July 9, 2005
21780 18th Ave.
The ringing condemnation by Western leaders of acts of terror is obviously fully deserved. As far as it goes…
On July 7, 2005 Prime Minister Tony Blair called the London bombings “barbaric attacks.” On September 1, 1939, President Roosevelt wrote to the major powers that aerial bombing of civilians had “profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity” and called it “inhuman barbarism.” He later referred to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour as a “date, which will live in infamy.” President Bush designated the September 11, 2001 attackers “evildoers.” All very true. But…
James Berardinelli in a review of Errol Morris’ documentary The Fog of War wrote: “[Former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara] served in World War II under the unrelenting command of General Curtis LeMay, the commander of the 20th Air Force. In 1945, LeMay was in charge of a massive firebombing offensive in Japan that resulted in the deaths of nearly 1 million Japanese citizens, including 100,000 in Tokyo during a single night. LeMay’s B-29 bombers raked 67 Japanese cities, sometimes killing more than 50% of the population. McNamara points out that, had the United States lost the war, he and LeMay would have been tried as war criminals.”
General Curtis LeMay, au contraire the most decorated military officer of the United States of America, boasted of the Tokyo raid: “[W]e scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of March 9-10  than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.” (For the record, he was mistaken.)
The Chief of Staff for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, William Leahy, memoired of the atomic bombs that killed at least 120,000 civilians instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan… My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. (italics in original)”
Prime Minister Churchill nonetheless described the thousands of carpet and fire bombing campaigns against over 100 German and Japanese cities, including the two atomic detonations, as “moral bombing”…
Columnist Bob Herbert (New York Times, November 1, 2004) draws on reliable sources to inform us there were by last year already 100,000 civilian deaths due to the American invasion of Iraq. President Bush recently said however, “It is worth it,” echoing former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s judgment, some of whose family lived through the Nazi Holocaust, that one million civilian deaths from sanctions against Iraq were “worth it.”
Historian Tami Biddle wrote that when aerial warfare was still only imagined in the 19th century, it meant “English-speaking peoples raining incendiary bombs over the enemy to impose the customs of civilization.” Rudyard Kipling applauded the ruthless conquering of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War with: “Take up the White Man’s burden–/The savage wars of peace –.”
Shakespeare expressed in Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” He might have been describing a gaggle of 20th- and 21st-century Western leaders, most recently Prime Minister Blair and President Bush. In that same play, Shakespeare wrote: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” In place of Denmark might have been inserted: “Western civilization.”
Pete Seeger sang, “When will they ever learn?” Chris Hedges wrote in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning: “We forget what war is about, what it does to those who wage it and those who suffer from it. Those who hate war the most, I have often found, are veterans who know it.” The little child in The Emperor’s New Clothes blurted out the obvious: “But the Emperor has nothing on at all!!!” Catholic anthropologist Gil Bailie claimed of war, including by “the good guys,” the West: “If we humans become too morally troubled by the brutality to revel in the glories of the civilization made possible by it, we will simply have to reinvent culture. This is what Nietzsche saw through a glass darkly. This is what Paul sensed when he declared the old order to be a dying one (I Cor. 7:31). This is the central anthropological issue of our age.”
Michael Scheuer, the “Anonymous” CIA author of Imperial Hubris, in an interview said of mass slaughter of civilians: “That’s the way war is. I’ve never really understood the idea that any American government, any American elected official is responsible for protecting civilians who are not Americans.”
In the West, no less than anywhere else in the world, the “clash of civilizations” (Samuel Huntington) seems still in truth to be the “clash of barbarisms” (Gilbert Achcar). The ancient Babylonian creation myth established the ubiquitous maxim: Might is right. Jared Diamond in The Third Chimpanzee, wrote – and substantiated his conclusion with long lists of evidence – that the only consistent signature of our species is genocide.
Mahatma Gandhi once was asked, “What do you think of Western civilization?” He responded, “I think it would be a good idea.”