I imagine at least some of my readers are familiar with the works of Edward S. Herman, a writer most known for his collaborations with Noam Chomsky (such as the two volume The Political Economy Of Human Rights in 1979 and Manufacturing Consent in 1988). One of his solo books, published in 1992, is titled Beyond Hypocrisy and covers — what else — the lies of politicians and mainstream media from that era with special focus on their hypocrisy and the the first Iraq War. The book ends with a “Newspeak dictionary” (Newspeak being a reference to the language of George Orwell’s 1984) covering seventy pages of snappy quips (and some cartoons) taking down the nonsense our political class bakes into their very manner of speaking.
I mention this because the idea of a “kind war” is one I’ve seen being propped up more and more recently. The first I noticed it was when I saw a tweet posted by the user @JihadiJoey, a Catholic traditionalist fellow, on 6/20/2020 which read the following:
During the Spanish Civil War, communist and anti-fascists often attacked the church, killing 50,000 priests, digging up and desecrating the bodies of nuns and saints, attacking churches and statues, all in the name of egalitarianism.
Now it is true that the Spanish Republicans did some awful things to Catholic Churches during the Spanish Civil War. This was because the Catholics were almost unanimously backing the fascists, although that was largely because of previously existing secularization policies done by the Spanish Republicans when they were in power as far back as 1931. On the side of the nationalists were also fascist Italy and Germany, both ran by men friendly with the Catholic Church of the time (Mussolini in the case of Italy and Hitler in the case of Germany, the first treaty Hitler ever signed and celebrated his birthday every year until his fall). To this day, the Catholic Church recognizes Francisco Franco, the fascist leader of Spain, as a Saint, or someone who has entered Heaven.
What the Spanish Republicans did was not done “in the name of egalitarianism” but in the name of winning the Spanish Civil War. Everything done by both sides during that war, just like in the vast majority of wars, was done simply for the purpose of trying to win the war. Just as the snipers of the Nationalists, one of which shot George Orwell in the throat, did not exist “in the name of fascism” but in the name of winning the war they were fighting.
This thought came back into my head when I saw a tweet by the Twitter account @CheeksBeater, which he later deleted after it gained infamy for being retweeted by Scott Greer, which read the following:
1860s: The Civil War is a tragic war between brothers.
1900s: The Civil War was a tragic war between brothers
1950s: The Civil was a tragic war between brothers
2000s: FUCK the confederacy and FUCK your ancestors *justifies Sherman’s war crimes*
This tweet was quickly mocked for being just as simplistic as the argument it’s trying to refute. For one, I would highly doubt anyone on the Confederate side calling himself a brother of the Union during the 1860s, mainly because them not being brothers was the main argument the Confederacy was making in the first place. The Confederates tried to leave the Union because the intuition of slavery was so fundamental to them that if the intuition was abolished, as Lincoln promised to do, they would no longer count as “brothers” but as an abusive spouse to the North. (And if the Radical Republicans considered the Confederates “brothers” they had a rather odd view of family.) Even up until very recently, the former Confederacy called it the “war of Northern aggression” and even had librarians backlist books that criticized this narrative. It was bitterness about their loss that caused the Republican Party to all but die in the South for over a century, until Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan brought it back by adopting their narrative.
Now this does not mean that every single Confederate solider fought specifically for slavery. However, the Confederate establishment primarily wanted to leave the Union over slavery and engaged in a massive propaganda campaign (going so far as to not allow any abolitionist candidate on the ballot of their states) in order to convince the soldiers to join in.
However, what I would like to talk about is the claim that Union general William Tecumseh Sherman is a war criminal. (I should note that as an Ohio citizen, I should be able to live in the same denial of what Sherman did that the South wishes it can for the Confederacy.) Of course, Sherman is a controversial figure for his “scorched Earth” or “total war” (or as I would call it, simply “war”) policy towards the Confederacy, which most famously manifested in his March To The Sea, however dubbing him a “war criminal” has little legal basis.
But it’s not just Sherman who is a war criminal, as @cirsova is here to remind us on 1/15/2021 that the entire Union was a bunch of war criminals:
“in the heat of the civil war” troops burned down cities and crops so that the South would die of starvation.
“during World War II” Democrats rounded up people based on ethnicity and put them in concentration camps.
Remember, though, evil is not phased by hypocrisy.
Of course, the Union did some rather awful things towards the Confederates during the Civil War. However, the idea that the Confederates would not have done the same thing when they had the chance is beyond nonsensical. (Need I remind you which side it was that had their President killed?) The Union did this not because they were evil, but because they were fighting a war.
All of this brings me to an idea I’ve been thinking about recently, this myth of “kind war” or of a uniquely evil side. Commonly, it’s not why they fought (which would actually be a good measurement for moral superiority) but instead how they fought, or most commonly, who did the biggest single attack during the war.
A common example of this, although this one on the left, is the hatred of President Truman for his use of the Atomic Bomb against Japan. Never, in the many rants you will read on the subject, is the fact that Japan was a fascist nation that spent the entire start of the 20th century attempting to be an empire even mentioned. Nor is it mentioned that until then, while they did promise to surrender, it was surrender with the condition they could continue attempting to be a fascist empire, a goal of theirs dating back to when Hitler was a decade old.
None of that is mentioned because the image of two Atomic Bombs going off is a rather dramatic one. Even in spite of the fact that the infamous bomb was not even responsible for 10% of the Japanese deaths during World War Two. It is also almost nothing compared to the amount of Chinese Japan slaughtered during the Second Sino-Japanese War during the same time period.
But that doesn’t have the same impact, one large scale act of damage is not considered “as evil” as years of battle — even if more are killed. Hence why, going back to Herman, a “teenage Palestinian” is a “terrorist extremists” while “An American President who kills more than 200,000 Iraqis for ‘jobs’, or was it oil?, and spends $300 billion annually on his war machine,” is a “defender of freedom and democracy.”
Those who wish to own other human beings are “the lost cause” while a general who treated them as they treated their negros are “war criminals.” The fascist empire which wished to rape and pillage all across Asia are “victims” to the “crimes against humanity” committed by those who wanted them to not be able to do that again.
The worst example of this “kind war” is with the concept of “war crimes.” A 2016 article from Center For American Progress shows just how nonsense the idea of “war crimes” can be:
The LOAC includes specific rules on targeting individuals that are intended to protect civilians. Those rules may be summarized as only permitting the targeting of combatants or civilians who are directly participating in hostilities. Targeting of other civilians is prohibited and may constitute a war crime.
Notice the use of the word “targeted,” because it does not actually matter if you hit a terrorist, it just matters that you target one. It does not matter if you kill many innocents, it does not matter if you only kill innocents, it only matters that you target someone who is not innocent. That small difference, a difference that often does not effect what actually happens, suddenly turns this action from an evil “war crime” to something fine and normal.
Did you know that it is a war crime to use a knife that is too sharp on the battle field? If a weapon creates a wound that is to hard to seal, it is considered a war crime to use — you are however allowed to use a perfectly legal weapon to create as many easy to seal wounds as you want.
The point of this is simple, in making war sound more humane you can convince more people to go along with it. The truth is that war is not humane, not kind, and quite literally always a crime. The only difference between acceptable and unacceptable war is nothing but whatever fake line the victors create. They are nothing more than dilutions of the truth, and should be considered nothing more than a distraction from the real issue.