An Evil Thing?

Recently over text, and a long distance, a friend and I were debating the merits and motives of US interventions in other countries around the world, and in the case of covert intervention, whether or not it was occurring currently in one country in particular.

I am very much a non-interventionist. I don’t believe US motives are what the government or the water-carrying media say they are, and though we can’t know all the secrets, leaks are common and the playbook repeats itself again and again. 

But this post is not about interventionism. All this is just background on how I came around to the subject. In our back and forth, responding to my stance that US spy agencies were up to no good as usual, he said, “you see the US as this evil thing”.

We all have biases and they can often seem impenetrable even when doing our best to remain fact based and rational. At the same time I don’t have much patience for hyperbole, logical fallacies or any kind of phony arguments and to me, “evil thing” implies among other things, something that is absolute, irredeemable and outside the realm of what is rational, entirely. His statement could be seen as an attempt to distract from the issues, shut down the discussion and escape from an argument he didn’t feel he could win on the merits but I don’t think so. I have to give him credit. Even, without re-reading the whole conversation, I’d be willing to believe “the US is an evil thing” was screaming at him from between the lines of everything I was writing to him. He just made an honest observation. Maybe my thinking isn’t as rational as I like to believe and he was just calling me on it. That is always possible. Not only that, self-reflection is necessary for each one of us so as not to become something like an “evil thing”. 

“The US” on the other hand, like any nation state is not capable of self-reflection. Only an individual who identifies him or herself as an “American” can imagine some how doing that on it’s behalf. These are numerous people who reflexively say “we” are doing this or “we” did that when referring to actions of the government or military. It’s a common way of thinking, even “normal”, and since most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as evil “we” tend to absolve “our” government of anything that might cause the reflection in the mirror to grow horns. Ignoring, forgetting, deflecting, and watching FoxNews or CNN are effective remedies to that problem as well. Personally, I like to remove myself from this particular “we” in thinking and speaking because it helps remove any number of jingoistic traps I can, and have fallen into in the past. I’m not claiming that it’s the right way, only that it works for me.

As I see it, this is not a question of being patriotic or unpatriotic and no, I don’t see the US as an evil thing, per se. The US is only doing what empires do. And, it’s been doing what empires do, arguably since 1607 , and if a consensus of mainstream historians means much of anything, certainly since 1898 .

I don’t see the US as an evil thing,

I see empire as an evil thing.

All of the numbers for Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are from Wikipedia and so are the US figures, pre 9-11. The horrific increase since 9-11 is from a threepart series by Nicolas J.S. Davies for written last year. The series covers Iraq Wars II, 2.5, III, and 3.5, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia from December 2001 to early 2018. Could my numbers be off? This was done quickly. There are plenty of higher and lower estimates but would a million here, a million there change the basic facts? I’ll just tell you they’re probably off, substantially.

For example, I’ve left out the deaths in all US proxy wars from before 9-11. Also, the 1950 starting point is arbitrary. The US entry into World War I was entirely by choice and only with imperial and financial motives, whereas the American people whose sons would die for those motives were told, “The world must be made safe for democracy”. It was a lie. More controversially, recent research into World War II shows the US to be every bit a belligerent nation as Germany or Japan. 

So, only looking at the period since the beginning of the Korean war until now, notice the high US estimate is greater than the low “Hitler” estimate. The US has at least, as Dave Smith recently put it, reached “Hitler level.”

If you’re assessing the actions of your own country and “Hiller level” becomes a handy unit of measure, and you’re also convinced your country isn’t an evil thing, what do you do with that?

Is mass murder something that is, ”absolute, irredeemable and outside the realm of what is rational, entirely”? I think most people agree it was when Hitler did it.

Do “we” have to go all the way to “Mao level” to qualify as an evil thing? 

Should 12,000,000 people dead at the hands of the United States being an “evil thing” be a debatable matter of opinion?

Should these be difficult questions to answer?

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