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Carpe Diem: 2015.10.17

by James A. Clapp


For years I have been bitching in these pages—particularly as it has related to Right Wing ideology and its Republican practitioners—about the political behavior that upholds the dictum that “the end justifies the means.” The notion is as old as time, as ancient as moral contradiction. It “justified” the Third Reich’s quest for lebensraum and Aryan racial purity and America’s perverted Vietnam “pacification” program where villages were obliterated to “save them.” It is the question embedded in every human action, from gun ownership to immigration, from spanking your child to capital punishment, from homeland security to abortion rights. It’s always there, just underneath every choice we make.

Mostly, as I said above, I have railed against the machinations of the Republicans, especially the Bush-Cheney administration with its WMD lies that “justified” the ends of “keeping America safe” with a climate of fear and” and what seems like perpetual war as nits means. But I heard something on television the other day, a statement by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, that brought me up short: In alleging that “we” (America) must confront the growth if ISIS in Syria and Iraq I heard him add we must do “whatever it takes” to eliminate them. There it was, wrapped a bit more colloquially, “the end justifies the means,” confidently intoned by a Democrat appointed by President Barack Obama.

It was shortly afterward that the MSF hospital in Kunduz was bombed by American forces, killing twenty-two innocents, and further that the information was leaked that American drone attacks have killed 219 civilians in taking out some thirty or so “enemy combatants.” There is hardly any apology for these atrocities, these war crimes. Not when the mentality, insidiously planted during Bush-Cheney, is that we are in a zero-sum “global war on terror.” A mentality that unfortunately has become the philosophical fulcrum of American foreign policy. And, it is a mentality that has no purer expression that that of the suicide bomber, which is where the means we choose to justify our ends justifies theirs. Hey, whatever it takes.


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