Our Kills are Clean and Secular; Theirs are Messy and Religious.
Our Kills are Clean and Secular; Theirs are Messy and Religious.
By Robert Koehler / commondreams.org

Our kills are clean and secular; theirs are messy and religious.

“In their effort to create a caliphate across parts of Iraq and Syria,” CNN tells us, “ISIS fighters have slaughtered civilians as they take over cities in both countries.

“In Syria, the group put some of its victims’ severed heads on poles.”

Stomach-churning as this is, the context in which it is reported – as simplistic maneuvering of public opinion – numbs me to its horror, because it quietly justifies a larger, deeper horror waiting in the wings. To borrow a phrase from Benjamin Netanyahu, this is telegenic brutality. It’s just what the U.S. war machine needs to justify the next all-out assault on Iraq.

“In another instance caught on camera,” the CNN report continues, “a man appears to be forced to his knees, surrounded by masked militants who identify themselves on video as ISIS members. They force the man at gunpoint to ‘convert’ to Islam, then behead him.”

This is positively medieval. In contrast, when we kill Iraqis, it’s quick and neat, as emotionless as a chess move. The same CNN story informs us: “Iraqi officials said U.S. airstrikes Saturday killed 16 ISIS fighters, and an Iraqi airstrike in Sinjar killed an additional 45 ISIS fighters, Iraq state media reported.”

That’s it. No big deal. The dead we’re responsible for have no human qualities whatsoever, and our killing them is as consequence-free as cleaning out the refrigerator. It’s simply necessary, because these guys are jihadists, and, well . . .

“The main U.S. strategic priority now should be rolling back and defeating ISIS so it can’t establish a terrorist caliphate,” the Wall StreetJournal editorialized several days ago. “Such a state will become a mecca for jihadists who will train and then disperse to kill around the world. They will attempt to strike Americans in ways that grab world attention, including the U.S. homeland. A strategy merely to contain ISIS does not reduce this threat.”

And here’s South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, saying the same thing with more hysteria on Fox News, as quoted by Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: Obama’s “responsibility as president is to defend this nation. If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here. This is not just about Baghdad. This is not just about Syria. It is about our homeland. . . .

“Do you really want to let America be attacked? . . . Mr. President, if you don’t adjust your strategy, these people are coming here.”

The belligerence that passes for patriotism has never been more reckless. I was stunned by these arguments a decade ago; the fact that they’re coming back pretty much intact, rising from their own ashes to call for a new war to quell the horrors created by the old one, pushes me to a new level of incredulous despair. Fear springs eternal and can always be summoned. War devours its own lessons.

As Ivan Eland wrote recently at Huffington Post: “In war, the most ruthless groups grab the weapons and use them on everyone else. If doubt exists about this phenomenon, when ISIS recently invaded Iraq, it disarmed the better-equipped Iraqi military and sent it on the run. In its current air campaign against forces of the now renamed IS, American airpower is fighting its own weaponry.”

He added: “With such a great recent track record, one would think that American politicians would be too embarrassed to get re-involved militarily in Iraq. But they now think they need to fight the monster that they created. But if IS is more ferocious than its ancestor, al Qaeda in Iraq, what more formidable creature are they now creating in opposition to U.S. bombing?”

Let’s let this sink in. We completely destabilized Iraq in our now officially forgotten “war on terror,” displacing millions of people, killing hundreds of thousands (and by some estimates more than a million), shattering the country’s infrastructure and polluting its environment with war’s endless array of toxins. In the process of doing all this, we stirred up unimaginable levels of animosity, which slowly militarized and became the present Islamic State, which is viciously and ruthlessly taking the country back. Now, with our ignorance about Iraq’s socio-political complexity intact, we see no alternative but to jump back into a bombing campaign against it, if not a far wider war.

President Obama and the moderate Democrats see this as a limited, “humanitarian” intervention, while the Republicans and the hawkish Dems are clamoring for a major killfest in order, once again, to protect “the homeland,” which otherwise they would prefer to abandon for tax purposes.

And the mainstream analysis remains as shallow as sports commentary. Military intervention, whether full-bore, boots-on-the-ground, or limited to bombs and missiles, is always the answer, because war always looks like a solution. What’s missing above all else is soul-searching of any sort.

Meanwhile, Iraq and its people continue to suffer, either directly at our hands or at the hands of the monsters we’ve created. As the arms dealers would say, mission accomplished.

© 2014 Tribune Content Agency, Inc.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 17,939 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 10,766 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 8,979 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 5,975 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
And After the Election, The Reaction
Ret Marut · 5,030 views today · Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world...
'The Climate of Fear Is Unacceptable' - Ken Loach on I, Daniel Blake
6 min · 3,606 views today · Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a man who is denied disability benefit after a heart attack and who is then subsequently caught in a...
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 3,063 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 2,307 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,003 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 1,974 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 1,862 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Grow Heathrow: Residents Resisting Eviction Over 3rd Runway
4 min · 1,191 views today · On March 1st 2010 Transition Heathrow members swooped on an abandoned market garden site in Sipson; one of the villages to be completely tarmacked to make way for a third...
Social Geographer Shows How Much of You is Determined by Where You're From
3 min · 1,179 views today · The Professor of Geography examines social inequality and the geodemographics of the UK, using maps created by Oliver O'Brien (UCL, CASA) in 2012 and updated in 2015. You can...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 1,108 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
A Beautiful Reflection on What It Means to Be Human
8 min · 794 views today · Hello! We are Oh Wonder, a musical duo from London. We believe that everyone is equal. We are all human. We all deserve the world. And we can build that equality by sharing...
Heartbreaking Animation Reveals Plight of Animals Under Threat of Extinction
3 min · 762 views today · This stunning and heartbreaking animation gives voice to animals under threat from human activity. Made as part of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, it features a...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 733 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Speaking Out Against Australia's Unforgiving Refugee Policy
42 min · 714 views today · The Forgotten Children: More than a hundred child refugees are stuck in asylum limbo on the island of Nauru as a result of Australia's harsh and unsympathetic border policies...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 631 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
How Big Banks Launder Money and Get Away With It
9 min · 543 views today · 'I wrote about how money laundering was actually done... they spiked it.' Parliamentary Candidate David Malone was a popular second choice in the UK Green Party leadership...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Our Kills are Clean and Secular; Theirs are Messy and Religious.