Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When God Really Does Order Genocide

How would you like to kill some women and children?

I don't mean just a few. I mean all of them, every one you see, from where you stand to the horizon in every direction and beyond. And you'll kill them from no more than four feet away.

She may be drop-dead gorgeous, but the only thing you're to stick in her is your sword. Or she's a toddler, squealing in terror as she sees you decapitate her mother—she's next. And you can nail that suckling child and his mother with one thrust.

Are you having fun yet?

And don't forget: in order to kill them, you first have to kill the men of the town who are defending them. Ragheads don't care about women, of course, but they sure as hell care about themselves and their property, and there's no more valuable property than a woman, so between their instinct for self-preservation and their jealousy over their property, they will fight as fiercely as they can.

Then you get to dispose of the bodies. And no "accidentally" letting the women's clothing fall off.

How about it? You up for it?

This was precisely the invitation the Israelites received when they left Egypt. They were to kill the "Amorites," all the occupants of Canaan. No one was to be spared.

I believe that the Bible is the word of God, so I have to believe that God did indeed command the Israelites to kill the Amorites. I also believe that God is incapable of evil, so that command must have been moral when he issued it. I will admit to harboring the thought that the omnipotent, omniscient, compassionate, and righteous creator of the universe and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to have been able to think of a better way to take the Israelites into their homeland, but the Bible says what it says: the God who does not change ordered genocide. Like it or find another religion.

Can we use the invasion of Canaan to justify Christian participation in Uncle Sam's wars today? Does the death of innocent people then justify "collateral damage" today?

The warfare Uncle Sam's army is waging today is nothing like warfare then. The invaders of Canaan were hand to hand with their enemies; an arrow, a sword, a spear, or a stone could have come out of nowhere and killed any one of them. God had promised them victory, but he didn't promise that none of them would be killed. And indeed, some of them were killed, and not just those who died from Joshua's error at the first battle of Ai.

It's one thing for us to sit in our comfortable houses and read the accounts of the conquest in the past tense. It would have been quite another thing, even after forty years of manna, a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night, and the Jordan drying up at the height of the flood season, to face all those men in a fight to the death. Then, on top of that, they had to kill all those innocent women and children. Frankly, the thought sickens me; God called such squeamishness at the time rebellion.

I don't think obeying the call to invade would have been so difficult for the Islraelites if they had had Predator drones, rockets, bunker-buster bombs, mortars, and the like. I can see them clearing the land, including the areas they never did conquer, and saying, "Jeez, we've still got some whizbangs left over. Are you sure you don't want us to do some more?" Madeleine Albright was being merely human when she lamented that the Clinton administration had nothing to use the world's most powerful military on.*

Power corrupts, military power no less than any other. As the price of anything goes down, the demand rises. Our rulers have no doubt gotten us into wars, and soldiers have been willing to fight, because the politicians and higher officers wage these wars from safely behind the lines; gone are the days when kings, or even generals, led their armies in battle.

I think we need to be very sure we're not putting words in God's mouth when we use the invasion of Canaan to justify our present wars.

We must also reconsider our dim view of the conquest of Canaan. While the conquest was infinitely easier on the Israelites than it was on the Canaanites, I can't imagine the veterans of that war enjoyed remminiscing later about killing infants or made trophies of the corpses of the men. It was a horrible time, and "when the land had rest," I'm sure the warriors did all they could to see that they would never have to pick up their weapons again.

*What she might have meant was that the money being spent on the military was being wasted and should be diverted to education or other "entitlements," there being no enemies strong enough to justify the size of the military at the time, but the subsequent "humanitarian" invasions of Somalia and Bosnia make that less likely.

Monday, May 16, 2011

World Magazine Delivers

I thumb through the copies of World magazine in the mailboxes at my church as I wait for the early service to finish and Sunday school to begin so I can find out what my conservative brethren are up to. These are people who read their Bibles, pray, and tell the world unashamedly that they know Jesus, are his representatives, and therefore can speak for him.

There's always something to be learned from these sessions, but I should have realized I was in trouble yesterday when I saw the picture that was originally purveyed as President Obama and his staff following the assassination of Osama bin Laden "as it happened." While that photo and caption was front-page news on May 2, by the end of the week the back pages had told those who cared to listen that that photo had been staged; those folks were at least twenty minutes behind real time. The firefight they were supposedly watching didn't happen, Osama didn't hide behind his wife or have a gun, etc. Apparently Mr. Obama is a rat when it comes to domestic issues—World consistenty (and rightly) excoriates him for his evil policies on health care, education, and Social Security—but absolutely trustworthy when it comes to killing foreigners.

But I kept on thumbing, and I found a page that listed a couple of dozen instances of al-Qaeda terrorism: hundreds of murders, maybe a thousand or two, and that's even apart from 9/11. Yup, those al-Qaedistas are no good; they have a lot of innocent blood on their hands.

But though George W. Bush and Barack Obama each have the blood of more innocent people on their hands than al-Qaeda, the Jesus of World mag is OK with that. Al-Qaeda "targets" innocent people, like the spies in the embassies in Dar Es-Salaam and Nairobi and the generals in the Pentagon, to say nothing of the profiteers from the military-industrial complex in the Twin Towers. But those hundreds of thousands of people killed by Clinton, Bush, and Obama are simply "collateral damage": "we" knew they would die as the result of "our" actions, but "our" target was someone else (who got away for ten years), so "we" are not responsible for their deaths.

Of course, World also didn't mention that al-Qaeda was created by the CIA to run the Russians out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, nor that they are currently "our" allies in Libya. This was a time to celebrate the death of bin Laden, not to question the wisdom of our now-vindicated commander in chief.

Then I got to the cartoon page, where I found a connect-the-dots picture of Osama, the message of which was that had it not been for waterboarding, "we" wouldn't have caught him. That the great majority of those waterboarded were innocent of any wrongdoing and had no useful information to give is apparently of no interest to Jesus. Again, it's just collateral damage. "Stuff happens."

A few pages away was a review of a book that states that "some wars are worth fighting." I learned that an operation in Fallujah had turned up torture chambers used by the "insurgents." No reason for those chambers was given, but it's not hard to guess.

"Insurgents," as you know, are those who forcibly resist "liberation" by the US military. Those who object to "our" presence are either supposed to shut up, ask "us" nicely to leave (and shut up when "we" don't), or put on uniforms that say, "Patriotic Front against Imperialist Invaders" and stand out in the open so "we" can shoot them from helicopters. Operating an undergroud resistance was OK for the French against the Germans—they were on "our" side, don't forget—but it's not OK for "our" Iraqi "enemies."

I suspect those torture chambers were the scene primarily of revenge that escalated into gratuitous butchery. I will grant that Muslims and Communists can indeed be excessively vengeful. We saw after the war ended in Vietnam that those Communists who had lost family and friends to US bombs (and their sympathizers) took horrible vengeance on those who had collaborated with the imperialists. They also stuck it to those who hadn't collaborated but weren't sufficiently "patriotic" just for good measure. Human nature being what it is, I expect that those who ran the torture chambers in Fallujah had similar reasons for what they did.

But human nature is what it is, and Uncle Sam is no different. Tired of murder and plunder by Uncle Sam and his proxies (the Shah, Mubarak, Saddam, and Gaddhafi, for starters) in the Muslim world, Islamists took the fight to the US (the bombings of the World Trade Center and the embassies in the 1990s). Two wrongs don't make a right, and those killings were evil. But the US response has been to take the fight yet again to the Muslim world, killing tens if not hundreds of innocent civilians for every US victim of al-Qaeda.

I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, where six million people were executed without trial. Christians in Germany feared for their lives, having been starved by the US and Britain after the Great War, and afraid that the Soviets, who had killed a dozen or so million of their own subjects and enslaved survivors in an atheist hellhole of lies, murder, and plunder, would take them out as well. No doubt Jews who had been victims of pogroms under the Czar had sympathized with the Bolsheviks, so it was understandable that Christians would view all Jews as possible enemies. And because they couldn't tell who was innocent and who was guilty, they allowed the "collateral damage" to occur.

How much of that genocide can be traceable to legitimate fear and how much to the corruption endemic to the human soul I don't know. It is obvious that German Christians let their government get away with behavior they would never tolerate from foreigners, or even from their own children in their church nurseries. And US Christians are following that same path.

A friend came in on me while I was gagging on the cartoons. Hoping this was a "teachable moment," I began explaining that I really thought killing Osama was a bad idea, if for no other reason than we could have gotten all sorts of useful information from him.

My comments were swept aside with, "Hey, I'm OK with assassinating that guy."

Jesus, we hardly knew ye.

UPDATE: My friend from the last paragraph tells me he was just being facetious. I guess I take these things too seriously.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why We Need the War on Drugs

If there are three good reasons for something, it's a good thing, right? "By the testimony of two or three witnesses shall all things be established."

I think I’ve come up with three good reasons for the war on drugs, three ways we benefit from it. Maybe this means I’ll have stop being so negative about it.

All three reasons for the war on drugs boil down to one word: jobs. With manufacturing gone overseas and real estate and the stock market flat for the foreseeable future, we need jobs, and the war on drugs is just the medicine we need.

The first jobs the war on drugs provides are in the pharmaceutical corporations. Our bodies and marijuana were so made for each other that Dr. Joseph Mercola can write, “Your body also has naturally occurring endocannabinoids similar to THC [the active ingredient of marijuana] that stimulate your cannabinoid receptors and produce a variety of important physiologic processes. So your body is actually hard-wired to respond to cannabinoids.” But if people were to grow marijuana and make their own oils to deal with such things as cancer, they would buy fewer manufactured drugs, Big Pharma would sell less, and laborers—and who knows, maybe even managers—would lose their jobs.

Since it’s more important that workers in the pharmaceutical industry have paychecks so they can buy food and the other necessities of life than it is that goods and services be produced (let alone that those in the pharmaceutical industry produce them), we simply can’t afford to allow diseased people to use alternative medications.

Besides, you and I know that only goofballs take herbal medicines, so there is something to be said for the line that alternative medicines are illegal to protect people from themselves—and most of all to protect the children. But it’s really jobs that keep us from returning to the days when the response to kooky ideas like herbal medicine was, “Hey, give it a try. It’s a free country.”

The second set of jobs we need to preserve are in the military-intelligence-industrial complex. Without the CIA and the military going all over the world to do things don’t know about and decent people wouldn’t approve of if they knew, we would never be safe from those who hate us. Heck, without these brave folks, those who hate us might not even hate us, and we can’t have that: we need enemies so we can provide jobs not only for the Pentagon and the CIA, but also for the industries that supply them.

Folks used to think that all it would take to rein in the spooks and troops would be for Congress to cut off their funding. But that’s just not true: the CIA has a symbiotic relationship with a worldwide network of drug smugglers; they give the smugglers a monopolies by killing or imprisoning the competition, and the smugglers give them cuts from their handsome profits. If Congress cuts off “defense” funding, our “defenders” can still do things that make people who don’t otherwise matter hate us and keep the job bonanza running.

The third set of jobs is in the prison industry. Building and maintaining “correctional facilities” is a perfect way to revive a local economy: construction, maintenance, and day-to-day operations require people who in turn need grocers, schools, and electronics shops. Of course, guards, administrators, and janitors can’t be paid for doing nothing, so we need to find ways of filling the cells. There aren’t enough murderers, rapists, burglars, and other violent criminals to fill the cages, but druggies can occupy the space just as well. As a bonus, we can hire more policemen and dogs to sniff everyone and everything everywhere to find the evil weed. And if anything escapes their notice, that problem is nothing more technology can’t solve: infrared and ultraviolet goggles and unmanned aircraft are just the first things I can name off the top of my head that need hundreds of well-paid workers to produce and maintain. They may not be good for preventing rapes, but they can surely find marijuana growing in a basement.

Drugs that require acres of disclaimers in fine print, wars against foreigners who otherwise wouldn’t hate us, and prisons for people who pose no threat to anyone except possibly themselves. This is the stuff of prosperity. And it’s all brought to us by the war on drugs.

This is such a good idea that I can’t for the life of me figure why the Bible never recommends it. It must be that the Bible is just an old book that was perhaps OK in its day but has nothing to say to advanced creatures like us in the complexities of modern times.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lords of the Earth

One of the books that inspired me before we went to Papua New Guinea (and later made me realize how easy we had it compared to true pioneer missionaries) was Don Richardson's Lords of the Earth, the story of how a stone-age tribe in western New Guinea's was first contact with the gospel. The book's timeline began months or years before contact with a scene designed to make Western Christians gag at the tribesmen's barbarity and appreciate the sacrifice and risk of those heroic missionaries who went to evangelize them.

Male Yawi, who considered themselves the lords of the whole earth, hence the book's title, were clad only in penis gourds, and their greeting was to click the gourd with their fingernail and say, "I like your feces."

But, as Dr. Seuss would say, that's not all—oh no, that is not all. They tossed a young girl over a cataract for some minor religious offense, and they summarily executed a prisoner of war—considering it an act of mercy, mind you—by crushing the man's head with a stone. Oh, how those nasty Yawi needed the Gospel!

Well, let's move to thirty years or so after the events Richardson describes, when Mother Teresa was the featured speaker at a prayer breakfast in Washington DC. I haven't been able to confirm any of this, but my conservative source at the time told me that when she had her full rhetorical momentum up, she looked that low-life skunk Bill Clinton, who was president at the time, in the eye and said, "When a society kills its own children [referring to abortion, the one freedom Mr. Clinton ever defended], there is nothing left of it worth saving." Take that, you leftist sicko!

Well, as we know, once Bubba was out of the White House, there was suddenly a whole lot worth saving. Mr. Clinton's successor didn't deny the abortionist crowd a dime of federal tax money, let alone do anything to make it possible for states, counties, or municipalities to make the practice illegal, but by God, when the Twin Towers went down, he could do no wrong, and nothing—no budget constraints, no constitutional rights of US citizens at home, not even human decency—could stand in the way of "bringing Osama bin Laden to justice."

Well, ding dong, the witch is dead. He's gone where the goblins go, below. Yo-ho! "Some people deserve a headshot, he was one of them."

I've already compared 9/11 to Uncle Sam's subsequent predations and so Osama to our current president. Let me also remind you that Lincoln killed a hundred times that many people he considered citizens of the nation over which he presided, Roosevelt killed far more innocent civilians by carpet-bombing Germany, and Truman killed far more by nuking Japan, and Nixon and Johnson killed more in Vietnam (for what Robert McNamara, the architect of that war confessed was a lie), all much more than died on 9/11. When it comes to killing innocent people, Osama, even if guilty of 9/11, was a piker. We name bridges and high schools after people with far more innocent blood on their hands.

I learned recently that the birth defect rate in Fallujah is now 80 percent. It's so bad that the Iraqi health ministry has told the people to stop having children. If they don't have children, who will take care of them in their old age? Not a problem! The cancer rate in Fallujah is like it was in the areas that were downwind from Chernobyl. They'll die before they get old.

If that isn't genocide, what is?

And remember, our brave men and women leveled Fallujah, a city the size of double-A baseball towns in the US, because a few people mutilated the corpses of mercenary soldiers in Uncle Sam's employ. They didn't torture living beings; they mistreated corpses, dead tissue. Which cities in the US should be leveled in retaliation for US soldiers' mistreatment of Afghan corpses?

Well, Osama was still worthy of death, right?

Was he even guilty of 9/11? I wrote in the above-linked post that he didn't act like one would expect the mastermind of 9/11 to act. Over the last decade we've gotten blurry pictures, and cassette and video tapes (in the age of camera phones and Skype?) that government experts—employees of the same government that couldn't predict the dot-com bubble, couldn't predict 9/11, couldn't predict the housing bubble, and isn't predicting a college loan bubble, and meanwhile has wiped out the savings of thrifty subjects to bail out the richest people the world has ever seen—tell us "could very well be" Osama. But where was his Lord Haw-Haw or Tokyo Rose? Where was his cult of personality? Again, compared to the Clintons, the Bushes, and Obama, he was a piker.

And, of course, now that he has no opportunity to face his accusers, we will never know what he knew about 9/11 beforehand. He joins the six million Jews tried in the media and summarily executed by Hitler. Just another Untermann.

Who has benefited from 9/11? Did the Iraqis? Did Saddam? Did the Afghans? Did the Taliban? For that matter, did al-Qaeda? Again, read the fatwa. What were his gripes? Did 9/11 get the US out of the Middle East? Did it get the US to stop killing innocents there? Did he get anything he wanted? So if he was so wrong about the consequences, how could he have been smart enough to pull it off? (Best answer if he's guilty: the world's most expensive, intrusive, and vicious intelligence and military machine is also totally incompetent.)

If he was such a "mastermind" that he could hit three of US fascism's most important buildings, is it reasonable to ask what he thought the US government's reaction would be? Did he expect Uncle Sam to say, "Oh, golly, this is nasty. Let's cut and run"? Or is it more likely that he would remember that the same Madeleine Albright who told the world that it was "worth it" to kill half a million civilians in a vain attempt to get them to rise up against Saddam had also asked, "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about, if we can't use it?"

And isn't it even more likely that the neoconservatives, like the Project for a New American Century, Keynesians who believe that war is good for the economy, as proven by World War II, which got the US out of the Great Depression, and who were saying for years before 9/11 that all that was needed to bring about the new world order they envisioned was "another Pearl Harbor," had at least a hand in the affair? They have certainly benefited, and they seem to be the only ones; literally everyone else, from formerly oppressed but now dead Iraqis and Afghans to US taxpayers, is footing the bill, with no end in sight.

There are plenty of fingerprints on 9/11, but I wouldn't bet they're Osama's.

One of my coworkers, a twenty-something, a literature major no less, paid a fellow musician a compliment the other day by saying, "He's the shit." All she's missing to be a good Yawi is a penis gourd. (Actually, I'm being unfair. She is the only one of my coworkers who has spoken out against the wars. But like a good Yawi, she uses feces as a compliment.)

We US citizens are now the lords of the earth. Our last enemy has now been vanquished. (The fans at the Phillies game last night erupted into chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" at the news.) We can engage in genocide with no one to stop us. We can now execute people without anything more than a trial by the media. And you, dear reader, could be next.

Uncle Sam, I like your feces—not.