by David Swanson
War is the worst thing that humans do, from which the evils of genocide and crimes against humanity flow. Yet, in our political culture, people convince themselves that supporting supposedly “lesser evils” is a glorious enterprise. In truth, “a Lesser Evilist today is not choosing less evil policies, but the same policies in what he or she hopes will be lesser amounts.”
Nothing More Evil
by David Swanson
This article originally appeared on Mr. Swanson’s website WarIsACrime.org.
“If you try to think of something more evil than what we are now doing, you'll fail.”
A writer at the Atlantic named Conor Friedersdorf recently noted the level of evil many have been brought to support:
"Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can't bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn't believe in Darwinian evolution, and they'll nod along. Say that you'd never vote for a politician caught using the 'n'-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney's flaws, which I've chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama. Don't they see that Obama's transgressions are worse than any I've mentioned? I don't see how anyone who confronts Obama's record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. I do understand how they might concluded that he is the lesser of two evils, and back him reluctantly, but I'd have thought more people on the left would regard a sustained assault on civil liberties and the ongoing, needless killing of innocent kids as deal-breakers."
Not long ago, I attended a speech by Obama, along with thousands of his adoring cheerleaders formerly known as citizens. I asked him to stop killing people in Afghanistan, and the Secret Service asked me to leave. But, just now, I got a phone call from the local Obama office. They had my name because I'd picked up a ticket to attend the speech. The young woman wanted to know if I would come help phone other people. I asked if she was familiar with the president's kill list and his policy of killing men, women, and children with drones. She said she knew nothing about that but "respected my opinion." She hung up. Objecting to presidential murder is now an opinion, and willingness to be aware of its existence is an appendage to the opinion. If you don't object to presidential murder by Democrat, then you simply arrange not to know about it. Thus, in your opinion, it doesn't exist.
“If you don't object to presidential murder by Democrat, then you simply arrange not to know about it.”
Some of my friends at this moment are in Pakistan apologizing to its government and its people for the endless murderous drone war fought there by our country. They're meeting with victims' families. They're speaking publicly in opposition to the crimes of our government. And my neighbors, living in some other universe, believe most fundamentally, not that one candidate will save us, not that the two parties are fundamentally opposed, not that a citizen's job is to vote, not that war is all right if it's meant well – although they clearly believe all of those things – but, most fundamentally, they believe that unpleasant facts should simply be avoided. So, in a spirit of afflicting the comfortable to comfort the afflicted, here are a few from recent days:
WAR IS A LIE
We know that in the past "defensive" wars have been intentionally launched by fraud or provocation. We know that many in our government want a war with Iran. We know that several years ago then-Vice President Dick Cheney proposed disguising U.S. ships as Iranian and attacking other U.S. ships with them. We know that then-President George W. Bush proposed disguising a plane as belonging to the United Nations, flying it low, and trying to get Iraq to shoot at it. We know that there was no Gulf of Tonkin incident, no evidence that Spain attacked the Maine, no doubt that the weapons and troops on board the Lusitania were public knowledge, no question that FDR worked hard to provoke an attack by Japan, and so on. And we know that Iran has not attacked another nation in centuries. So, it almost goes without saying that Washington warmongers are contemplating ways to get Iran to make the "first move." Assassinating scientists hasn't worked, blowing up buildings doesn't seem to do it, cyber-war isn't blossoming into real war, sanctions are not sanctioning armed resistance, and dubious accusations of Iranian terrorism aren't sticking. Exactly what do we have to do to get ourselves innocently attacked by the forces of evil?
“The goal at the bottom of all of this is war.”
The Israel Lobby to the rescue! Patrick Clawson, Director of Research at the Washington Institute Of Near East Policy, blurted out the following on video this week:
"Crisis initiation is really tough. And it's very hard for me to see how the United States president can get us to war with Iran. . . . The traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests. Some people might think that Mr. Roosevelt wanted to get us into World War II . . . . You may recall, we had to wait for Pearl Harbor. Some people might think Mr. Wilson wanted to get us into World War I. You may recall that he had to wait for the Lusitania episode. Some people might think that Mr. Johnson wanted to send troops to Vietnam. You may recall he had to wait for the Gulf of Tonkin episode. We didn't go to war with Spain until the Maine exploded. And Mr. Lincoln did not feel he could call out the federal army until Fort Sumter was attacked, which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians had said would cause an attack. So, if in fact the Iranians aren't going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war. . . . I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure. I mean, look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down. Someday one of them might not come up. Who would know why? [LAUGHTER FROM AUDIENCE] . . . . We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier."
This is serious advocacy for manufacturing a "defensive" and "humanitarian" war. This is not a war critic or a Yes Men prankster. The position of most elected officials in Washington, including the President, fits well with this. That position includes the ultimatum that Iran must cease doing what U.S. National Intelligence Estimates say it is not doing, namely building nuclear weapons. The goal at the bottom of all of this is war. The purpose of the war is not related to any of the excuses for it. The purpose is something else entirely. But it's ugly, so it's easier not to look.
We often forget that war is the worst thing there is. Hence our government's shift in policy back to outsourcing a lot of the torture and insourcing the "cleaner" approach of assassination without torture. Hence, also, our common fantasy that war can be used to solve a problem that is somehow worse than war.
We also forget that torturing people can be crueler than experimenting on them. Torture has been given an acceptance in the United States during the past decade that "human experimentation" has not. So, we are still capable of a bit of shock when a story comes out like this one: During the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. Army sprayed zinc cadmium sulfide, apparently including radioactive particles, in poor neighborhoods in St. Louis and other cities, to test the results on the people who unknowingly breathed it.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. military's Operation Paperclip brought nearly 500 Nazi scientists to the United States to work on U.S. weaponry. Many view their influence on the nascent military industrial complex as critical to its sadistic and sociopathic tendencies ever since. In fairness to the Nazis, it's possible that they simply fit in well, serving the military of a nation with a long history of genocide, slavery, torture, and public deception.
I came across a member of Veterans For Peace this week who's been struggling many years as a result of experimental vaccines and drugs given to hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers during the Gulf War. We also learned this week that every prisoner in the Guantanamo death camp has been given experimental drugs without their knowledge or at least without their consent.
And then there's this: "Congressional Probe Reveals Cover-Up of 'Auschwitz-Like' Conditions at US-Funded Afghan Hospital":
"A congressional investigation has revealed a top U.S. general in Afghanistan sought to stall an investigation into abuse at a U.S.-funded hospital in Kabul that kept patients in, quote, 'Auschwitz-like' conditions. Army whistleblowers revealed photographs taken in 2010 which show severely neglected, starving patients at Dawood Hospital, considered the crown jewel of the Afghan medical system, where the country's military personnel are treated. The photos show severely emaciated patients, some suffering from gangrene and maggot-infested wounds. For TV viewers of Democracy Now!, please be warned: these images are extremely graphic and may be disturbing."
NOTHING MORE EVIL
Here's what I'm trying to get at. If you try to think of something more evil than what we are now doing, you'll fail. Name your evil: destroying the earth's climate? President Barack Obama flew to Copenhagen to single-handedly derail any process for protecting the earth's atmosphere. The only way in which to fantasize about greater evil is quantitative, not qualitative. We could drop more bombs. We could starve more children. We could experiment on more prisoners. In fact, this is what Lesser Evilism amounts to. A Lesser Evilist today is not choosing less evil policies, but the same policies in what he or she hopes will be lesser amounts.
That might be a rational calculation within a polling place. But living it prior to and after an election, apologizing and cheering for one of two teams, as if self-governance were a spectator sport, is nothing other than complicity in the most hideous forms of cruelty and murder. That complicity is insidious. Evil begins to look like something else, because the Lesser Evilist, within his or her own mind, comes to view the Lesser Evil forces as good, if not glorious, if not saintly.
David Swanson can be contacted through his website WarIsACrime.org.