Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On US war crimes, the buck stops here...

On US war crimes, the buck stops here...
By Dallas Darling;

Harkening back to former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and then back further to Heinrich Himmler - the ruthless practitioner of the Nazi's Schutzstaffel (SS) that terrorized much of Europe during World War II, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told thousands of sometimes cheering, sometimes solemn troops that they needed to "tighten up discipline" and "display integrity". His announcement at Fort Benning, Georgia was just one of many to mass media outlets around the world. They followed a number of repeated public relations disasters regarding US-led military conflicts around the world, ones that Panetta claimed could play into the hands of America's enemies.

Trying to control the damage due to US troops posting pictures of them urinating on Taliban corpses, posing with dead body parts, the burning of Korans, including several recent sport-killings and massacres and rapes of Afghan civilians, Panetta claimed that such misconduct relates only to a small percentage of US forces which were merely magnified by digital technologies. Concerned over these "war crime" images posing a greater threat to US-led military campaigns, he also said, "I need everyone of you, everyone of you to always display the strongest character, the greatest discipline, and the utmost integrity in everything you do."

Standing before thousands of SS troops, elite and professional forces of the Nazi Party used to exterminated enemy combatants and eliminate anyone considered to be racially degenerate, Himmler, who had the outward appearance of a meek, gentle man who would not harm a fly, who was slender, pale and almost girlishly soft hands covered with blue veins, [1] also declared that they must always maintain their "integrity" amidst the "bombing raids, the hardships, and the deprivations of war." He affirmed that SS troops should never give in to "human weakness" but instead, they had a "moral right and duty" to "carry the heaviest of tasks in waging war with a spirit of love for our people." [2]

Rumsfeld denounced such acts a "terrible" and inconsistent with the values of our nation. He was responding to hundreds of cases of abuse, torture, and homicide uncovered since the Abu Graib war crimes scandal uncovered in 2006 in Iraq. Images of US troops posing with tortured and abused and naked Iraqi prisoners, some beaten and applied with electrical shock, were also posted via electronic media. Rumsfeld, of course, was quick to redefine that nature of these acts as "abuse" and not torture. And like Panetta and Himmler, he promised that "Any wrongdoers need to be punished, procedures evaluated, and problems corrects." [3]

Whether it be mass extermination policies or posing and grinning with corpses and their grim remains-like legs, arms, heads, and a dead man's hand with the middle finger raised and a sign reading "Zombie Hunters," war-like pathologies begin with bureaucrats in power. And whether it be the desire to create "living space" or American Exceptionalism and global Manifest Destiny - leading to lengthy military campaigns and occupations that result in hundreds indiscriminate night time raids, massacres, and rapes, armed and aggressive criminology starts with those who espouse doctrines of superiority, that a nation and its leaders can raise themselves up from the contingent world and rule over it.

A lack of judgment and professionalism started long before US troops posed with Nazi SS flags in Afghanistan while committing hundreds of crimes against peace and humanity. Protracted ground wars, ones that produce mental and emotional health problems and that increase suicides among troops, are a sign of moral failure and bureaucratic war crimes. Lengthy military campaigns which lead to an increase in substance abuse, divorce, joblessness, and homelessness among soldiers, reveal a need for moral leadership and honorable discipline at the highest levels of government. First came Himmler, and then came Rumsfeld and Panetta, along with their collaborators.

George Santayana wrote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. " At the same time, "Those who cannot remember doomed principles of the past are condemned to repeat them." This is especially true for bureaucratic war criminals and their war crimes.

1. Snyder, Dr Louis L, Encyclopedia Of The Third Reich. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Inc, 1976, p 147.
2. Reilly, Kevin, Worlds Of History: A Comparative Reader. New York, New York: Bedford/St Martin's Press, 2009, pp 931, 932.
3. Zimbardo, Philip. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York, New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2007, pp 236, 237.

Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections on Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, and Consumerism in the Context of John's Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for You can read more of Dallas' writings at