Friday, July 18, 2014

Honor Has Left the Building: Lying and Dying on the International Stage

A plane crashes in Ukraine and a Russian official claims that Mr. Putin himself was the target – really?

Classic propaganda technique: make yourself the victim when in fact you are among the class of perpetrators.

Let me be clear: there is insufficient evidence at this point for anyone to claim with any degree of certainty who actually shot the Malaysian plane down.

That said, all kinds of folk are making dreadful and obvious plays to make this horror all about them – like the Australian life insurance company that threw up an ad for life insurance linking the need to this crash.  And like Mr. Putin’s government putting out the word that whoever shot the plane down was actually trying to shoot his plane down.

Really, Mr. Putin?  Really?  300+ families around the world today sit in shock and mourning about the literal disappearance of their loved ones from the planet for no reason other than that they happened to be flying over some land in dispute and you make it be about you?  Really?

Nice touch.

Then come the reports of fighting about who controls the scene of the crash – really?

Of passports being stolen.

Is there, at the last, no shame?

Why would I think there would be?

This is war.

And the one thing war gins up quite a bit with virtually no effort is paranoia.  And for some reason still obscure to me, when paranoia enters, shame leaves.

The thinking seems to go something like this:  Either we’d better get control so they don’t know we did it or we’d better get control so they don’t say we did it when we didn’t.

Let me make it easy for you.

You did it.

You know who you are.

And so, actually, do we.

The person or persons who actually hit the buttons, set the aim, made the call – they have the direct responsibility and they, whoever they may be, know it.  Their demons, I suspect, are already many and unrelenting.

But it is not of them I speak when I say that we all know who you are.

The people caught up in the swirl of strike, counter-strike, move, counter-move, in the conflict zone that Ukraine has become (and yes, most certainly, that includes you, Mr. Putin), are responsible.

You cannot create the chaos that is war and then step back and claim innocence, horror or surprise at the speedy demise of those caught in the cross-fire.

So now we know.

We are not safe around you.

Good reminder – thanks for that.

Of course it would have saved a whole lot of lives if you had simply declared Ukrainian air space off limits or no longer protected.


Too late for that, eh?

Forgive the sarcasm (or don’t), but perhaps a few obvious lessons might emerge:

1. Mr. Putin – cut it out.  Just cut it out.  Every big land grab backfires.  Your country has learned it before.  So has mine.  But we both seem to keep forgetting, eh?  A quick review might be helpful: Hitler and his Reich?  Gone.  The Soviet Union?  Gone.  The British Empire?  Gone.  The colonialized African sub-continent?  Independent and yes, in chaos*, but largely colonies no more.  And let us not forget the Middle East – the French, the British, the Americans, the Turks, the USSR (I’m sure I’ve overlooked someone) have all relearned the lesson of history that land grabs backfire over time only to have the next sucker come along thinking, apparently, this time will be different.  Are you one of the stupid ones?  Or the smart ones?  That’s the only question I really want answered from you and we will all know soon enough.  Keep it up like you have been and we’ll have our answer, won’t we?

2. The more outrageous your claims, the more we in the rest of the world will believe you were behind the action.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?  But maybe the rest of the world isn’t the intended audience.  Maybe only the people of Russia are the intended audience.  And perhaps they are with you, Mr. Putin.  Perhaps they too dream of a return to previous glories.  Perhaps they too fear the expansionist designs of other nations.  Perhaps they too believe that your plane was the target (without bothering to even think about how very unlikely it is that your plane, of all the planes in the world, would fly over Ukrainian air space in the first place, given the state of present events).

3. The world has come to, crossed over and retreated from all kinds of brinks before.  This feels different.  Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.  But we (humanity) are out of control.  The lawless indifference to life that shoots into the sky and asks questions later has risen to epic proportions within my own lifetime.  It’s bad enough when the plane is the actual target.  But, for me, at least, it somehow seems so much worse when it was merely an accident of war – an unintended consequence – that they were caught in a cross-fire they didn’t even know was there.  For that kind of indifference to all life tells me that this is no longer about enemies squaring off to settle the fight.  This is about destruction for its own sake.  The dehumanization is complete.  And we – all of us – are the lesser for it.

4. None of us on the planet can complain about things being out of control.  They are – out of control.  And we – all of us – are responsible – since we – all of us, seem to have collectively decided that getting our way matters more than anything else, that our tribe is the only tribe that counts – well, we can hardly be surprised at the results, given that everyone else belongs to a tribe too, now can we?

5. Finally, it is clear that there is no honor in war.  Even I, as a pacifist, have long wanted to believe that honor on the battle field is possible.  But that is a lie.  If there were honor on the battlefield, then whoever did push the button, aim the weapon, and brought down an airplane of folk flying from one place to another on a bright and sunny day, would come forward and own their action.  If there were honor, the individuals who killed the 4 Israeli teenage boys just a few weeks back, as well as those who killed the Palestinian boy and set his body afire in apparent retribution; the Israeli soldier or soldiers who purportedly made the mistake of killing 4 teenage Palestinian boys playing on the beach, would step forward as individuals and take responsibility.  If there were honor, the United States would have bothered to count, name and report the civilians it killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  If there were honor, when things like Abu Ghraib happen, responsibility would voluntarily travel up the chain of command, because honor demands that its own part in folly be named and acknowledged.  That’s what honor does – it owns its deeds.  It does not hide, for it cannot.  But these things are not about honor.  And no one must be allowed to pretend that they are.  Whatever else they may be about, honor left the building a long time ago, if ever it resided here before.

*Don’t you just love – I bet you do – because I bet you use the same rationale yourself – how the colonizers claim to have invested so much in the transformation for the better of their colony, and then when they leave, claim that their absence caused the collapse [‘they’ could not survive without ‘us’]?  Don’t you just love the absolute absence of irony in the colonial voices?  Don’t you just love the inability to do any meaningful self-reflection that would allow any human being or group of human beings to actually claim [often at the same time] to have saved someone from themselves and then prove that no one was saved or ever intended to be saved – that the very fact of the descent into chaos proves the absence of salvation – saved people don’t devolve – kind of obvious, isn’t it?

1 comment:

  1. Great blog post, Beth. Hopefully, more of the Russian people will show "honor" as these two news anchors did:
    Lies and liars - sooner or later - will be found out. May we all hold ourselves accountable for our own untruths, and those of our officials as well.

    God bless the victims of this terrible tragedy.