With the United States government’s quagmires these last 20 years, it appears that President Obama might be initiating war with Iran or sanctions that will only harm the civilian population and not the Iranian government, as has been the case with Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, but also with Iraq and Kosovo in the 1990s. It seems that too many U.S. government foreign policies end up causing the destruction of other societies and killing innocents, as well as backfiring against the U.S., an unfortunate abandonment of the absolute laws of morality upon which America was founded.
It is doubtful that the Obama Administration would assert that such a policy of war or sanctions against Iran would be targeting civilians. However, while the George W. Bush Iraq-Afghanistan quagmires are still ongoing and fresh in our minds, we must be reminded of how the U.S. government treated the people of Iraq during the 1990s. During the Persian Gulf War (the First U.S.-Iraq war, 1990-91), the U.S. military’s bombing campaign of Iraqi power and water treatment infrastructures was rationalized as a means of reducing Iraq’s “civilian morale.” The U.S. military knew in advance that such bombing of infrastructure would lead to disease and civilian deaths. The sanctions imposed against Iraq throughout the 1990s caused the withholding of food, medical supplies and the construction equipment needed to rebuild the infrastructure that was bombed. By 2000, the child mortality rate in Iraq had risen significantly, as did the rate of cancer. Some Pentagon and Air Force officials had claimed that the people of Iraq were ultimately responsible for the sanctions and delay in restoring infrastructures, and thus for the resulting deaths and disease, because of the Iraqis’ alleged continued support of their president, Saddam Hussein.
U.S. President Bill Clinton continued the Iraq policy that President George H.W. Bush started in 1990, and then went on to take U.S. forces into Yugoslavia under pretenses similar to those of the Persian Gulf War.
President Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war in 1999 was also notoriously responsible for deaths of innocent civilians. Clinton’s stated purpose was to end the alleged Yugoslavian genocide by Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic. The anti-war movement at that time was led by Republicans, and Clinton was accused to have exaggerated Milosevic’s alleged crimes to justify the bombing. Reports of Milosevic’s genocidal actions were found to be amplified accounts of widespread killings, but not genocide. Some critics were accusing Clinton himself of actual war crimes. The U.S.-led NATO bombing of areas used by both the military and by civilians in Serbia was also criticized as one of incompetence.
Some have asserted that Clinton’s bombing campaign was the actual impetus of Milosevic’s expulsion of ethnic Albanians, or “ethnic cleansing,” and that the ethnic cleansing activities may have greatly expanded as a reaction to Clinton’s bombing campaign.
Civilian deaths caused by those U.S. military actions were acts of negligence and recklessness. Current policies such as the CIA’s payments of Pakistani tribesmen to spread transmitter chips are also policies of incompetence, and are contributing to the deaths of innocent civilians, just as are the U.S. drone bombings in Pakistan.
During the 19th Century war between the U.S. government and the Southern States, President Abraham Lincoln’s army set the precedent in America of targeting non-combatant civilians. Such actions were rationalized towards Lincoln’s stated goal of “saving the Union” and largely unstated goal of further strengthening and expanding the U.S. federal government. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan by the U.S. military towards the end of World War II is an example of government’s egregiously rationalizing the killing of innocents. President Harry Truman’s stated intention was to spare American soldiers’ lives, which was itself an extreme exaggeration. As Truman’s own chief of staff, Admiral William Leahy stated,
It is my opinion that 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. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was taught not to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying woman and children.
The ideologically motivated wars among democracies over the last century have reinforced the trend of citizens identifying with the state more than with family and community, hence their support of the state’s destruction of other societies. The Founding Fathers naively formed a federal monopoly of territorial protection that has enabled such demoralizing societal conditions that could not have happened were the monopolists superseded by private protection markets.
To some people, the United States government has been provoking various elements in the Middle-East for decades with invasive “poking the hornets’ nests” policies, which have elicited Islamic-based terrorist actions against the West. However, for those who feel that such hypotheses “blame America” for terrorism, it is necessary to clarify the separation between the American people and the United States government. Government is a separate, centralized institution of professional career politicians and bureaucrats in and of itself, and it has been the U.S. government that has been intruding in foreign nations and killing innocents, not the American people.
While the abortion issue is unrelated to wars and sanctions, there is a relevant comparison to be made in the context of moral relativism. In an advanced society such as ours, one of the unfortunate rationalizations of the killing of the innocent unborn has been their subordination, their being made to have lesser value as human beings based on their being at a less advanced stage of development.
The U.S. government’s rationalizing, consciously or subconsciously, of its various intrusions into less developed societies abroad may implicitly suggest that those societies’ inhabitants have lesser value as human beings, and implies making such subordination and deaths of others acceptable.
Besides the right to life, among our natural rights as human beings is the God-given right of self-defense. One fatal flaw, however, in civilized cultures has been when the inhabitants of a territory forfeit their defense to be monopolized and politicized by the state.
The Founding of America was based on traditional values of civility and an absolute view of morality that comes from Natural Law or God’s Law, which supersedes the U.S. Legal Code, the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Convention and International Law. The U.S. government has for many years overstepped its boundaries, and has violated a most important absolute law: Don’t kill innocent people. Surely, there are better, more constructive ways of dealing with Iran than war or sanctions.