Sunday, May 19, 2013



In The New American Militarism, Andrew Bacevich writes:

“The marriage of military metaphysics with eschatological ambition is a misbegotten one, contrary to the long-term interests of either the American people or the world beyond our borders. It invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of U.S. policy. As it subordinates concern for the common good to the paramount value of military effectiveness, it promises not to perfect but to distort American ideals. As it concentrates ever more authority in the hands of a few more concerned with order abroad rather than with justice at home, it will accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy. As it alienates peoples and nations around the world, it will leave the United States increasingly isolated. If history is any guide, it will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economic, and in abject failure.”

Bacevich is no aging peacenik toting a “What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came? sign: he’s a professor of international relations at BU and a retired career Army officer who lost a son in Iraq

One of the most terrifying and cold-blooded  weapons ever devised is the remotely-controlled military drone. In Drift, Rachel Maddow describes the anonymous ops who work from air-conditioned comfort in suburbia, picking off targets from  thousands of miles away. “The Air Force joystick operators show up at their virtual consoles in actual flight suits; they call the video feed there Death TV, and they have a name for the Pakistanis on the ground who make a run for it when they see the drone approach: ‘squirters.’”  

That by some accounts half the U.S. budget is given over to the military should give us profound pause. That the number one cause of death among U.S. soldiers is suicide should lead us to bow our heads in mourning. "If you think you know the one thing that causes people to commit suicide, please let us know," (now-retired) Army Vice Chief of Staff General Peter Chiarelli told the Army Times in2010, "because we don't know what it is." 

Here's what it is: the human soul is neither formed for nor meant to commit systematic, institutionalized, state-sanctioned violence. Murder is murder and at some point the human soul breaks beneath its weight, as it should.

The violence we direct at others from behind closed doors, from classified compounds, from hidden torture chambers—and that is accepted without resistance from both political parties and largely, to our shame, in the Church—is not protecting our freedom. It is steadily diminishing our freedom. It is breeding ever more violence. It is turning us against ourselves from within.

In our arrogance, we think we can contain the violence we unleash upon the targets of our hatred. But we are deeply, willfully naïve if we think those U.S. military personnel playing "Death TV" are not splattering blood in all directions. We delude ourselves if we think that, from their air-conditioned consoles they are “only” picking off suspected terrorists in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Yemen. We are very much in error to refer to the civilian men, women and children who happen to be in harm's way as their collateral damage.   

They--we--are lining up the Amish schoolgirls.
We are shooting the children of Sandy Hook.
We are aiming at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.


  1. I suggest that the use of violence is often times necessary -- that there really are threats, conflicts, and atrocities in the world that require its use. The hard part is not letting it take over -- but a total condemnation of its use works against such a needed judgement.

    I also think that most people in the military are not cut from the same cloth as those "joystick operators" described by Maddow.

  2. Hi Lydia, nope, not buying it. If you can fit violence of any kind into the day of judgment, when the sheep will be separated from the goats based on how well we have loved the least of these, I'd be interested to hear it. If you can find a single passage in the Gospels where Christ uses violence in order to get people to act the way he wants them to, in order to draw them to him, I'd be interested to see it. If you can give me one example when violence has been perpetrated upon you, or when you have perpetrated violence upon anyone else, physical, emotional, or psychological, and the violence has made you or the other person more merciful, less afraid, more apt to fall with utter melting surrender into the arms of God, please tell me what it is.

    Because we are not talking here about the Prince of Lies, who rules this world. We are talking about the Kingdom of God and our sacred responsibility as followers of Christ to recognize that Kingdom and to orient our hearts to our smallest moments toward it. Fail we will, fail we must. But our ears must be attuned at all times to the Good Shepherd...And the Good Shepherd consistently says, If you want to get to the root of the evil in the world, don't bother to look without. Look within...

    Am reading a wonderful book by Louis Evely called Suffering. An excerpt:

    "We have so well camouflaged evil in our lives, our consciences are so elastic, our confessions so impersonal, we have got so used to calling evil good and good evil, we are so skilled in respecting appearances and doing evil without suffering the consequences, that, when we are suddenly confronted with all the blood, all the suffering, all the love which burst out in the passion of Christ, we are astounded, and we wonder whether he really meant to do all of this for us.

    And yet, one has but to read the Gospel to see that Jesus, from the very beginning of his ministry, encounters an unbelievable power of evil which he calls the Prince of this World. Everywhere he denounces him, he pursues, him, he dethrones him..

    Do you think the people who heard Jesus without believing him, who rejected, condemned, and crucified him, were so much more wicked than we?

    No indeed! They did it, as we do it, with all kinds of good intentions, providing themselves with a good conscience, led by a current of opinion (like us, when we do not believe in the devil), approved of by their milieu, moved by fear or interest, maneuvered by an occult Power. They did it exactly as we do: without knowing what they were doing. They served the devil, and they did not know it...

    Think of the concentration camps: the cruelty of the tortures, their ingenuity in the debasement of their victims, there reached a point which verges on genius. And yet, take them away from this environment, from this implacable organization, see them outside of it, or some years later, and they have become men like others. The torturers are often good husbands, tender fathers, obliging and friendly neighbors. they were merely trapped in an infernal mesh which dragged them mercilessly beyond they evil which they were personally capable of committing."

    Those are your drone operators. And if we think drones are a good thing, that is us.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Heather. As always, you've given me much to think about.

      Especially struck by this, which you quoted from the Evely book:

      "The torturers are often good husbands, tender fathers, obliging and friendly neighbors. They were merely trapped in an infernal mesh which dragged them mercilessly beyond the evil which they were personally capable of committing."

  3. Very well thought out and nicely written Heather!


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