Why does the most powerful country in the world see a need to be fighting a myriad of wars?
And what determines the way they are fought?
Many of our soldiers appear to be the product of a culture that renders them indifferent to human life, turning them into mindless killing machines. The recent disclosure by “WikiLeak”, of army footage showing and telling the kill-ing of unarmed Iraqi civilians by a helicopter gunship crew, says as much about the way the soldiers were brought up as about the military ethos.
“Hurt Locker” or no, there is strong evidence that our military are being encouraged to behave with mindless brutality toward Iraqi and Afghani populations. Young men raised on beer and mind-altering substances are capable of laughing at the sight of an armored vehicle running over a wounded, unarmed civilian. This attitude has been docu-mented in movies such as “This is War: Memories of Iraq” that follows soldiers on and off duty, capturing their language, their attitudes and behaviors toward civilians.
The violence at our doorstep in Juarez, Mexico is about drugs coming into the U.S.(as weapons flow out). And the war in Afghanistan is partly about the cultivation of opium, a cash bonanza for a poor, backward country from which heroin consumed in the West is made. In a strange mirror-image, Mexican warlords now behead their opponents in the manner of Islamic fundamentalists (but also perhaps of Aztec sacrificial killings).
Meanwhile, President Obama has ordered an American-born Islamic cleric who preaches jihad abroad to be killed or captured. On Thursday, the UN Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions,Philip Alston, was inter-viewed by Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now”, spelling out the disturbing legal and moral questions this astonishing order raises.
The Mexican drug lords couldn’t care less about the sociological aspects of our society that enables their trade. But the reasons behind Muslim fundamentalist terrorism, aired again and again in messages from future suicide bombers, concern two aspects of our society: its imperialist nature (i.e., the exploitation of the wealth of other countries for our benefit), and the breakdown of traditional morality, largely as a result of the commer-cialization of pleasures.
Undoubtedly, some elements of the Taliban see Afghanis-tan’s cultivation of poppies, the source of heroin, as a way to further weaken our society. It has been suggested that decriminalizing drugs would remove the attractions - and violence - of an illicit trade. Without drug users, no income for growers or dealers. That would be a start. But drugs are part of a larger problem that contributes to the degeneration of society: a relentless drive to consume, which has led to the commercialization of sex. This especially upsets fundamentalists of all religions, including the American militias that have recently come to light.
As I read the fascinating work by Robert S. Wood “Empire of Liberty” (sic), which devotes more than 700 pages to the twenty-five years between 1789 and 1815, it becomes clear that America’s aberrations (sometimes known as American exceptionalism...) did not spring fully-formed like Venus rising from the sea, but can be traced to our very earliest history. And yet, if they could see us now, our Founders would turn over in their graves.