News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: White Guilt, Military Justice, and Massacre

Saturday, July 01, 2006

White Guilt, Military Justice, and Massacre

Shelby Steele recently made waves with an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that, among other things, said that the reason the US is losing the war in Iraq is because its military is fighting with its hands tied behind its back. Steele attributes this situation to a reluctance on the military's part to appear to others as racists, specifically in relationship to Arabs. The solution, Steele asserts, is to forget the guilt trip and wage all-out war, thereby ensuring victory for US troops. ...

No doubt, one of the effects of this policy would teach the rest of the world that when the US goes to war it doesn't fuck around; it takes names and addresses and visits devastation and despair on anyone who stands in our way.

Referring to past sins committed by the US and other western colonialist powers, Steele writes:

So when America--the greatest embodiment of Western power--goes to war in Third World Iraq, it must also labor to dissociate that action from the great Western sin of imperialism. Thus, in Iraq we are in two wars, one against an insurgency and another against the past--two fronts, two victories to win, one military, the other a victory of dissociation.
Steele's solution to what he terms minimalist warfare is for the US to recognize that it has defeated racism at home. It should not give in to guilt feelings associated with the past but instead incorporate the vastly superior moral integrity gained by the US in defeating racism and thereby eschew this guilty conscience when the US promotes and fights for democracy in the rest of the world.
One is forbidden to speak thus, but it is simply true. There are no serious advocates of white supremacy in America today, because whites see this idea as morally repugnant. If there is still the odd white bigot out there surviving past his time, there are millions of whites who only feel goodwill toward minorities.

This is a fact that must be integrated into our public life--absorbed as new history--so that America can once again feel the moral authority to seriously tackle its most profound problems. Then, if we decide to go to war, it can be with enough ferocity to win.
I've emphasized that last bit about fighting with ferocity to highlight the reason I put these words together. The connection between America recognizing its own battle with and supposed victory of over racism does not seem inherently connected to fighting a war.

Isn't it just as likely, for example, that the reason that the US does not wish to visit the terrible might of its ferocious war machine on others is because its simply too terrifying to think of the products of that strategy? Whether or not one believes that America is racist (I do) or not, the simple fact seems to be that the capacity to create misery and carnage with modern weapons is morally repugnant--whether or not you're racist.

Beyond Mr. Steele's specious and tendentious argument, many perceived his comments to be a call for a glove's off policy with regard to the Iraq war effort. This is understandable since neoconservative pundits made similar calls a few weeks before and after Steele's piece.

In what may seem a bitter irony, though, it does appear that the US soldier understood exactly what Steele and the neoconservatives meant. In fact, they'd been practicing such a no-holds barred war for some time. As reports of massacres committed by US troops come to light, we have to begin to admit that the grunts on the ground were way ahead of the eggheads once more.

The recent revelation in the news that four or five soldiers planned and executed the rape, killing, and cremation of a young Iraqi woman, as well as the cold-blooded murder of her family, including a child, confirms that all appearances aside, this war's execution is no more about white guilt than the war itself is about the spread of democracy.

PS Born at the Crest of the Empire notes the following about the recent story of massacre from Iraq:
I find it surprising that there's been little mention that the five US soldiers currently under investigation for the rape and killing of a woman and three family members, now being reported as premeditated, were from the same platoon as the two soldiers who were captured, tortured, and beheaded.

The alleged rape murder took place in March, while Pfc. Tucker and Pfc. Menchaca were captured June 16.

The investigation has thus far not made any connection between the two events, but it was the killings which prompted the investigation. "The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one of them to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22."
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