Sunday, September 11

Celebrating the Mass Murder of Civilians on 9-11

Since we have reached a four-year anniversary of the day on which many civilians were murdered as retaliation for specific imperialistic Middle East policies of the U.S. government, it's good to remind ourselves of this proud nation's reverence for its own weapons of mass destruction. I myself was reminded of this little discussed phenomenon when, in an idle moment, as I turned the pages of a seemingly innocuous (and pricey) gift catalogue, I came upon this photo of the Enola Gay, signed by the pilot who flew this death machine over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing over 140,000 civilians in one fell swoop and leaving an incalculable amount of agony and death in its wake for years to come. Because of the way that these and other civilian bombings are justified in "mainstream" media and conventional histories, in America, a legacy of inhumanity and of an incapacity for self-criticism persist until the present day. I must truly be an aberrant case to find odd the inclusion in a gift catalogue for the wealthy a photograph of this sinister death machine and its pilot (cast here as a "hero" whose grandeur the owner of his autograph can experience intimately).

And if such a portrait were hanging in the household of a family that invites Japanese guests in? Imagine the discussion that could ensue:

House Guest: Oh, that's a big plane. Is that your relative? Did he fly during war?
Proud American: Naw, his name's Tibbets. He put an end to the Pacific War with the push of a button. He saved lives.
House Guest: I see... well, I'm a little ashamed to say this, but my grandparents were killed on that day, and my uncle endured horrendously painful skin cancer for the next thirty years, until his cancer-related death at the age of 40... Nice photo, anyway... impressive plane...
Proud American: Yeah, uh. You like football?
Considerations of household etiquette aside, this is part of the continually rehashed state-think ideology that pervades American society. A surprising number of people in this country "know" (without ever having studied the matter) that unleashing atomic weapons on major civilian populations in Japan was necessary and that its net effect was to "save lives." Just in case they did not "know" such a facile version of this historical crime, the publishers of the ACORN gift magazine have, in a caption that in the gift magazine appears just above the photo, taken a moment of their time to remind them of it:

Yes, for the modest sum of $110.00 U.S. dollars, you can place this memento of the last century's progressive history of indiscriminate civilian bombardments in your stately home. Personally, I am going to hold out, not only because the price is a little steep for me at present, but because I think I might be able to get a timelier and more radiant photograph. Indeed, it seems reasonable to assume that I can get a photo of some soldiers in Iraq who have helped wipe out upwards of 20,000 civilians (in conservative estimates) posing before their "precision weapons." I think a color photo like that would really liven up the parlor, especially if it's signed by the very men who did the deeds.

Happy 9-11, America.

p.s. See a 90-second film that gives a quantitative appreciation of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal and of the expense to U.S. taxpayers its maintenance entails.

Addendum: Many fear the theocratic strain of the current U.S. President, who at times speaks as if his reckless militarism followed the ordinance of God. For perspective, however, we should recall the words of Harry S. Truman on the eve of his decision to use the atom bomb against massive civilian populations in Japan: "[The atomic bomb] is an awful responsibility which has come to us. We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies. And we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes." Personally, I find this type of talk, in which atomic weapons are aligned with the voice and intentions of God, to be far more frightening than any smug comment made by George Bush Jr. concerning his reputed empowerment by God.