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When is a war crime not a war crime?

By       Message Bob Patterson     Permalink
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As a kid, military veterans from WWII assured this columnist, in the Fifties, that America would never commit war crimes similar to the ones Germany and Japan had racked up in World War II. The United States, they reassured me, was set apart as "the Good Guys." It wasn't clear to the youngster how exactly the U. S. was superior to the Hitler's White Supremacy nation, but they guaranteed that it was.

Some columnists and bloggers are going to be compelled to write some "we tried to tell you" columns noting that on Valentine's Day, former Vice-President Richard Bruce Cheney said things on a TV show that were a <a href=click here;confession to the commission of war crimes</a>. The Dickster didn't leave Republican apologists much wiggle room for a logical assertion that he didn't do what he did. (The new issue of Esquire magazine says that 71% of Republicans concur with the Bush invasion of Iraq.)

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It's difficult to keep a straight face while the Republican apologists go through their verbal contortions to dismiss Cheney's admission of guilt because what this columnist sees and hears is a crazed photographer extolling the virtues of Col. Kurtz. "You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he'll... uh... well, you'll say "hello" to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you. He won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say, "Do you know that 'if' is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you"...

Since the new President is continuing the Bush foreign policies regarding hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan that seems to mean to this columnist that the Democrats are now endorsing war crimes retroactively.

Inadvertently, the Dickster may have done something much worse than deliver a <em>de facto</em> confession to war crimes; he may have put Americans into a very uncomfortable binary choice. Americans now must agree to absolving war crimes or deny reality (irrational = insanity). Americans, who aren't mature enough to take the "war crimes nation" label in a blith manner, will have only one alternative and that is to detach from reality completely (did you see "King of Hearts"?).

Robert E. Long, in his critical evaluation of Nathanael West's fiction, title "Nathanael West," on page 51, states: "In a meaningless world, violence is a logical outcome." Could West have been prematurely refuting both Cheney and Existentialism back in the Thirties? Is it more patriotic to believe that absurdity rules and that things just got out of hand or is it better to shrug your shoulders and maintain that George W. Bush & Co committed war crimes that they knew had to be committed? Isn't it better if Americans embrace the Westian explanation that extreme violence happens like spontaneous combustion? Who wants to believe that America deliberately set out to imitate Hitler's henchmen? Homer Simpson, a character in "The Day of the Locust," not the similarly named TV cartoon character, goes into meltdown at the end of the novel with catastrophic results. That Homer Simpson could symbolically represent America coping with the loss of its "Good Guys" identity.

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If Cheney's candid confession precipitates the destruction of a self-deception that is an essential element in America's identity, the blunt admissions made on Valentine's Day could precipitate psychological damage to America's collective psyche. It could be analogous to what might have happened if Enrico Fermi's initial experiments with nuclear chain reactions had gone wrong.

Ask a psychologist what happens when reality becomes unacceptable and a patient embraces a more comfortable non-reality. What he would call a psychosis, the average blogger would diagnose as "going crazy." What happens when that occurs on a national level? Would it be feasible to imagine that someday there would be a Pope who had belonged to the Hitler Youth?

Are any of the investors who own shares of Blackwater complaining that Cheney's war crimes make a mockery of the moral superiority displayed by the WWII vets?

If war crimes are acceptable to a nation, then the only thing left on the agenda is a much smaller decision about choosing a snazzy war crimes uniform. If people still believe that the U. S. are the Good Guys and can do no wrong, then what are Patriotic Americans supposed to think about Cheney's casual admission of guilt?

Back in the fifties if a kid had asserted to WWII veterans that the United States would eventually imitate Hitler's thugs, he would have been regarded as nuts and not a fortune teller.

Total madness would seem to be more palatable to most Americans than a remarkably blase' attitude about the Good Guys committing war crimes.

Destroying America's Good Guys image may leave embracing a renunciation of reality as the only option. Are you going to believe what Republicans with a black belt in spin say or are you going to believe your own lying eyes and ears?

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Basing a defense of torture on the John Yoo white paper that was tailored specifically to provide the rationale for torture which the Vice President wanted prompts this columnist to paraphrase Col. Kurtz: "I wanted a rationale for torture and for my sins they gave me one."

People who did waterboarding in World War II were prosecuted and found guilty of a war crime.

The United States after WWII asserted that it would never commit war crimes.

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)

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