War By Right
by Lesley Docksey
January 23, 2011'We all have the right to absolutely everything.’ Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion
Language (excuse the pun) is a dead giveaway. In Hollywood and the War Machine (part of the Empire series on AlJazeera TV, December 2010) there was a fascinating debate on Hollywood’s love affair with war and the Pentagon’s love affair with Hollywood. Hollywood benefits by being given access to all the expensive military kit it needs to create larger-than-life heroic battle-pics. The Pentagon gains because it can write the scripts, rewrite history to suit itself and use the films as a recruiting tool for its endless wars.
This unholy relationship was debated by film makers Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, and journalist Chris Hedges. Hedges suggested that to many Americans war has now become sacred, the Pentagon acting as the church, and the soldiers the priests. Small wonder then, that there is an appetite for films that portray war as a battle against evil, with courageous American heroes that always win against the odds. He then said this:
"We believe that, because we have the capacity to wage war, we have the right to wage war." Chilling words, words that would seem to exaggerate the case, except…
Not when you consider the attitudes displayed in the US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks. It is not that we learnt much that was completely new, but there it is in very inglorious black and white – the pressure amounting to blackmail to achieve the result the US wanted at the Copenhagen climate talks; UK concerns about US use of British facilities for spy planes and rendition flights resulting in Richard LeBaron, Charges d'Affaires at the London embassy, cabling Washington that human rights concerns could not be allowed to get in the way of counter-terrorism operations. Britain's demands were 'not only burdensome but unrealistic’, he said, proposing 'high-level approaches’ to call the British to heel. Having refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the US managed to get the UK, who had ratified the Convention, to agree the use of a loophole allowing the US to use British territory (both UK bases and Diego Garcia) to store and transfer cluster munitions, such storage and transfer being illegal for those states who have ratified the Convention. Afghanistan, another supporter of the Convention, came under the same pressure.
Cable after cable uses language demonstrating the belief that the US has the right to demand that all other states fit in with US policy. The 'diplomatic’ language employed is cold and heartless and hungry for power and control. It betrays an attitude that is utterly unshakeable in its belief in its own righteousness. Further, the language and the thinking behind it do not allow for questioning one’s motives or acts.
The same attitude is displayed in Cutting the Fuse, a book on the causes behind the appalling rise in global suicide terrorism. Written by Robert Pape and James Feldman, it is an exhaustive (and useful) examination of the motives, targets and nationalities of suicide bombers. Prior to 1993 suicide bombers were a rare phenomenon, and horrifying because of their rarity. It was a symptom of a people in despair, with so little left that a few were driven to use the only weapon they had left – their bodies. Such were the Palestinians, losing ever more of their lands and lives to Israeli occupation. Since then, and particularly since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, global suicide bombing is almost a daily occurrence, damaging countless families and communities, damaging also the very countries the bombers call their own. It is worth remembering that until those invasions neither country had ever suffered from this terrible form of resistance. In the eyes of the bombers it has now become a religious war, a route to martyrdom in a war as holy as that seen in Hollywood films.
Pape and Feldman propose the theory that suicide bombers are reacting to the military occupation of their countries or those to which they have some affiliation. It is a reasonable theory though many Americans are critical, not wanting to think of themselves as 'occupiers’. After all, the language and thinking is designed to make them believe that they are 'liberators’ bringing democracy and freedom to benighted states. Blind to the fact that their own society is lacking in democracy they do not, will not see that occupation always takes more than it gives. Suicide bombers are the dispossessed, but that is scarcely recognised. Consider the language used by the authors: