Swans Commentary » swans.com July 31, 2006  



Banality Of Evil


by Deck Deckert





(Swans - July 31, 2006)  It's long past time that we stopped referring to our wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Israel's war against Lebanon, in dispassionate terms involving differing views of geopolitics, strategic interests, mistaken foreign policy, rights of self defense, etc.

We are talking about crimes against decency, crimes against humanity. We are talking about war crimes.

And we are talking about evil.

People are being slaughtered -- civilians, children. They are not combatants, not soldiers. They are not, in that most obscene phrase so readily accepted by the corporate media, "collateral damage." They are innocents being blown apart, blinded, burned, paralyzed, hideously deformed, living and dying in agony.

We are talking about evil.

It's perhaps ironic that the phrase "the banality of evil," entered the general lexicon following the publication of a 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, based on the trial of a Nazi monster, Adolph Eichmann. Author Hannah Arendt argued that people who carry out unspeakable crimes may not be crazy fanatics, but simply ordinary individuals just "doing their job." It works because humans have a way of accepting whatever tasks they are given as normal, no matter how unspeakably ugly and murderous those tasks may be.

The citizens of the United States and Israel are now just doing our jobs, becoming part of the banality of evil.

Oh, that doesn't mean dropping bombs on cities -- directly. Or lobbing napalm and white phosphor shells on homes populated by women and children -- directly. It doesn't mean running torture camps -- directly.

It just means closing our eyes to what is being done in our names.

I've long been an apologist for the public because of the truism that the corporate media has been a pipeline for government lies. Among other things, they cover up the horrors of war, almost never publishing any photos to show the grim reality of shattered bodies, never give us any stories about the victims of our warplanes, tanks and high-powered rifles. They don't even tell us stories or give us pictures about our own troops. Without an honest media, we are severely handicapped in getting at the truth.

But enough is enough! We are all capable of reading between the lines. We know what it is going on.

Of course, our leaders are the most responsible. George Bush and the neocons started two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, and have encouraged Israel's rape of Lebanon. Congress is no better, blindly supporting the wars -- ours and Israel's. Democrats, the loyal opposition, aren't. The two-party system is a hoax. We have one party, a war party. And Congress has never met a war it didn't like.

The House voted overwhelmingly, 410 - 8, to support Israel in its "confrontation with Hezbollah," even though that "confrontation" is really an assault on the nation of Lebanon. And the Bush administration is rushing more bombs to Israel for use in Lebanon. More than 400 people have been killed so far, most of them civilians, very few of them Hezbollah fighters.

Israel, using a lot of US military hardware and billions of US dollars, has destroyed apartment houses, bridges, a milk factory, a food factory, two pharmaceutical plants, water treatment centers, power plants, grain silos, a Greek Orthodox Church, and hospitals. Israeli planes even attacked a convoy of new ambulances being brought into Lebanon from Syria. Nearly a million Lebanese have been made refugees.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the war we started with our illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional invasion and occupation is still killing people every day. Because the US government claims it doesn't do death counts, we don't know exactly how many people have died because of our monstrous war -- 100,000, 200,000, 300,000? Whatever the figure, the deadly toll climbs by the hour, day, month. The Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that in March, 2,378 Iraqis were killed, 2,284 in April, 2,669 in May and 3,149 in June.

We don't know exactly how many have died, and we don't care. We are just doing our jobs -- just like the Germans living next to the concentration camps in World War II.

We are talking about evil.

And while we have invaded Iraq, destroyed its cities, murdered its citizens, a group of Senate Democrats are upset because the country's leaders aren't sufficiently worried about "Hezbollah's attacks against Israel."

"Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raises serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East," said a letter to an Iraq official. It was signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York.

Such chutzpah is almost beyond imagining.

We are talking about evil.

Enough is enough.

Aside from the Civil War, Americans had never known what it was like to be attacked on our own soil -- before 911. When that happened we were so outraged that innocent civilians were the victims, "collateral damage," that we gave Bush and the neocons carte blanche to do anything they wanted. And what they did was to inflict unbelievable carnage on other innocent civilians.

The carnage won't stop until we realize that we are all innocent civilians, that it is only an accident of birth and circumstance whether we are in the World Trade Towers or under the bombs in the Middle East.

"First they came for the Jews," Pastor Martin Niemöller wrote, "and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew."

Well, today, they are coming for civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon. And we had better speak out. Or, as Pastor Martin Niemöller warned, "Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Remember that you are a civilian, an innocent, and do something! Anything!

Join a peace march, attend a rally, write your congressman, write a letter to the editor, sign a petition, join an opposition group on the Internet .... something.



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Deck Deckert on Swans (with bio).



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Published July 31, 2006