Waking up to an explosion, your home on fire. Men with guns running, crouched like crabs, firing bursts of bullets. As you shake your head a man grabs your mother from behind and expertly cuts her throat. The car other members of your family are trying to flee in is hit by a shoulder launched explosive, becoming a fire ball. You run, imagining how you are going to be killed.
Or a quiet, airless morning, no explosions, no gunfire. No food. Flies. Dying children who expire without a murmur. Hyenas and vultures casually dining together, no snarling and posing, there’s enough carrion for everyone, with left overs to drag home.
Or a person at a console, pressing a button and pumping a fist watching the screen as the targeted city is vaporized under a dramatic canopy of fire.
We lament all these hellish things even as we sigh at the inevitability of them, debate the correctness of employing them. Homo sapiens are sometimes monsters, we reason, and sometimes there’s nothing for it but to use every weapon available to destroy these evil creatures. Obama, who, in fairness to him, I must say I hate mostly for not being anywhere near as great a president as he was a candidate, did his share of this reasoning.
He yielded to military advisors who agreed it was best not to put American “boots on the ground” but to instead use a top secret targeted killing program to assassinate suspected terrorist enemies with missiles launched from remote controlled pilotless aircraft called drones. Not to do so, or stopping the program, he likely didn’t need to be reminded, would make him look weak. The numbers of civilians killed would not be revealed. All dead males of military age, in a generous range from young teenager to middle aged, are presumed to be enemies killed in action, or EKIA. Fair is fair. They could very well be!
Many are horrified when they learn that authoritarian governments use Death Squads to terrorize the opposition. One photo of a pile of slaughtered nuns, their humanitarian mission cut short, is usually enough to get the world press howling. The armies of freedom will sometimes march against such regimes, provided the regime is not allied with a huge business concern who has a say in the deployment of the armies of freedom. Most authoritarian governments enjoy such alliances. The armies of freedom have supported many such monsters over the years. I realize I’m not going out on a moral limb saying any of these things. Are you going to argue that Death Squads are cool?
Now the world shudders over videos of workers in a Syrian town desperately trying to save dying babies by hosing them off, in an attempt to wash away the irreversibly murderous nerve gas a power-crazed dictator attacked his own citizens with. Dead children are carried off and respectfully laid out by stoic rescue workers.
The current president of the United States, an angry and impulsive man, instantly does what the reflective, calculating Obama, who was lambasted as a weak and indecisive leader for refraining from massive retaliatory killing, did not do. With the horrific images of the nerve gas attack against civilians, and the dead children, fresh in everyone’s mind, our decisive new leader does not hesitate or ask Congress or flinch in any way, he immediately orders two destroyers to launch more than fifty tomahawk missiles at Syria, presumably hitting some strategic asset of the Syrian dictator’s, the very air base he says the gas attack was launched from.
Our president glares meaningfully at the camera as he announces he doesn’t need anyone to tell him what the right thing to do is. After all, this is not some drone-launched missile fired by the well-meaning army of freedom that inadvertently kills a wedding party, severely maiming the few survivors, this is a targeted, proportional response to a regime using poison gas against it’s own children.
I don’t want to jump on this president, who gets so little love from most Americans, who is routinely mocked and ridiculed by every late night comedian. I am writing this simply to underscore how routine such state violence is, and how little we concern ourselves with it, even abstractly.
If there is a better way, we reason, there is nothing we can do about it anyway. Powerful forces, often at the command of raging psychopaths, are regularly unleashed to slaughter anybody who stands in the way of valuable natural resources or anything else the powerful forces want. Innocence or guilt has little to do with who will live and who will die. This world is not a meritocracy, after all, nobody but those closest to you gives a rat’s tutu about how moral, kind, empathetic you are.
The guy who is launching the missiles, named after the close fighting weapon of the people slaughtered by the armies of freedom, certainly doesn’t give a shit. It enrages him that a dictator would kill babies in such an inhuman way and he takes decisive action.
Thirty-six children are said to have died in the poison gas attack. Yesterday our ambassador to the UN asked rhetorically “how many more children have to die before Russia cares?” We note here that according to one source over 700 children have been killed by US and Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since August 2014. The recent SEAL raid in Yemen killed a bunch of children, at least one of whom, a pretty little girl, was allowed to writhe in agony, untreated, for hours before she finally died of the American bullet in her spine.
In fairness to our current president, why should he care what his critics have to say about his unauthorized use of millions of dollars worth of deadly missiles against an unabashedly evil regime? What are you going to fucking do about it anyway, big shot?