Notes on Talk of Bombing Syria.

N.B.: This post is perhaps no longer as topical as it was a month ago, but I stand by the sentiments.

Truthdig announced as “Truthdigger of the Week” for September 1, 2013 all those who remain skeptical about the claims by the Obama administration regarding the use of sarin gas by the Syrian military against civilians and others. Truthdig regards this skepticism as useful and positive not because they know Syria did not carry out such an attack, but rather because the evidence proferred by the administration was not sufficiently solid to warrant a bombing attack by U.S. forces against targets held by the Assad government.

As it turns out, such a bombing was avoided due to numerous factors not needing explanation in the context of what is bothering me. All the “debate” in the media and elsewhere has been about the veracity of the allegations, and the consequences, good or bad, were the bombing to take place. My concern lies elsewhere.

Truthdigger? Well, yes. I’m now an old man, but not yet doddering. I remember the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” when I told anyone who would listen how phony the propaganda played. I told anyone who would listen that Nixon had no intention at all of ending the genocide in VietNam. And on and on. In ’91 I told anyone who would listen that the Gulf War would be a dark day indeed in human history. Again in ’02 and ’03 on the streets of Washington and New York telling anyone who would listen that Bush’s rush to war was entirely fake, a bundle of lies. When Obama was elected I so desperately wanted to believe the lies he told, but again, I told anyone who would listen that now-President Obama was not about to give up any of the imperial powers collected by Bush. And that’s the short list. The track record of the U.S. government is not enviable, to say the least.

When I was in graduate school at Michigan in the early sixties I took a microbiology course from a professor who admonished his students to always be skeptical about any new information received. I took it to heart. But for present purposes let me grant for argument’s sake that Assad really did do the dirty deed. Is the U.S. entitled to drop bombs in such circumstances?

I am not a pacifist, although I sometimes feel I should be. As for the mess in Syria, or any other move to violence, I hold that the U.S. government, in whatever form you envision it, will be entitled even to consider such action only when it apologizes for the genocide of two million in VietNam, when it apologizes for the entirely covert current move into Honduras, when it apologizes for the genocide of Native Americans, when it apologizes for the deliberate use of terrorism in the incendiary bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, Tokyo, and countless other German and Japanese cities in the “Good War,” when it apologizes for being the only government in human history to deliberately use nuclear weapons, both on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and later in the deployment of depleted uranium, when it apologizes for carpet bombing of the helpless of Afghanistan and Iraq, when it apologizes for the countless ways it relentlessly oppresses the citizens of the world through its overt and covert military and spy apparatuses. And that’s just the short list.

In the many comments to the Truthdig article, only a few, a blessed few, refer disapprovingly to the long history of oppression and genocide by U.S. power. God bless those few. Pick your own god.

Violence, love of violence and the attendant power, is an addiction. So also is sin, however one may define this loaded term, in general. Sri Ramakrishna, the great nineteenth century Indian mystic, wrote in his “Gospel,” “A bath in the Ganges undoubtedly absolves one of all sins; but what does that avail? They say that the sins perch on the trees along the banks of the Ganges. No sooner does the man come back from the holy waters than the old sins jump on his shoulders from the trees. The same old sins take possession of him again. He is hardly out of the water before they fall upon him.”

Just so for mankind. We fall into sin or its secular equivalent, and willingly. We become what we profess to revile, despite the warnings of Kurt Vonnegut. And we kill. We are killing now. And it is done in the name of mercy, in the name of righteousness, in the name of peace.

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