Have you heard all about the Stanley McChrystal hoo ha?
As per MSNBC:
President Barack Obama sacked his loose-lipped Afghanistan commander Wednesday…
Obama said bluntly that “Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s scornful remarks about administration officials represent conduct that “undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
Obama went on to assure the Military Industrial Complex, ooops, I mean the American people, that “This is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy.”
Well shit. THAT’s a relief.
For a second there I was afraid that a new skipper for the Good Ship Slaughter might mean that we were going to take a completely different approach to our women and children eviscerating corporate empire expansion, but nope, we’re just going to hand the keys back over to the ever loyal David Petraeus, who’s reappointment immediately comforted Lockheed Martin, Boeing, DynCorp, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Blackwater, or Xe, or whatever the fuck that particular CIA cutout happens to be calling itself this week.
Do you remember a few months ago when McChrystal said this?
“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”
McChrystal uttered those words just this past March when one of the few reporters who pay attention to such trivia informed him that “American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops.”
Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. It was simply a statement of fact made by the man Obama had hand-picked to be the commander of the American killing machine in Afghanistan. And hell, Obama himself has claimed the right to murder anyone, at any time, anywhere on the planet, with no trial, or any other of those troublesome trappings of civilization, so why on earth should we have expected him to have a problem with his commander’s public admittance that his killing machine had shot an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat?
But holy smokes! Do not, under any circumstances, ever question the boss. That’s insubordination and will not be tolerated. Do not ever say that “Obama didn’t seem very engaged,” or refer to Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, as a “clown” who remains “stuck in 1985,” because that, sports fans, will get you fired quicker than screwing your boss’s wife with his high school football trophy.
Meet the new boss, same as the blah, blah, blah…
The great Arthur Silber has written an epic essay on the same subject, and it’s a must read.
As the murderous destructiveness of the Death State increases in every direction, nauseating charades of this kind will no doubt also occur with increasing frequency. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in analyzing what so many others consider to be questions of significance: whether McChrystal violated the sacraments of the civilian-military command structure, what Obama had to do to maintain his authority as Commander-in-Chief, and so on. I would further suggest that, if you remain a civilized human being to any measurable degree, such questions should be of no concern to you. That these and similar issues of allegedly vital interest have dominated the national debate about McChrystal’s “insubordination” tells you everything you need to know about how disgustingly uncivilized the United States government and its ancillary media culture are today.
Here, we will be astonishingly, unforgivably rude, and we will mention those issues which ought to be the focus of debate — but again, this assumes that civilization and its foundational requirement, recognition of the sacred and irreplaceable value of a single human life, remain operative to a significant degree.
I don’t give a glimmer of a shadow of the faintest damn about the outcome of incidents of this kind, because the major participants are all war criminals. I have been planning for some time an explanation of an especially unforgivable aspect of the entirely phony moral posturing engaged in by virtually all those who take part in our national discussion. The particular aspect to which I refer is this: almost no one takes the concepts of war crimes and war criminals seriously at all.
I’ve set out certain key provisions of the Nuremberg Principles before. Read the following again (or for the first time), and as you read it, think about the plain meaning of these words, especially the passages that I’ve highlighted:
The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
1. Crimes against peace:
1. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
2. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
2. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or illtreatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
3. Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law.
Yes, I’ve highlighted all of it, because all of it is directly relevant to the war criminals now occupying the highest levels of the Obama administration, as it was directly relevant to the war criminals in the Bush administration.
Item: Obama and his administration claim the “right” to murder anyone in the world, wherever he or she may be, for whatever reason they choose — or for no reason at all. Obama and his administration recognize no upper limit to the number of people they can murder in this manner: they can murder as many people as they wish. And they claim there is nothing at all that may impede their exercise of this “right.”
This is the game entire. Understand this: once Obama and his administration have claimed this, there is nothing left to argue about. They can murder you — and they can murder anyone else at all. What in the name of anything you hold holy remains to be “debated” once a vile, damnable “right” of this kind has been claimed?
This is a war crime: “murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory…”
It is also a crime against humanity: “Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population…”
Under Principle VII, all those who are complicit in these crimes are also guilty.
Item: Ongoing drone attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, which regularly and systematically kill large numbers of civilians. These murders, too, are war crimes and crimes against humanity; all those who are complicit in the crimes are also guilty.
There are many other specifics that could be added to these three items. But — if you are honest about the plain meaning of these provisions of the Nuremberg Principles — any one of the three items alone is sufficient to make the judgment. Put all three of them together, and add in just some of the further specifics that could be mentioned, and the conclusion is unavoidable.
Yet most people continue to avoid it. If you avoid it, do not expect to be viewed with any degree of seriousness or with even a minimal degree of respect by anyone who is genuinely civilized and who gives a damn.
In my earlier article discussing application of the Nuremberg Principles, I wrote:
So which individuals are guilty of the commission of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity? Certainly all the major officials of the Bush administration during the period of the planning and implementation of the invasion of Iraq and during the subsequent occupation. [Al] Gore refers to “they,” dishonestly attempting to place all responsibility with the Republicans. The facts and the historical record will not support flimsy strategems of this kind. So add to the list of criminals all those in Congress who voted for the Iraq AUMF, as well as all those who voted to fund the war and the continuing occupation. With regard to the Bush administration and Congress during the relevant time period, I think the list of those who are not guilty would be very short, indeed. To my knowledge, that list would include only Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. (If there are one or two others, my apologies. But there are certainly not more than a few others.)
And who is one of the people who has repeatedly voted to fund the occupation of Iraq? That’s right: Barack Obama. Obama, the Democratic nominee for President, is guilty of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
You can apply the Nuremberg Principles in the same manner to the Obama administration and the current Congress. The specifics include the items listed above, and the ongoing criminal occupation of Iraq, together with the continuing criminal acts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once again, the list of those who are not guilty would name, at most, four or five people (and probably less).
Given these facts and the indisputable meaning of the Nuremberg Principles, who gives a goddamn whether McChrystal remained in his job or not? His departure will not alter or even slow down the actions of the U.S. government in even one of the ways that matter.
But this kind of public performance is a testament to the deeply nauseating, destructive “games” that bullies play — those bullies at the highest levels of government who claim for themselves the “right” to remake the world as they choose, and now the “right” to murder anyone they choose, simply because that is what they choose to do.
In an article about the disturbing frequency of bullying among children and young adults, I wrote, in “Bullied, Terrorized and Targeted for Destruction: Our Children Have Learned Well
Our children are taught that we equate “manliness” and “strength” with close to complete disregard for other people, with emotional repression and insensitivity to the point of catatonia, and with a willingness to resort to physical violence at the slightest provocation, and even in the complete absence of any provocation at all. We tell those people who suffer great emotional pain and even agony, often when they contemplate the terrible suffering of others, to “suck it up” and to have “thicker skins.” The greatest virtue is to feel nothing, or as close to nothing as possible. There is one exception: you can feel unreasoning, unfocused rage, and you are free to act on it. You may lash out in any direction you choose. The innocence of your victim is irrelevant.
Our government acts in this manner repeatedly. Our political leaders all applaud it, and offer a lengthy series of “justifications” for our unending national cruelty.
[These children] learned that cruelty and violence are not to be condemned, but constitute the coin of the nightmare realm of our culture: cruelty and violence are enacted many times every day in films, on television, in our personal lives, and by our government on a national and international scale. You will be rewarded for cruelty: the crueler you are, the greater the reward.
Our children learn all this, and many more lessons of the same kind. Of course, they are often vicious bullies. Our government is a murderous bully on a scale that beggars description; most politicians are bullies; the majority of adults are bullies to varying degrees. Why wouldn’t these children be bullies? It’s what they’ve been taught. In the most crucial ways, it’s all they’ve been taught.
These children are the perfect embodiments of the central values of our culture. They have learned well.
So Obama is the biggest bully of all. Who knows, he might even have the biggest dick. He certainly is the cruelest of these murderous bullies and, as I noted in the earlier essay, his reward is therefore the greatest. He is, after all, the Commander-in-Chief of the Death State.
Let me offer a few concluding thoughts (for the moment) concerning how astonishingly unserious almost all commentators are in their discussion of war crimes.
In certain quarters, it remains fashionable to insist on the absolute necessity of prosecuting the leading war criminals of the Bush administration for their actions while in office. I have written extensively about why, in the context of the present political system, I would view all such prosecutions as the worst kind of show trials, the effect of which would be precisely the opposite of that which the advocates of such prosecutions claim to desire. You can consult “Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth” (and the two related essays linked at the beginning of that article) for the details. The briefest statement of my theme is this:
By seeking to localize the evil in only one aspect of the much broader and more fundamental evil involved and within a falsely delimited period of time, the torture obsessives would thus whitewash the American project as a whole.
The additional discussion above about the meaning and application of the Nuremberg Principles underscores my overall concern.
I obviously do not disagree with the proposition that Bush, Cheney and others committed abominable war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that they deserve the harshest of judgments and punishments. However, and it is a “however” of the most profound consequence, it is far, far more important to stop those who are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity today. Yes, we should punish those have committed unjustified murders in the past — but how much more important and urgent is it to stop the known murderer who continues to commit his crimes in the present, especially when the murderer has made unmistakably clear that he will continue to commit similar crimes tomorrow and in the days to come?
If a person is at all serious about stopping crimes of this kind, he must be demanding impeachment and/or prosecution of Obama and the other war criminals in his administration today, without a moment’s delay. I understand very well indeed that impeachment or prosecution of these individuals will not happen, but if you are genuinely committed to the moral principles involved and if you seek to vindicate them, you must make the demand. If you do not, your understanding of the Principles and their application is essentially amoral and unprincipled. You wish to apply the Principles only to those individuals you view with special disfavor, while you exempt from the Principles’ operation those individuals you personally happen to view less negatively, or even positively. That is, you have transformed principles of profound, universal moral significance into tools of the most disgusting and most superficial politics.
We might adapt a statement from Lewis Carroll to make the point: “The rule is, war criminals tomorrow and war criminals yesterday, but never war criminals today.”
If that is your stance, even if you do not have the honesty to admit it, then damn you to hell.