If we lived in a normal society – or at least a morally decent one – any of the following actions would send the media and political class clamoring for the indictment and impeachment of the president, his cabinet and anyone complicit with them:
- The continued slaughter of civilians in covert U.S. drone wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere;
- Ongoing U.S. complicity with Saudi-United Arab Emirates war crimes in Yemen;
- Unconditional U.S. support for Israeli violence in the occupied Palestinian territories; and
- The inhumane U.S. sanctions regime against humanitarian goods for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Alas, it should be apparent to the reader that he does not live in a normal society, much less a morally upstanding one.
Rather, our opinion-molding ruling class remains enamored with such trivialities as the daily ins and outs of the president’s Twitter feed and the palace intrigue of the Russia investigation. Trump’s concrete actions and their thousands of victims are largely ignored, and what few times the president’s critics dare mention the U.S. role in Syria and elsewhere they do so to attack Trump for his occasional dovish tendencies.
Such is the despicable morality of the U.S. populace: We cannot be motivated to anger at the killing of thousands in far-off lands (race and religion no doubt play a role here), but are apoplectic once our troops finally come home. As the libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard remarked in 1967, “There seems to be a sickness deep in the American soul that causes it to identify with aggression and mass murder – the swifter and more brutal the better.”
Truly, what society – other than a deeply and intractably sick one – would ignore the anguished pleas of the Global South as it drops bombs, foments coups and interferes in the affairs of the outside world?
What society would hold up war criminals like John McCain and George H.W. Bush as heroes while it vilifies Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning as traitors?
What society would end the career of Richard Nixon – not for genocide in Cambodia and Vietnam, mind you – but for a mere break-in at the Watergate Hotel? Or impeach Bill Clinton for sexual impropriety rather than the 500,000 malnourished children who died under his sanctions regime against Iraq?
Indeed, we live in a deeply and fundamentally sick society, and we are a deeply and fundamentally immoral people.
It was we who cheered on the carpet-bombing of Korea in the early 1950s, then the same in Vietnam scarcely a decade later. Only when the war came home in flag-draped caskets did the public finally turn against it.
It was we who clamored to build weapons capable of vaporizing entire cities; who justified our domestic tyrants as they armed death squads, war criminals and dictators the world round; and we who do the same today in the name of fighting terrorism. It is we who deny the humanity of the Palestinians, Yemenis, Afghans and others.
May providence treat us more kindly than we have treated the world.
This column was submitted for consideration in The Forum's search for "the next great columnist."