At what point does a nation, in particular the civilians of a nation, take on the collective responsibility for the evils ordered by their leaders?
The War in Iraq goes on. No doubt there will be suffering if U.S. troops leave. No doubt there was suffering before U.S. troops got there. But there is also no doubt that the starting of the war was a War Crime; that Democratic Party politicians, with extremely few exceptions, supported it along with Republican politicians. And there is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of people have died, both Iraqi military and civilians. The sum total of suffering rose because of American action, and it will subside when our troops leave.
The Democratic Party politicians want to wear their peace symbols and have their war too, and they have succeeded. They allowed the Republican minority to vote with substantial minority of Democratic congressmen to pass, 280 to 142, the funding needed to continue the war crimes without any significant restrictions or a timetable for withdrawing the troops. Complex maneuvers were required: the actual vote, on roll call 425, was to concur in a Senate amendment to H.R. 2206, which makes "emergency supplemental appropriations" for the 2007 fiscal year. The Senate passed H.R. 2206 as amended too, so now George W. Bush will sign it.
To stop the war in Iraq the Congress would have had to just pass no funding at all. That would not please their donors and the people whose votes are bought with your tax dollars.
The guy from my district, Representative Mike Thompson, is a good illustration of how this vote had to be engineered. Mike is popular, known for his work on the Wine Caucus, but of course against drunk driving. He states he is a Catholic, but in this northern California district he finds it best to be pro-Choice. To this day he derides the Peace Movement from the Vietnam War era; he fought in the war and will not admit he committed war crimes. But vast majority of voters here want out of Iraq, and not in 2008. So Mike supports our troops, but voted against the appropriation because he was assured that it would not pass. He's tired of those peace protests outside his office. I hope he is having nightmares, I hope the ghosts of the Vietnamese are prioritizing haunting his dreams at night. Maybe that is why wine is so important to him.
But we are collectively responsible for allowing this to happen. I don't want to go too far with the idea of collective responsibility. The Democratic Party, headed by President-for-Life Franklin D. Roosevelt and his successor Harry Truman, decided collective responsibility made it okay to firebomb German and Japanese urban centers. Then they committed the most famous war crimes in history, the vaporization of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
If the Islamic fundamentalist warriors hold the U.S. collectively responsible for supplying military aid to Israel, does that justify an attack on a basically civilian target like the World Trade Center?
I don't expect the American people to do much thinking. It would be nice, but historically it is not a trend. But to the limited extent that thought takes place that is not the mere echoing of stupid TV shows (and YouTube), I think we all should think about collective responsibility.
The communists of Vietnam may not be my cup of tea from an ideological standpoint, but I think they got it right as far as national responsibility. They had a responsibility to throw out the French. They had a responsibility to throw out the Americans. But they did not need to attack the French in France or Americans in actual United States territory.
Self-defense, or collective self-defense, should not be waived as a right and duty. But using it as an excuse for aggression is an old trick, used by petty criminals and Presidents of the United States alike.
Iraq is not about self-defense. Afghanistan is not about self-defense either.
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Friday, May 25, 2007
And the War Goes On
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