Thursday, February 6, 2014

Myths about Communism and Capitalism

Someone sent me this article, and I think it's worth a read. I believe I have raised some or many of these points in my blog; however, it is nice to get them from someone who can write more eloquently than I can.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Stand Your Ground in Vietnam and Florida

Recently I've been reading Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse. Turse examines the evidence of countless declassified reports (accessed by the Freedom of Information Act) and eyewitness accounts (the latter of which he even travels around Vietnam to procure) to provide a better understanding of the nature of the war waged in Vietnam. His conclusion: My Lai was the norm. The U.S., along with its Vietnamese allies, was essentially destroying everything in South Vietnam - killing anything, bombing anything, setting fire to anything, bulldozing anything. Now, this does not suprise me at all. I critiqued war, in general, before and have specifically argued against the myths of what war entails.

Still, something struck me.

Turse was describing many of the institutional characteristics that encouraged this destructive behavior - everything from the body count incentive to the ethos of basic training. He mentioned, regarding the latter, the racism that was embedded in the discourse of the military. From the beginning, recruits were told not to think of the Vietnamese as fully human. They habitually used racial epithets to refer to the Vietnamese people. Still, though, at this point, nothing surprising. I have written before about the way in which racism is inherently linked to warefare.

Turse went on to describe how civilian deaths were justified. First, there was an exhaustive (and contradictory!) list of behaviors that marked a person as "the enemy": say, running away, or staying still, or making eye contact, or not making eye contact. The list was so comprehensive, in fact, that any behaviors a civilian exhibited prior to being killed would invariably be on the list. So, you could always classify a civilian as an "enemy."

Sometimes, though, trigger-happy individuals were looked upon with some suspicion. For example, they said they had 10 enemy kills, but no recovered weapons. How likely was it that it was really the enemy?

Apparently, Stand Your Ground logic could be applied. One could say that they thought they heard gun shots, and they were just acting in self-defense. (Actually, the list of enemy behaviors also fit into this logic, because one could claim that those behaviors led them to believe they were being ambushed by the enemy, and therefore they were acting in self-defense.)

This is what struck me: the similarity of the logic employed in Vietnam and in Stand Your Ground laws.

1. You can kill an innocent person if you are acting in self-defense.
2. You are acting in self-defense if you are legitimately afraid for your life.
3. Your fear may be legitimized by a set of behaviors (real or imagined) that, when applied to a specific racial group, is supposed to indicate likely impending aggression.
4. But really, you can kill an innocent person because that person is deemed to be less human according to their race; the justification above is just for mental solace.

If you are Vietnamese, running away in fear from helicopters is a sign that you are Viet Cong and therefore you must be killed. If you are a black Floridian, walking through a neighborhood in the evening with a hoody on is a sign that you are a murderous criminal and therefore you must be killed.

Once again, there is a strong link between violence and racism. Violence is facilitated by dehumanization of victims. And dehumanization precipates violence.