Responding To A Criminal War

by John Bart Gerald

April 28, 2003


We're moving toward a resistance situation in all the countries of the world now because one powerful country has claimed global domain. Irrespective of treaties, Conventions, Covenants, international agreements and laws, an elite claims supremacy over laws and all of us as the aggression continues.

So it's unrealistic to expect peace when the powerful have broken the laws that protect humanity. Those without formal knowledge of law know the laws are broken when civilian wounded fill hospitals that have no medicines. Brutalized populations do not submit. And after this invasion of Iraq there is evidence of US cluster bombs, of depleted uranium weapons, of targeted civilians and journalists. Looting of museums provides a metaphor for the war's corporate policy.

Usually, unchecked war crimes become more extreme in an effort to destroy the evidence or memory or entire society of victims. While the first Gulf war was a Coalition attempt to commit legally sanctioned genocide the recent bombings and invasion continued with a clear aggression.

Collaborators assure us this aggression against a once sovereign nation was a preemptive strike to protect the U.S. Justification was based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction. However weapons of mass destruction weren't used by Iraq and weren't found. Other collaborators will say how unjust, even illegal, this current attempt to destroy a national group is, as they proceed with business as usual which has allowed this crime and will allow the next.

The US wars against Iraq force people everywhere to reassess their lives. Those with a moral sense can be deeply damaged by psychological warfare programs which persuade them to accept war crimes as normal or inevitable. Lack of wholeness leads to illness, so objecting to national crimes becomes a survival mechanism.

In this instance "resistance" requires an active rejection of the status quo. For some the resistance will conserve human rights. For some the resistance will attempt the changes necessary for social justice.

When the purpose of resistance is to protect and further life it becomes more than a "political" choice. In the past century leaders like Gandhi, Schweitzer and Dr. King prepared themselves through nonviolence and religious self awareness. A first step of resistance was/is to say no and resign from complicity in the ongoing aggression and genocides so that one can understand one's life apart from what damages others. One tries to reinforce one's identity and purpose, apart from the criminal group.

Sometimes entire groups can stand aside for a moment, apart from larger or national groups. A dockworkers union refusing to load ships bearing armaments is a clean example. Soldiers refusing to serve in specific criminal wars is another. Ministers of State who refuse to implement illegal policies is another. But most people want to avoid the intrusion of a resistance ethic into their lives. It risks too much when you think you can survive without risking. Until not doing anything becomes the choice of cooperation.

The best known professionals in history or literature or international law often hedge their bets on wars by protesting one criminal war or another. Their protests fail but their salaries don't, and many of them build careers on this curious equivocation. In a resistance situation you may find them on the side of the oppressors.

The odd separation between working for the war industry, which involves accepting its crimes against humanity as a way of life, while objecting to the crimes with words, seems normal to elites. It frightens anyone else because the situation is an obvious lie and so relies on oppression.

This duality of American intellectual life leads the society into thinking war crimes are permissible.

It is this national schizophrenia that lets the U.S. convince itself that it's the judge of its own crimes. In a kind of psychological warfare operation its mass media attempt to shape the global reality, intellectual life and ethics into accepting policies that leave so many in bombed-out global villages, without food, in hospitals without medicines, and always without justice. The value of contemporary American culture should be judged by the effectiveness of its resistance to crimes of State.

So I think we're entering a world where complicity in crimes of an entire society may one day be judged, as war crimes will be, either through courts of justice or through ongoing low intensity conflicts. American political leaders don't seem to understand that friends can't protect them from accountability, from the truth, from the judgment of humanity, however it is expressed.

As for the US peace movement, it isn't and never was enough to be on the side of the angels. The current Pope made clear the invasion of Iraq was not justifiable under Catholic teaching, yet he was so strongly anti-communist the resulting imbalance helped create a continuum of capitalist aggressions. Other voices of decency available to a controlled media seem to be covering complicity in what history may call atrocities. A US Attorney General enforces laws which draft blacks and poor whites to die in Vietnam (with millions of Vietnamese), while the School of the Americas is training its death squads in civilian murder, and then he becomes a champion of the left preempting all its positions in defence of new victims. Or during a long period of intense defence department funding at MIT, one of its professors becomes the leading American left wing intellectual assuming all the alternative press space for his views. So many claim to care for the workers, to love the oppressed, to further the peace, and are left wing or anti-war, while they scramble to the top of academies and economies that require wars of aggression, death squad controls of civilian populations, media that lie, armies of ordinary people who are paid wages to persecute their own.

If forced to analyse why an effective resistance to terrible crimes isn't there in modern America, realize that someone went to a lot of trouble to see that it isn't. Those who have attempted resistance and their families have been persecuted, forced into crimes and imprisoned, forced out, impoverished and ignored, or simply killed. Possibly a few were hired by law enforcement and covert agencies to be ineffective when it counts. And some remain.

Like comprehension, resistance is always changing until it becomes a way of life.

· · · · · ·

Iraq on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


John Bart Gerald's poems and essays have appeared internationally and rarely since the Sixties; currently he writes in Ottawa. Gerald and Julie Maas founded Gerald and Maas * editions / atelier in New York City (1978) before moving to Canada in 1995. They also maintain a small Community Online.

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.

Please, feel free to insert a link to this essay on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting a few paragraphs. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans. This material is copyrighted, © 2003 John Bart Gerald. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
· · · · · ·

This Week's Internal Links

From Vietnam To Iraq - by Edward S. Herman

The Tasteful War And Other Media Lies - by Deck Deckert

They Kill Reporters, Don't They? - by Deck Deckert

The Cuba Petitions - by Louis Proyect

Conscious Destruction Of A Human Construct - by Milo Clark

Art Influences Life Influences Art... - by Scott Orlovsky

Keep Protesting - by Philip Greenspan

War: The Lure, the Madness, the Way Through - Book Review by Mac Lawrence

Morons And Madness - Poem by Richard Macintosh

Self- [de] termination - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Cuisine Américaine - Poem by Sabina C. Becker

Letters to the Editor


John Bart Gerald and Julie Maas on Swans

to all those lost 2/13/91 4:30 a.m. (January 2003)

a song of innocence (August 2001)


Published April 28, 2003
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]