The Moment of Truth — August 21, 1998

Assassinate Leaders vs. War

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen. Welcome to the Moment of Truth. An oasis of integrity in the vast capitalist media wasteland of mendacity - words so pure and crystalline and free from the taint of military/corporate toadying that, if God existed, THIS … is what she would probably say:

“Explain this to me, human beings,” she might say: “Why is it illegal among your species to hunt down and assassinate the leader of a war, the person who ordered the aggression, the person in charge of the violence - and yet perfectly fine to indiscriminately bomb rank and file soldiers and collateral civilians?”

And how could we answer her? What could we do but stare blankly ahead, stunned at our own barbarous illogic?

Because God does have a point there. She’s really onto something. Rich powerful pigs are in the drivers’ seats of wars. They’re demonized by others of their ilk in order to instigate so-called “retaliatory” military action. But, oddly enough, the point of a war - with the exception of a coup d’etat - never seems to be to get rid of the leader of one side or another of a war. The point seems to be to inflict as much misery and death as possible upon the civilians and rank and file soldiery who are subjects of the offending leader. Now if the leader in question is a compassionate person, a person possessed of an average level of compassion, then the sight of his or her - usually his - citizens suffering and dying might change his or her tune. But people who start wars rarely have the compassion of your average, say, grocery cashier, postal worker - or even your average insurance claims adjuster. Most people aren’t evil enough to blow up other people. Even soldiers have to be whipped into bloodlust by a demagogue to really be loyal enough to die for an ideology - however contrived it may be by the masterminds of the aggression.

No - people who lead military attacks - people like Mao, Hitler, Nixon, Stalin, Reagan, Napoleon, Bush, Ghenghis Khan, and Clinton - seem to be lacking something in the compassion department. This type of character seems singularly unlikely to respond to the deaths of the little underling countrymen he loves to order about so. Traditionally, it takes a whole lot of deaths of other people to cause a war-loving madman like Mao, Hitler, Nixon, Stalin, Reagan, Napoleon, Bush, Ghenghis Khan, or Clinton to desist from ordering mass murders.

And yet murder and destruction of everyone but the leader and everything but the leader’s headquarters is the traditional way wars have been carried out since the beginning of recorded history. And since there have been airplanes that can drop bombs - that is, even since World War I - a major part of that strategy has been to drop bombs on civilian civic centers with the express purpose of creating massive firestorms in which huge amounts of people without the least personal connection to the leader of the war perish horribly. Thousands of people without the least power to stop the war, without the power to influence the course of the war, thousands of blameless and militarily powerless people - slaughtered. This is how war is legally fought. It is illegal to assassinate a leader. It is legal to slaughter powerless throngs.

Dresden, Bologna, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Panama City, Sarajevo, Bhagdad. Agents of the US government were approached by dissidents in Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party during the Gulf War. These insiders wanted to know if they could get covert US support to assassinate Saddam Hussein. The answer was no. The implicit answer was, no, we don’t do that. We reserve our covert action to collecting profits from the sale of crack in LA to fund the training of fascist terrorist troops to bomb hospitals and schools - we’d rather sneak into a country we’re not even at war with and try to kill American defectors. We don’t want to assassinate Saddam - then we’d have to stop deploying and showing off our cool infrared guided missile technology on CNN. We’d have to explain why we need to inflate the military budget even though the Cold War is over.

The murder’s answer to God’s question is: it serves our extremely cruel, selfish purposes to kill everyone but the leader.

But what’s our answer, people?

Why do you think the US fought so hard to defang the new international war crimes court recently founded by the United Nations? Why? Because WE’RE THE CRIMINALS!!! Can you imagine what would have happened if Nixon and Kissinger had had to come before an international war crimes court that had any power? OF COURSE THE CRIMINALS DON’T WANT A COURT. That would be the first stumble down the slippery slope to actually holding the leaders of war responsible.

Business as usual is the murder of the people. It’s a gentleman’s agreement among statesmen, a.k.a. mass murderers.

How can we answer for Clinton’s bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan? How would we as a people answer God if she asked why 60 - 80% of us support the bombing?

There’s a great line that Katherine Hepburn gets to say as Eleanor of Aquitaine (Queen of England, wife of Henry II) in the movie, The Lion in Winter. One of her sons tells her that another of her sons has a knife. She says, “Of course he has a knife. We all have knives. It is 1183 and we are barbarians.”

How much longer are we going to be dominated by corporations whose structure hasn’t progressed from that of a fiefdom in the middle ages? How much longer are we going to let mass murderers decide our fate?

Support the bombing? Of course we support the bombing. Every decent person is a patriot. It is almost the year 2000 and we are still barbarians.

This has been the MOMENT OF TRUTH, and I’m mejeffdorchen. I’ll be back here again next week on National Beer Presents This is Hell Saturday from 10 am to noon on WNUR 89.3 FM Chicago’s sound experiment.