The massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan recently, allegedly by a US soldier, helps bring to light a troubling realization: that many, perhaps a majority of, Americans are addicted to warfare, or at least what the televised images of war reveal. The pro-war propaganda has been such a prominent feature of American life for the past 11 years that continual warfare is an accepted reality for many.
Chris Hedges knows that war is no more than state-sponsored murder:
We kill children nearly every day in Afghanistan. We do not usually kill them outside the structure of a military unit. If an American soldier had killed or wounded scores of civilians after the ignition of an improvised explosive device against his convoy, it would not have made the news. Units do not stick around to count their “collateral damage.” But the Afghans know. They hate us for the murderous rampages. They hate us for our hypocrisy.
To accept war as a logical and responsible activity for a nation, the "other" must be demonized and stripped of the common human traits we do share with them.
There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil.Hedges describes how a country addicted to war has a warped and ultimately dishonest view of its self identity. The combat veteran bears the brunt of the schism.
When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored.
The scale of our state-sponsored murder is masked from public view. Reporters who travel with military units and become psychologically part of the team spin out what the public and their military handlers want, mythic tales of heroism and valor. War is seen only through the lens of the occupiers.Hedges closes his piece with a timeless reflection:
It is defended as a national virtue.
This myth allows us to make sense of mayhem and death. It justifies what is usually nothing more than gross human cruelty, brutality and stupidity. It allows us to believe we have achieved our place in human society because of a long chain of heroic endeavors, rather than accept the sad reality that we stumble along a dimly lit corridor of disasters.
It disguises our powerlessness.
It hides from view the impotence and ordinariness of our leaders. But in turning history into myth we transform random events into a sequence of events directed by a will greater than our own, one that is determined and preordained. We are elevated above the multitude. We march to nobility.
But it is a lie.
And it is a lie that combat veterans carry within them. It is why so many commit suicide.
War is the beautiful young nymph in the fairy tale that, when kissed, exhales the vapors of the underworld.It is well worth to read the whole of Chris Hedges article.
The ancient Greeks had a word for such a fate: ekpyrosis.
It means to be consumed by a ball of fire. They used it to describe heroes.