography of him]
PASTOR DAN: “David Horowitz has recently written that for the Communist, the future promise is more real than anything that has already happened. Their faith is not in God and their allegiance is not in this country. They see us as the enemy and as occupiers (even here at home) because [sic] we are in the way of their global utopia. To them, we are the atheists and they are the true-believers.”
[Street: If anything, the left spends too little time thinking about the future. It’s very past and present-minded. Anyway, this is really ancient. I read “The God That Failed” and Nineteen Eighty Four about 25 years ago. It’s funny but fitting to see the odious Horowitz cited by all-American preachers from counties and parishes that are “so goy they think Hebrew is a macho beer,” to quote an old Joan Rivers line]
PASTOR DAN: “My only advice (as if you need it) is to continue in prayer and to ignore the rants of the ignorant or the spritually bank-rupt [sic]. Unfortunately the hardcore leftist is no more reasonable than a garden variety cult member. They are blinded by their hate (a sign of our times) and motivated by it. ”
[Street: “Pastor Dan” should read the comments above if wants to see real ignorance and spiritual bankruptcy exposed: HIS ignorance and bankruptcy. Even Jesus would have a very hard time forgiving his false preachings, with their vapid and deadly stupidity, hateful intent, and racist and homicidal consequences]
PASTOR DAN: “In contrast, the heroism that David has shown can only be understood by those who love. Love can motivate us to kill, and not in any illegal or immoral manner. Love motivates us to kill to protect, preserve, or sustain those around us. Love for comrade, brother, or child can force us to kill the enemy, in order that those we love survive.”
[Street: George Orwell would certainly have appreciated this rant of “Pastor Dan’s:” yes, “love is hate” and “war is peace.” Who is this hideous Evil Other that he calls “THE ENEMY?” Does it include the tens of thousands of civilian noncombatants, including large numbers of Iraqi children, who have been butchered by United States war criminality? Does Pastor Dan’s “love for child” call for him to support the killing of Iraqi children? Perhaps he sees America lovingly destroying young Muslim bodies in order to save souls? “The enemy,” of course, is anyone who dares to defend themselves—their families, their cities, their nation, their civilization (or all of these) --- against the onslaught of the imperial CHOSEN PEOPLE, the self-evidently superior Americans, who enjoy the special right to “harvest “the human and natural resources of inferior, “Philistine” peoples, whatever the cost in lives.
Does Pastor Dan know that this is part of the intellectual foundation of fascism? Does he think that Nazi spiritual personnel didn’t say pretty much the exact same thing about the righteousness of their cause and the unworthiness of their victims? Does he think that the people his brother is fighting against in Iraq are not also driven by a “love” that “motivates [them] to kill to protect, preserve, or sustain those around [them]”? Has he so thoroughly dehumanized “the enemy” that he cannot imagine that they too are animated by “love for comrade, brother, or child” that drives them to fight “in order that those [they] love survive”?
“Pastor Dan” might want to think about one key difference, however. The “enemy’s” killing “love” is mobilized in literal defense of it’s actual home villages, cities, nation, and civilization. Beneath false state rhetoric about defending Americans from terrorism, American “warriors’” killing “love” is actually mobilized in support of distant imperial conquest in Iraq]
PASTOR DAN: “It is funny how those who advocate the killing of the unborn (or the utilization of their pre-born bodies) can’t understand the passion of those who kill for love. The difference morally is not whether someone kills, but whether there is a choice in the matter. We do not advocate killing due to argument or during a meat-loaf dispute, and we do not advocate killing for convenience. David is not involved in any of the above. David is fighting a war. He is a warrior. David was a warrior. Perhaps most importanly, [sic] the Lord is a warrior. Warriors fight to save, to liberate, to free, to show love. David has shown love, and we have every reason to be proud of him.”
[Street: These fundamentalist proto-fascists can’t make it through one rant without getting in something about abortion. Actually, tens of thousands, actually more Iraqis have been retroactively aborted precisely for reasons of American-imperial “convenience” in a racist war of pure choice and conquest. “Pastor Dan” says he doesn’t advocate killing for “meat-loaf” but he just finished quoting the Bible on the nobility of mass homicide for the harvesting of foreskins in pursuit of a dowry. Does he know about the oil prize that drives everything in US Middle Eastern policy? The imperial chess masters in Washington love it when people like “Pastor Dan” go off with this stuff: “Yes, very good...keep talking about Jesus and Love and Chosen Nations and Saving People [saving them by killing them]; meanwhile, if you don’t mind, we’ll act to secure the vital raw materials and geopolitical-economic advantage for the good of the Chosen Nation’s Ruling Class. Thank you, pastor.”
In my opinion, Jesus would feel sick to his stomach after 5 minutes talking to the proto-fascist “Pastor Dan.” After he felt a little better, I almost think he’d call in a mortar attack on the pastor’s church.]
STREET: One last comment. Has any powerful state ever boldly announced its real murderous and imperial intent and not justified it’s great and bloody land-, resource-, and power-grabs in the name of such higher purposes as “love” for “fellow man,” “freedom,” and God’s Law?
Paul Street is a writer and researcher in Chicago, Illinois. His book Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 is now available from Paradigm Publishers. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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