Wars Are Not Fought Against Evil: Chapter 1 Of “War Is A Lie” By David Swanson
One of the oldest excuses for war is that the enemy is irredeemably evil. He worships the wrong god, has the wrong skin and language, commits atrocities, and cannot be reasoned with. The long-standing tradition of making war on foreigners and converting those not killed to the proper religion “for their own good” is similar to the current practice of killing hated foreigners for the stated reason that their governments ignore women’s rights. From among the rights of women encompassed by such an approach, one is missing: the right to life, as women’s groups in Afghanistan have tried to explain to those who use their plight to justify the war. The believed evil of our opponents allows us to avoid counting the non-American women or men or children killed. Western media reinforce our skewed perspective with endless images of women in burqas, but they never risk offending us with pictures of women and children killed by our troops and air strikes.
Imagine if war were really fought for strategic, principled, humanitarian goals, the “march of freedom,” and the “spread of democracy”: wouldn’t we count the foreign dead in order to make some sort of rough calculation of whether the good we were trying to do outweighed the damage? We don’t do so, for the obvious reason that we consider the enemy evil and worthy of death and believe that any other thought would constitute a betrayal of our own side. We used to count the enemy dead, in Vietnam and earlier wars, as a measure of progress. In 2010 General David Petraeus revived a bit of that in Afghanistan, without including civilian dead. For the most part now, however, the higher the number of dead is, the more criticism there is of the war. But by avoiding counting and estimating, we give the game away: we still place a negative or empty value on those lives.
But just as the supposedly irredeemable heathen were converted to the correct religion when the screaming and dying stopped, so too do our wars eventually come to an end, or at least a permanent occupation of a pacified puppet state. At that point, the irredeemably evil opponents become admirable or at least tolerable allies. Were they evil to begin with or did saying so just make it easier to take a nation to war and persuade its soldiers to aim and fire? Did the people of Germany become subhuman monsters each time we had to make war on them, and then revert to being full humans when peace came? How did our Russian allies become an evil empire the moment they stopped doing the good humanitarian work of killing Germans? Or were we only pretending they were good, when actually they were evil all along? Or were we pretending they were evil when they were only somewhat confused human beings, just like us? How did Afghans and Iraqis all become demonic when a group of Saudis flew airplanes into buildings in the United States, and how did the Saudi people stay human? Don’t look for logic.
Belief in a crusade against evil remains a strong motivator of war supporters and participants. Some supporters and participants in U.S. wars are motivated, in fact, by a desire to kill and convert non-Christians. But none of this is central to the real, or at least the primary and surface-level, motivations of war planners, which will be discussed in chapter six. Their bigotry and hatred, if they have any, may ease their minds, but do not typically drive their agenda. War planners do, however, find fear, hatred, and revenge to be powerful motivators of the public and of military recruits. Our violence-saturated popular culture makes us overestimate the danger of violent attack, and our government plays on that fear with threats, warnings, color-coded danger levels, airport searches, and decks of playing cards with faces of the most evil enemies on them.
Section: EVIL vs. HARM
The worst causes of preventable death and suffering in the world include wars. But here in the United States, the leading causes of preventable death are not foreign cultures, foreign governments, or terrorist groups. They are illnesses, accidents, car crashes, and suicides. The “War on Poverty,” “War on Obesity,” and other such campaigns have been failed attempts to bring to bear on other great causes of harm and loss of life the same passion and urgency usually associated with wars against evil. Why is heart disease not evil? Why is cigarette smoking or the lack of workplace safety enforcement not evil? Among the rapidly growing unhealthy factors impacting our life chances is global warming. Why do we not launch urgent all-out efforts to combat these causes of death?
The reason is one that makes no moral sense, but makes emotional sense to us all. If someone tried to hide the danger of cigarettes, knowing this would result in much suffering and death, he would have done so to make a buck, not to hurt me personally. Even if he did act for the sadistic joy of hurting lots of people, though his acts might be counted evil, he still would not have specifically set out to hurt me in particular through a violent act.
Athletes and adventurers put themselves through fear and danger just for the thrill. Civilians enduring bombing raids experience fear and danger, but not the trauma suffered by soldiers. When soldiers return from wars psychologically damaged, it is not primarily because they have been through fear and danger. The top causes of stress in war are having to kill other human beings and having to directly face other human beings who want to kill you. The latter is described by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book On Killing as “the wind of hate.” Grossman explains:
“We want desperately to be liked, loved, and in control of our lives; and intentional, overt, human hostility and aggression — more than anything else in life — assaults our self-image, our sense of control, our sense of the world as a meaningful and comprehensible place, and, ultimately, our mental and physical health. . . . It is not fear of death and injury from disease or accident but rather acts of personal depredation and domination by our fellow human beings that strike terror and loathing in our hearts.”
This is why drill sergeants are pseudo-evil toward trainees. They are inoculating them, conditioning them to face, handle, and believe they can survive the wind of hate. Most of us, fortunately, have not been so trained. The airplanes of September 11, 2001, did not hit most of our homes, but the terrorized belief that the next ones might hit us made fear an important force in politics, one that many politicians only encouraged. We were then shown images of foreign, dark-skinned, Muslim, non-English speaking prisoners being treated like wild beasts and tortured because they could not be reasoned with. And for years we bankrupted our economy to fund the killing of “rag heads” and “hadji” long after Saddam Hussein had been driven out of power, captured, and killed. This illustrates the power of belief in opposing evil. You will not find the eradication of evil anywhere in the papers of the Project for the New American Century, the think tank that pushed hardest for a war on Iraq. Opposing evil is a way to get those who will not profit in any way from a war on board with promoting it.
In any war, both sides claim to be fighting for good against evil. (During the Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush mispronounced Saddam Hussein’s first name to sound like Sodom, while Hussein spoke of “Devil Bush.”) While one side could be telling the truth, clearly both parties in a war cannot be on the side of pure goodness against absolute evil. In most cases, something evil can be pointed to as evidence. The other side has committed atrocities that only evil beings would commit. And if it hasn’t really done so, then some atrocities can easily be invented. Harold Laswell’s 1927 book Propaganda Technique in the World War includes a chapter on “Satanism,” which states:
“A handy rule for arousing hate is, if at first they do not enrage, use an atrocity. It has been employed with unvarying success in every conflict known to man. Originality, while often advantageous, is far from indispensable. In the early days of the War of 1914 [later known as World War I] a very pathetic story was told of a seven-year old youngster, who had pointed his wooden gun at a patrol of invading Uhlans, who had dispatched him on the spot. This story had done excellent duty in the Franco-Prussian war over forty years before.”
Other atrocity stories have more basis in fact. But usually similar atrocities can also be found in many other nations against which we have not chosen to make war. Sometimes we make war on behalf of dictatorships that are themselves guilty of atrocities. Other times we are guilty of the same atrocities ourselves or even played a role in the atrocities of our new enemy and former ally. Even the primary offense against which we are going to war can be one we are guilty of ourselves. It is as important, in selling a war, to deny or excuse one’s own atrocities as to highlight or invent the enemy’s. President Theodore Roosevelt alleged atrocities by the Filipinos, while dismissing those committed by U.S. troops in the Philippines as of no consequence and no worse than what had been done at the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee, as if mere mass murder were the standard of acceptability. One U.S. atrocity in the Philippines involved slaughtering over 600, mostly unarmed, men, women, and children trapped in the crater of a dormant volcano. The General in command of that operation openly favored the extermination of all Filipinos.
In selling the War on Iraq, it became important to stress that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons, and equally important to avoid the fact that he had done so with U.S. assistance. George Orwell wrote in 1948,
“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
At some point we have to raise the question of whether the atrocities are the real motivation of the war planners, which should lead us to also look into the question of whether war is the best tool for preventing atrocities.
Section: A PLANK IN OUR OWN EYE
The record of the United States, sadly, is one of big lies. We are told that Mexico has attacked us, when in reality we attacked them. Spain is denying Cubans and Filipinos their liberty, when we should be the ones denying them their liberty. Germany is practicing imperialism, which is interfering with the British, French, and U.S. empire building. Howard Zinn quotes from a 1939 skit in his A People’s History of the United States:
“We, the governments of Great Britain and the United States, in the name of India, Burma, Malaya, Australia, British East Africa, British Guiana, Hongkong, Siam, Singapore, Egypt, Palestine, Canada, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Virgin Islands, hereby declare most emphatically, that this is not an imperialist war.”
Britain’s Royal Air Force kept busy between the two world wars dropping bombs on India, and took the prime responsibility for policing Iraq by firebombing tribes who did not or could not pay their taxes. When Britain declared war on Germany, the British imprisoned thousands of people in India for opposing World War II. Were the British fighting imperialism in World War II, or just German imperialism?
The original enemies of bands of human warriors may have been large cats, bears, and other beasts that preyed on our ancestors. Cave drawings of these animals may be some of the oldest military recruitment posters, but the new ones haven’t changed much. During World War II the Nazis used a poster depicting their enemies as gorillas, copying a poster that the American government had produced for the first world war to demonize or sub-humanize the Germans. The American version carried the words “Destroy This Mad Brute,” and had been copied from an earlier poster by the British. U.S. posters during World War II also depicted the Japanese as gorillas and bloodthirsty monsters.
The British and U.S. propaganda that persuaded Americans to fight in World War I focused on demonization of the Germans for fictional atrocities committed in Belgium. The Committee on Public Information, run by George Creel on behalf of President Woodrow Wilson, organized “Four Minute Men” who gave pro-war speeches in movie theaters during the four minutes it took to change reels. A sample speech printed in the committee’s Four Minute Men Bulletin on January 2, 1918, read:
“While we are sitting here tonight enjoying a picture show, do you realize that thousands of Belgians, people just like ourselves, are languishing in slavery under Prussian masters? . . . Prussian ‘Schrecklichkeit’ (the deliberate policy of terrorism) leads to almost unbelievable besotten brutality. The German soldiers . . . were often forced against their wills, they themselves weeping, to carry out unspeakable orders against defenseless old men, women, and children. . . . For instance, at Dinant the wives and children of 40 men were forced to witness the execution of their husbands and fathers.”
Those who commit or are believed to have committed such atrocities can be treated as less than human. (While Germans committed atrocities in Belgium and throughout the war, those that received the most attention are now known to have been fabricated or remain unsubstantiated and very much in doubt.)
In 1938, Japanese entertainers falsely described Chinese soldiers as failing to clear away their dead bodies after battles, leaving them to the beasts and the elements. This apparently helped justify the Japanese in making war on China. German troops invading the Ukraine during World War II could have converted surrendering Soviet troops to their side, but they were unable to accept their surrender because they were unable to see them as human. U.S. demonization of the Japanese during World War II was so effective that the U.S. military found it hard to stop U.S. troops from killing Japanese soldiers who were trying to surrender. There were also incidents of Japanese pretending to surrender and then attacking, but those do not explain away this phenomenon.
Japanese atrocities were numerous and hideous, and did not require fabrication. U.S. posters and cartoons depicted Japanese as insects and monkeys. Australian General Sir Thomas Blamey told the New York Times:
“Fighting Japs is not like fighting normal human beings. The Jap is a little barbarian . . . . We are not dealing with humans as we know them. We are dealing with something primitive. Our troops have the right view of the Japs. They regard them as vermin.”
A U.S. Army poll in 1943 found that roughly half of all GIs believed it would be necessary to kill every Japanese on earth. War correspondent Edgar L. Jones wrote in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly,
“What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers.”
Soldiers don’t do that sort of thing to human beings. They do it to evil beasts.
In fact, enemies in war are not just less than human. They are demonic. During the U.S. Civil War, Herman Melville maintained that the North was fighting for heaven and the South for hell, referring to the South as “the helmed dilated Lucifer.” During the Vietnam War, as Susan Brewer recounts in her book Why America Fights,
“War correspondents frequently did ‘citizen soldier’ interviews with articulate young officers who would be identified by name, rank, and hometown. The soldier would talk about being ‘here to do a job’ and express confidence in eventually getting it done. . . . In contrast, the enemy was routinely dehumanized in news coverage. American troops referred to the enemy as ‘gooks,’ ‘slopes,’ or ‘dinks.’“
A Gulf War editorial cartoon in the Miami Herald depicted Saddam Hussein as a giant fanged spider attacking the United States. Hussein was frequently compared to Adolf Hitler. On October 9, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl told a U.S. congressional committee that she’d seen Iraqi soldiers take 15 babies out of an incubator in a Kuwaiti hospital and leave them on the cold floor to die. Some congress members, including the late Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), knew but did not tell the U.S. public that the girl was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, that she’d been coached by a major U.S. public relations company paid by the Kuwaiti government, and that there was no other evidence for the story. President George H. W. Bush used the dead babies story 10 times in the next 40 days, and seven senators used it in the Senate debate on whether to approve military action. The Kuwaiti disinformation campaign for the Gulf War would be successfully reprised by Iraqi groups favoring Iraqi regime change twelve years later.
Are such fibs just a necessary part of the process of stirring up weak souls’ emotions for the truly necessary and noble work of war? Are we all, each and every one of us, wise and knowing insiders who must tolerate being lied to because others just don’t understand? This line of thinking would be more persuasive if wars did any good that could not be done without them and if they did it without all the harm. Two intense wars and many years of bombing and deprivation later, the evil ruler of Iraq was gone, but we’d spent trillions of dollars; a million Iraqis were dead; four million were displaced and desperate and abandoned; violence was everywhere; sex trafficking was on the rise; the basic infrastructure of electricity, water, sewage, and healthcare was in ruins (in part because of the U.S. intention to privatize Iraq’s resources for profit); life expectancy had dropped; cancer rates in Fallujah surpassed those in Hiroshima; anti-U.S. terrorist groups were using the occupation of Iraq as a recruiting tool; there was no functioning government in Iraq; and most Iraqis said they’d been better off with Saddam Hussein in power. We have to be lied to for this? Really?
Of course, Saddam Hussein did actual evil things. He murdered and tortured. But he caused the most suffering through a war against Iran in which the United States assisted him. He could have been the pure essence of evil, without our own nation’s needing to qualify as the epitome of unstained goodness. But why did Americans, twice, somehow choose the precise moments in which our government wanted to make war to become outraged at Saddam Hussein’s evil? Why are the rulers of Saudi Arabia, just next-door, never any cause for distress in our humanitarian hearts? Are we emotional opportunists, developing hatred only for those we have a chance to unseat or kill? Or are those who are instructing us as to whom we should hate this month the real opportunists?
Section: BIGOTED RACIST JINGOISM HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN
What makes the most fantastic and undocumented lies credible are differences and prejudices, against others and in favor of our own. Without religious bigotry, racism, and patriotic jingoism, wars would be harder to sell.
Religion has long been a justification for wars, which were fought for gods before they were fought for pharaohs, kings, and emperors. If Barbara Ehrenreich has it right in her book Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, the earliest precursors to wars were battles against lions, leopards, and other ferocious predators of people. In fact, those predatory beasts may be the base material from which gods were invented — and unmanned drones named (e.g. “the Predator”). The “ultimate sacrifice” in war may be intimately connected with the practice of human sacrifice as it existed before wars as we know them came to be. The emotions (not the creeds or accomplishments, but some of the sensations) of religion and war may be so similar, if not identical, because the two practices have a common history and have never been far apart.
The crusades and colonial wars and many other wars have had religious justifications. Americans fought religious wars for many generations prior to the war for independence from England. Captain John Underhill in 1637 described his own heroic war making against the Pequot:
“Captaine Mason entering into a Wigwam, brought out a fire-brand, after hee had wounded many in the house; then hee set fire to the West-side . . . my selfe set fire on the South end with a traine of Powder, the fires of both meeting in the center of the Fort blazed most terribly, and burnt all in the space of halfe an houre; many couragious fellowes were unwilling to come out, and fought most desperately . . . so as they were scorched and burnt . . . and so perished valiantly . . . Many were burnt in the Fort, both men, women, and children.”
This Underhill explains as a holy war:
“The Lord is pleased to exercise his people with trouble and afflictions, that hee might appeare to them in mercy, and reveale more cleerely his free grace unto their soules.”
Underhill means his own soul, and the Lord’s people are of course the white folks. The Native Americans may have been courageous and valiant, but they were not recognized as people in the full sense. Two and a half centuries later, many Americans had developed a far more enlightened outlook, and many had not. President William McKinley viewed Filipinos as in need of military occupation for their own good. Susan Brewer relates this account from a minister:
“Speaking to a delegation of Methodists in 1899, [McKinley] insisted that he had not wanted the Philippines and ‘when they came to us, as a gift from the gods, I did not know what to do with them.’ He described praying on his knees for guidance when it came to him that it would be ‘cowardly and dishonorable’ to give the islands back to Spain, ‘bad business’ to give them to commercial rivals Germany and France, and impossible to leave them to ‘anarchy and misrule’ under unfit Filipinos. ‘There was nothing left for us to do,’ he concluded, ‘but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.’ In this account of divine guidance, McKinley neglected to mention that most of the Filipinos were Roman Catholic or that the Philippines had a university older than Harvard.”
It is doubtful many members of the delegation of Methodists questioned McKinley’s wisdom. As Harold Lasswell noted in 1927, “The churches of practically every description can be relied upon to bless a popular war, and to see in it an opportunity for the triumph of whatever godly design they choose to further.” All that was needed, Lasswell said, was to get “conspicuous clerics” to support the war, and “lesser lights will twinkle after.” Propaganda posters in the United States during World War I showed Jesus wearing khaki and sighting down a gun barrel. Lasswell had lived through a war fought against Germans, people who predominantly belonged to the same religion as Americans. How much easier it is to use religion in wars against Muslims in the twenty-first century. Karim Karim, an associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, writes:
“The historically entrenched image of the ‘bad Muslim’ has been quite useful to Western governments planning to attack Muslim-majority lands. If public opinion in their countries can be convinced that Muslims are barbaric and violent, then killing them and destroying their property appears more acceptable.”
In reality, of course, nobody’s religion justifies making war on them, and U.S. presidents no longer claim it does. But Christian proselytization is common in the U.S. military, and so is hatred of Muslims. Soldiers have reported to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation that when seeking mental health counseling, they have been sent to chaplains instead who have counseled them to stay on the “battlefield” to “kill Muslims for Christ.”
Religion can be used to encourage the belief that what you are doing is good even if it makes no sense to you. A higher being understands it, even if you don’t. Religion can offer life after death and a belief that you are killing and risking death for the highest possible cause. But religion is not the only group difference that can be used to promote wars. Any difference of culture or language will do, and the power of racism to facilitate the worst sorts of human behavior is well established. Senator Albert J. Beveridge (R., Ind.) offered the Senate his own divinely guided rationale for war on the Philippines:
“God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns.”
The two world wars in Europe, while fought between nations now typically thought of as “white,” involved racism on all sides as well. The French newspaper La Croix on August 15, 1914, celebrated “the ancient élan of the Gauls, the Romans, and the French resurging within us,” and declared that
“The Germans must be purged from the left bank of the Rhine. These infamous hordes must be thrust back within their own frontiers. The Gauls of France and Belgium must repulse the invader with a decisive blow, once and for all. The race war appears.”
Three years later it was the United States’ turn to lose its mind. On December 7, 1917, Congressman Walter Chandler (D., Tenn.) declared on the floor of the House:
“It has been said that if you will analyze the blood of a Jew under the microscope, you will find the Talmud and the Old Bible floating around in some particles. If you analyze the blood of a representative German or Teuton you will find machine guns and particles of shells and bombs floating around in the blood. . . . Fight them until you destroy the whole bunch.”
This kind of thinking helps not only in easing the war-funding checkbooks out of the pockets of congress members, but also in allowing the young people they send to war to do the killing. As we’ll see in chapter five, killing does not come easily. About 98 percent of people tend to be very resistant to killing other people. More recently, a psychiatrist developed a methodology to allow the U.S. Navy to better prepare assassins to kill. It includes techniques,
“. . . to get the men to think of the potential enemies they will have to face as inferior forms of life [with films] biased to present the enemy as less than human: the stupidity of local customs is ridiculed, local personalities are presented as evil demigods.”
It is much easier for a U.S. soldier to kill a hadji than a human being, just as it was easier for Nazi troops to kill Untermenschen than real people. William Halsey, who commanded the United States’ naval forces in the South Pacific during World War II, thought of his mission as “Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs,” and had vowed that when the war was over, the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell.
If war evolved as a way for the men who killed giant beasts to keep busy killing other men as those animals died out, as Ehrenreich theorizes, its partnership with racism and all other distinctions between groups of people is a long one. But nationalism is the most recent, powerful, and mysterious source of mystical devotion aligned with war, and the one that itself grew out of war making. While knights of old would die for their own glory, modern men and women will die for a fluttering piece of colored cloth that itself cares nothing for them. The day after the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, the first state (New York) passed a law requiring that school children salute the U.S. flag. Others would follow. Nationalism was the new religion.
Samuel Johnson reportedly remarked that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, while others have suggested that, on the contrary, it is the first. When it comes to motivating warlike emotions, if other differences fail, there is always this: the enemy does not belong to our country and salute our flag. When the United States was lied more deeply into the Vietnam War, all but two senators voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. One of the two, Wayne Morse (D., Ore.) told other senators that he had been told by the Pentagon that the alleged attack by the North Vietnamese had been provoked. As will be discussed in chapter two, Morse’s information was correct. Any attack would have been provoked. But, as we will see, the attack itself was fictional. Morse’s colleagues did not oppose him on the grounds that he was mistaken, however. Instead, a senator told him:
“Hell Wayne, you can’t get into a fight with the president when all the flags are waving and we’re about to go to a national convention. All [President] Lyndon [Johnson] wants is a piece of paper telling him we did right out there, and we support him.”
As the war ground on for years, pointlessly destroying millions of lives, senators on the Foreign Relations Committee discussed in secret their concern that they had been lied to. Yet they chose to keep quiet, and records of some of those meetings were not made public until 2010. The flags had apparently been waving through all the intervening years.
War is as good for patriotism as patriotism is for war. When World War I began, many socialists in Europe rallied to their various national flags and abandoned their struggle for the international working class. Still today, nothing drives American opposition to international structures of government like our interest in war and insistence that U.S. soldiers never be subject to any authority other than Washington, D.C.
Section: THAT’S NOT TEN MILLION PEOPLE, THAT’S ADOLF HITLER
But wars are not fought against flags or ideas, nations or demonized dictators. They are fought against people, 98 percent of whom are resistant to killing, and most of whom had little or nothing to do with bringing on the war. One way to dehumanize those people is to replace all of them with an image of a single monstrous individual.
Marlin Fitzwater, White House Press Secretary for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, said that war is “easier for people to understand if there’s a face to the enemy.” He gave examples: “Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic.” Fitzwater might well have included the name Manuel Antonio Noriega. When the first president Bush sought, among other things, to prove he was no “wimp” by attacking Panama in 1989, the most prominent justification was that Panama’s leader was a mean, drug-crazed, weirdo with a pockmarked face who liked to commit adultery. An important article in the very serious New York Times on December 26, 1989, began:
“The United States military headquarters here, which has portrayed General Manuel Antonio Noriega as an erratic, cocaine-snorting dictator who prays to voodoo gods, announced today that the deposed leader wore red underwear and availed himself of prostitutes.”
Never mind that Noriega had worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including at the time he’d stolen the 1984 election in Panama. Never mind that his real offense was refusing to back U.S. war making against Nicaragua. Never mind that the United States had known about Noriega’s drug trafficking for years and continued working with him. This man snorted cocaine in red underwear with women not his wife. “That is aggression as surely as Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland 50 years ago was aggression,” declared Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger of Noriega’s drug trafficking. The invading U.S. liberators even claimed to find a big stash of cocaine in one of Noriega’s homes, although it turned out to be tamales wrapped in banana leaves. And what if the tamales really had been cocaine? Would that, like the discovery of actual “weapons of mass destruction” in Baghdad in 2003 have justified war?
Fitzwater’s reference to “Milosevic” was, of course, to Slobodan Milosevic, then President of Serbia, whom David Nyhan of the Boston Globe in January 1999 called “the closest thing to Hitler Europe has confronted in the last half century.” Except, you know, for all the other ones. By 2010, the practice in U.S. domestic politics, of comparing anyone you disagreed with to Hitler had become almost comical, but it is a practice that has helped launch many wars and may still launch more. However, it takes two to tango: in 1999, Serbs were calling the president of the United States “Bill Hitler.”
In the spring of 1914, in a movie theater in Tours, France, an image of Wilhelm II, the Emperor of Germany, came on the screen for a moment. All hell broke loose.
“Everybody yelled and whistled, men, women, and children, as if they had been personally insulted. The good natured people of Tours, who knew no more about the world and politics than what they had read in their newspapers, had gone mad for an instant,”
according to Stefan Zweig. But the French would not be fighting Kaiser Wilhelm II. They would be fighting ordinary people who happened to be born a little ways away from themselves in Germany.
Increasingly, over the years, we’ve been told that wars are not against people, but purely against bad governments and their evil leaders. Time after time we fall for tired rhetoric about new generations of “precision” weapons that our leaders pretend can target oppressive regimes without harming the people we think we’re liberating. And we fight wars for “regime change.” If the wars don’t end when the regime has been changed, that’s because we have a responsibility to take care of the “unfit” creatures, the little children, whose regimes we’ve changed. Yet, there’s no established record of this doing any good. The United States and its allies did relatively well by Germany and Japan following World War II, but could have done so for Germany following World War I and skipped the sequel. Germany and Japan were reduced to rubble, and U.S. troops have yet to leave. That’s hardly a useful model for new wars.
With wars or warlike actions the United States has overthrown governments in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, not to mention the Congo (1960); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); Brazil (1961 & 1964); the Dominican Republic (1961 & 1963); Greece (1965 & 1967); Bolivia (1964 & 1971); El Salvador (1961); Guyana (1964); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); and of course Haiti (1991 and 2004). We’ve replaced democracy with dictatorship, dictatorship with chaos, and local rule with U.S. domination and occupation. In no case have we clearly reduced evil. In most cases, including Iran and Iraq, U.S. invasions and U.S.-backed coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extra-judicial executions, torture, corruption and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of ordinary people.
The focus on rulers in wars is not motivated by humanitarianism so much as propaganda. People enjoy fantasizing that a war is a duel between great leaders. This requires demonizing one and glorifying another.
Section: IF YOU’RE NOT FOR WAR, YOU’RE FOR TYRANTS, SLAVERY, AND NAZISM
The United States was born out of a war against the figure of King George, whose crimes are listed in the Declaration of Independence. George Washington was correspondingly glorified. King George of England and his government were guilty of the crimes alleged, but other colonies gained their rights and independence without a war. As with all wars, no matter how old and glorious, the American Revolution was driven by lies. The story of the Boston Massacre, for example, was distorted beyond recognition, including in an engraving by Paul Revere that depicted the British as butchers. Benjamin Franklin produced a fake issue of the Boston Independent in which the British boasted of scalp hunting. Thomas Paine and other pamphleteers sold the colonists on war, but not without misdirection and false promises. Howard Zinn describes what happened:
“Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.”
As Zinn notes, prior to the revolution, there had been 18 uprisings against colonial governments, six black rebellions, and 40 riots, and the political elites saw a possibility for redirecting anger toward England. Still, the poor who would not profit from the war or reap its political rewards had to be compelled by force to fight in it. Many, including slaves promised greater liberty by the British, deserted or switched sides. Punishment for infractions in the Continental Army was 100 lashes. When George Washington, the richest man in America, was unable to convince Congress to raise the legal limit to 500 lashes, he considered using hard labor as a punishment instead, but dropped that idea because the hard labor would have been indistinguishable from regular service in the Continental Army. Soldiers also deserted because they needed food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and money. They signed up for pay, were not paid, and endangered their families’ wellbeing by remaining in the Army unpaid. About two-thirds of them were ambivalent to or against the cause for which they were fighting and suffering. Popular rebellions, like Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts would follow the revolutionary victory.
The American revolutionaries were also able to open up the west to expansion and wars against the Native Americans, something the British had been forbidding. The American Revolution, the very act of birth and liberation for the United States, was also a war of expansion and conquest. King George, according to the Declaration of Independence, had “endeavoured (sic) to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.” Of course, those were people fighting in defense of their lands and lives. Victory at Yorktown was bad news for their future, as England signed their lands over to the new nation.
Another sacred war in U.S. history, the Civil War, was fought — so many believe — in order to put an end to the evil of slavery. In reality, that goal was a belated excuse for a war already well underway, much like spreading democracy to Iraq became a belated justification for a war begun in 2003 overwhelmingly in the name of eliminating fictional weaponry. In fact, the mission of ending slavery was required to justify a war that had become too horrifying to be justified solely by the empty political goal of “union.” Patriotism had not yet been puffed up into quite the enormity it is today. Casualties were mounting sharply: 25,000 at Shiloh, 20,000 at Bull Run, 24,000 in a day at Antietam. A week after Antietam, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves only where Lincoln could not free the slaves except by winning the war. (His orders freed slaves only in southern states that had seceded, not in border states that remained in the union.) Yale historian Harry Stout explains why Lincoln took this step:
“By Lincoln’s calculation, the killing must continue on ever grander scales. But for that to succeed, the people must be persuaded to shed blood without reservation. This, in turn, required a moral certitude that the killing was just. Only emancipation — Lincoln’s last card — would provide such certitude.”
The Proclamation also worked against England’s entering the war on the side of the South.
We can’t know for certain what would have happened to the colonies without the revolution or to slavery without the Civil War. But we know that much of the rest of the hemisphere ended colonial rule and slavery without wars. Had Congress found the decency to end slavery through legislation, perhaps the nation would have ended it without division. Had the American South been permitted to secede in peace, and the Fugitive Slave Law been easily repealed by the North, it seems unlikely slavery would have lasted much longer.
The Mexican-American War, which was fought in part in order to expand slavery — an expansion that may have helped lead to the Civil War — is less talked about. When the United States, in the course of that war, forced Mexico to give up its northern territories, American diplomat Nicholas Trist negotiated most firmly on one point. He wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State:
“I assured [the Mexicans] that if it were in their power to offer me the whole territory described in our project, increased ten-fold in value, and, in addition to that, covered a foot thick all over with pure gold, upon the single condition that slavery should be excluded therefrom, I could not entertain the offer for a moment.”
Was that war fought against evil, too?
The most sacred and unquestionable war in U.S. history, however, is World War II. I’ll save a full discussion of this war for chapter four, but note here only that in the minds of many Americans today, World War II was justified because of the degree of evilness of Adolf Hitler, and that evilness is to be found above all in the holocaust.
But you won’t find any recruitment posters of Uncle Sam saying “I Want You . . . to Save the Jews.” When a resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 1934 expressing “surprise and pain” at Germany’s actions, and asking that Germany restore rights to Jews, the State Department “caused it to be buried in committee”.
By 1937 Poland had developed a plan to send Jews to Madagascar, and the Dominican Republic had a plan to accept them as well. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain came up with a plan to send Germany’s Jews to Tanganyika in East Africa. Representatives of the United States, Britain, and South American nations met at Lake Geneva in July 1938 and all agreed that none of them would accept the Jews.
On November 15, 1938, reporters asked President Franklin Roosevelt what could be done. He replied that he would refuse to consider allowing more immigrants than the standard quota system allowed. Bills were introduced in Congress to allow 20,000 Jews under the age of 14 to enter the United States. Senator Robert Wagner (D., N.Y.) said, “Thousands of American families have already expressed their willingness to take refugee children into their homes.” First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt set aside her anti-Semitism to support the legislation, but her husband successfully blocked it for years.
In July 1940, Adolf Eichman, “architect of the holocaust,” intended to send all Jews to Madagascar, which now belonged to Germany, France having been occupied. The ships would need to wait only until the British, which now meant Winston Churchill, ended their blockade. That day never came. On November 25, 1940, the French ambassador asked the U.S. Secretary of State to consider accepting German Jewish refugees then in France. On December 21st, the Secretary of State declined. By July 1941, the Nazis had determined that a final solution for the Jews could consist of genocide rather than expulsion.
In 1942, with the assistance of the Census Bureau, the United States locked up 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese in various internment camps, primarily on the West Coast, where they were identified by numbers rather than names. This action, taken by President Roosevelt, was supported two years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1943 off-duty white U.S. troops attacked Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles’ “zoot suit riots,” stripping and beating them in the streets in a manner that would have made Hitler proud. The Los Angeles City Council, in a remarkable effort to blame the victims, responded by banning the style of clothing worn by Mexican immigrants called the zoot suit.
When U.S. troops were crammed onto the Queen Mary in 1945 headed for the European war, blacks were kept apart from whites and stowed in the depths of the ship near the engine room, as far as possible from fresh air, in the same location in which blacks had been brought to America from Africa centuries before. African American soldiers who survived World War II could not legally return home to many parts of the United States if they had married white women overseas. White soldiers who had married Asians were up against the same anti-miscegenation laws in 15 states.
It is simply preposterous to suggest that the United States fought World War II against racial injustice or to save the Jews. What we are told wars are for is extremely different from what they are really for.
Section: MODERN VARIATIONS
In this age of supposedly fighting against rulers and on behalf of oppressed peoples, the Vietnam War offers an interesting case in which the U.S. policy was to avoid overthrowing the enemy government but to work hard to kill its people. To overthrow the government in Hanoi, it was feared, would draw China or Russia into the war, something the United States hoped to avoid. But destroying the nation ruled by Hanoi was expected to cause it to submit to U.S. rule.
The Afghanistan War, already the longest war in U.S. history and entering its 10th year at the time this book was written, is another interesting case, in that the demonic figure used to justify it, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, was not the ruler of the country. He was someone who had spent time in the country, and in fact had been supported there by the United States in a war against the Soviet Union. He had allegedly planned the crimes of September 11, 2001, in part in Afghanistan. Other planning, we knew, had gone on in Europe and the United States. But it was Afghanistan that apparently needed to be punished for its role as host to this criminal.
For the previous three years, the United States had been asking the Taliban, the political group in Afghanistan allegedly sheltering bin Laden, to turn him over. The Taliban wanted to see evidence against bin Laden and to be assured that he would receive a fair trial in a third country and not face the death penalty. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Taliban warned the United States that bin Laden was planning an attack on American soil. Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik told the BBC that senior U.S. officials had told him at a U.N.-sponsored summit in Berlin in July 2001 that the United States would take military action against the Taliban by mid-October. Naik “said it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban.”
This was all before the crimes of September 11th, for which the war would supposedly be revenge. When the United States attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the Taliban again offered to negotiate for the handing over of bin Laden. When President Bush again refused, the Taliban dropped its demand for evidence of guilt and offered simply to turn bin Laden over to a third country. President George W. Bush rejected this offer and continued bombing. At a March 13, 2002, press conference, Bush said of bin Laden “I truly am not that concerned about him.” For at least several more years, with bin Laden and his group, al Qaeda, no longer believed to be in Afghanistan, the war of revenge against him continued to afflict the people of that land. In contrast to Iraq, the War in Afghanistan was often referred to between 2003 and 2009 as “the good war.”
The case made for the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003 appeared to be about “weapons of mass destruction,” as well as more revenge against bin Laden, who in reality had no connections to Iraq at all. If Iraq didn’t give the weapons up, there would be war. And since Iraq did not have them, there was war. But this was fundamentally an argument that Iraqis, or at least Saddam Hussein, embodied evil. After all, few nations possessed anywhere near as many nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons as the United States, and we didn’t believe anyone had the right to make war on us. We helped other nations acquire such weapons and did not make war on them. In fact, we’d helped Iraq acquire biological and chemical weapons years before, which had laid the basis for the pretenses that it still had them.
Ordinarily, a nation’s possessing weapons can be immoral, undesirable, or illegal, but it cannot be grounds for a war. Aggressive war is itself the most immoral, undesirable, and illegal act possible. So, why was the debate over whether to attack Iraq a debate over whether Iraq had weapons? Apparently, we had established that Iraqis were so evil that if they had weapons then they would use them, possibly through Saddam Hussein’s fictional ties to al Qaeda. If someone else had weapons, we could talk to them. If Iraqis had weapons we needed to wage war against them. They were part of what President George W. Bush called “an axis of evil.” That Iraq was most blatantly not using its alleged weapons and that the surest way to provoke their use would be to attack Iraq were inconvenient thoughts, and therefore they were set aside and forgotten, because our leaders knew full well that Iraq really had no such capability.
Section: FIGHTING FIRE WITH GASOLINE
A central problem with the idea that wars are needed to combat evil is that there is nothing more evil than war. War causes more suffering and death than anything war can be used to combat. Wars don’t cure diseases or prevent car accidents or reduce suicides. (In fact, as we’ll see in chapter five, they drive suicides through the roof.) No matter how evil a dictator or a people may be, they cannot be more evil than war. Had he lived to be a thousand, Saddam Hussein could not have done the damage to the people of Iraq or the world that the war to eliminate his fictional weapons has done. War is not a clean and acceptable operation marred here and there by atrocities. War is all atrocity, even when it purely involves soldiers obediently killing soldiers. Rarely, however, is that all it involves. General Zachary Taylor reported on the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) to the U.S. War Department:
“I deeply regret to report that many of the twelve months’ volunteers, in their route hence of the lower Rio Grande, have committed extensive outrages and depredations upon the peaceable inhabitants. THERE IS SCARCELY ANY FORM OF CRIME THAT HAS NOT BEEN REPORTED TO ME AS COMMITTED BY THEM.” [capitalization in original]
If General Taylor did not want to witness outrages, he should have stayed out of war. And if the American people felt the same way, they should not have made him a hero and a president for going to war. Rape and torture are not the worst part of war. The worst part is the acceptable part: the killing. The torture engaged in by the United States during its recent wars on Afghanistan and Iraq is part, and not the worst part, of a larger crime. The Jewish holocaust took nearly 6 million lives in the most horrible way imaginable, but World War II took, in total, about 70 million — of which about 24 million were military. We don’t hear much about the 9 million Soviet soldiers whom the Germans killed. But they died facing people who wanted to kill them, and they themselves were under orders to kill. There are few things worse in the world. Missing from U.S. war mythology is the fact that by the time of the D-Day invasion, 80 percent of the German army was busy fighting the Russians. But that does not make the Russians heroes; it just shifts the focus of a tragic drama of stupidity and pain eastward.
Most supporters of war admit that war is hell. But most human beings like to believe that all is fundamentally right with the world, that everything is for the best, that all actions have a divine purpose. Even those who lack religion tend, when discussing something horribly sad or tragic, not to exclaim “How sad and awful!” but to express — and not just under shock but even years later — their inability to “understand” or “believe” or “comprehend” it, as though pain and suffering were not as clearly comprehensible facts as joy and happiness are. We want to pretend with Dr. Pangloss that all is for the best, and the way we do this with war is to imagine that our side is battling against evil for the sake of good, and that war is the only way such a battle can be waged. If we have the means with which to wage such battles, then as Senator Beveridge remarked above, we must be expected to use them. Senator William Fulbright (D., Ark.) explained this phenomenon:
“Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God’s favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations — to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image.”
Madeline Albright, Secretary of State when Bill Clinton was president, was more concise:
“What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
The belief in a divine right to wage war seems to only grow stronger when great military power runs up against resistance too strong for military power to overcome. In 2008 a U.S. journalist wrote about General David Petraeus, then commander in Iraq, “God has apparently seen fit to give the U.S. Army a great general in this time of need.”
On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: “Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British ‘Grand Slam’ which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.”
When Truman lied to America that Hiroshima was a military base rather than a city full of civilians, people no doubt wanted to believe him. Who would want the shame of belonging to the nation that commits a whole new kind of atrocity? (Will naming lower Manhattan “ground zero” erase the guilt?) And when we learned the truth, we wanted and still want desperately to believe that war is peace, that violence is salvation, that our government dropped nuclear bombs in order to save lives, or at least to save American lives.
We tell each other that the bombs shortened the war and saved more lives than the some 200,000 they took away. And yet, weeks before the first bomb was dropped, on July 13, 1945, Japan sent a telegram to the Soviet Union expressing its desire to surrender and end the war. The United States had broken Japan’s codes and read the telegram. Truman referred in his diary to “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.” Truman had been informed through Swiss and Portuguese channels of Japanese peace overtures as early as three months before Hiroshima. Japan objected only to surrendering unconditionally and giving up its emperor, but the United States insisted on those terms until after the bombs fell, at which point it allowed Japan to keep its emperor.
Presidential advisor James Byrnes had told Truman that dropping the bombs would allow the United States to “dictate the terms of ending the war.” Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wrote in his diary that Byrnes was “most anxious to get the Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in.” Truman wrote in his diary that the Soviets were preparing to march against Japan and “Fini Japs when that comes about.” Truman ordered the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 8th and another type of bomb, a plutonium bomb, which the military also wanted to test and demonstrate, on Nagasaki on August 9th. Also on August 9th, the Soviets attacked the Japanese. During the next two weeks, the Soviets killed 84,000 Japanese while losing 12,000 of their own soldiers, and the United States continued bombing Japan with non-nuclear weapons. Then the Japanese surrendered. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that,
“. . . certainly prior to 31 December, 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November, 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
One dissenter who had expressed this same view to the Secretary of War prior to the bombings was General Dwight Eisenhower. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy agreed:
“The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.”
Whatever dropping the bombs might possibly have contributed to ending the war, it is curious that the approach of threatening to drop them, the approach used during a half-century of Cold War to follow, was never tried. An explanation may perhaps be found in Truman’s comments suggesting the motive of revenge:
“Having found the bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor, against those who have starved and beaten and executed American prisoners of war, and against those who have abandoned all pretense of obeying international law of warfare.”
Truman could not, incidentally, have chosen Tokyo as a target — not because it was a city, but because we had already reduced it to rubble.
The nuclear catastrophes may have been, not the ending of a World War, but the theatrical opening of the Cold War, aimed at sending a message to the Soviets. Many low and high ranking officials in the U.S. military, including commanders in chief, have been tempted to nuke more cities ever since, beginning with Truman threatening to nuke China in 1950. The myth developed, in fact, that Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for nuking China led to the rapid conclusion of the Korean War. Belief in that myth led President Richard Nixon, decades later, to imagine he could end the Vietnam War by pretending to be crazy enough to use nuclear bombs. Even more disturbingly, he actually was crazy enough. “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? . . . I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes,” Nixon said to Henry Kissinger in discussing options for Vietnam.
President George W. Bush oversaw the development of smaller nuclear weapons that might be used more readily, as well as much larger non-nuclear bombs, blurring the line between the two. President Barack Obama established in 2010 that the United States might strike first with nuclear weapons, but only against Iran or North Korea. The United States alleged, without evidence, that Iran was not complying with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), even though the clearest violation of that treaty is the United States’ own failure to work on disarmament and the United States’ Mutual Defense Agreement with the United Kingdom, by which the two countries share nuclear weapons in violation of Article 1 of the NPT, and even though the United States’ first strike nuclear weapons policy violates yet another treaty: the U.N. Charter.
Americans may never admit what was done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but our country had been in some measure prepared for it. After Germany had invaded Poland, Britain and France had declared war on Germany. Britain in 1940 had broken an agreement with Germany not to bomb civilians, before Germany retaliated in the same manner against England — although Germany had itself bombed Guernica, Spain, in 1937, and Warsaw, Poland, in 1939, and Japan meanwhile was bombing civilians in China. Then, for years, Britain and Germany had bombed each other’s cities before the United States joined in, bombing German and Japanese cities in a spree of destruction unlike anything ever previously witnessed. When we were firebombing Japanese cities, Life magazine printed a photo of a Japanese person burning to death and commented “This is the only way.” By the time of the Vietnam War, such images were highly controversial. By the time of the 2003 War on Iraq, such images were not shown, just as enemy bodies were no longer counted. That development, arguably a form of progress, still leaves us far from the day when atrocities will be displayed with the caption “There has to be another way.”
Combating evil is what peace activists do. It is not what wars do. And it is not, at least not obviously, what motivates the masters of war, those who plan the wars and bring them into being. But it is tempting to think so. It is very noble to make brave sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, in order to end evil. It is perhaps even noble to use other people’s children to vicariously put an end to evil, which is all that most war supporters do. It is righteous to become part of something bigger than oneself. It can be thrilling to revel in patriotism. It can be momentarily pleasurable I’m sure, if less righteous and noble, to indulge in hatred, racism, and other group prejudices. It’s nice to imagine that your group is superior to someone else’s. And the patriotism, racism, and other isms that divide you from the enemy, can thrillingly unite you, for once, with all of your neighbors and compatriots across the now meaningless boundaries that usually hold sway.
If you are frustrated and angry, if you long to feel important, powerful, and dominating, if you crave the license to lash out in revenge either verbally or physically, you may cheer for a government that announces a vacation from morality and open permission to hate and to kill. You’ll notice that the most enthusiastic war supporters sometimes want nonviolent war opponents killed and tortured along with the vicious and dreaded enemy; the hatred is far more important than its object. If your religious beliefs tell you that war is good, then you’ve really gone big time. Now you’re part of God’s plan. You’ll live after death, and perhaps we’ll all be better off if you bring on the death of us all.
But simplistic beliefs in good and evil don’t match up well with the real world, no matter how many people share them unquestioningly. They do not make you a master of the universe. On the contrary, they place control of your fate in the hands of people cynically manipulating you with war lies. And the hatred and bigotry don’t provide lasting satisfaction, but instead breed bitter resentment.
Are you above all that? Have you outgrown racism and other such ignorant beliefs? Do you support wars because they, in fact, have honorable motivations as well? Do you suppose that wars, whatever base emotions also get attached to them, are fought in defense of victims against aggressors and to preserve the most civilized and democratic ways of life? Let’s take a look at that in chapter two.