I’ve been very quiet. This is why.
“In an age of compassion fatigue, Gutmann relies on one simple truth: those who have made it back from the gates of hell have stories to tell. And no matter what baggage the reader may bring along, their preconceptions of China will not survive the trip.”
“If there’s one thing we should all agree on, it’s protecting women from violence.”
So tweeted Valerie Jarret in the same hour that Leon Panetta made the announcement that the Pentagon would allow women to serve in combat. I’m with Jarret. Here’s my supporting statement:
“My fervent prayer for future warfare: all fighting will be done by a few 18-year-old male geeks in really cool machines far, far away from the planet earth.”
(Kind of like BattleBots–best sport ever. Look it up.)
Yes, the 20th Century fell a bit short in terms of protecting women from violence, didn’t it? All that strategic bombing. All that total war. From crossbow to hydrogen bomb the history of warfare since Napoleon’s rise has been one of greater and greater “inclusion”–including the “equal-opportunity” citizens of Warsaw, London, Dresden, Berlin, Tokyo or Hiroshima. The relatively recent development of smart bombs, precision-guided munitions, laser technologies seemed to offer the beginning of a technical end-run from the massive slaughter of civilians. Okay, nothing in war is pleasant, but it’s an improvement over say, the bombing and use of napalm on North Vietnam that occurred in my lifetime. Somehow, the US military and the Admin seems bound and determined to quarantine that progress, to neglect the value of that trend. Perhaps because it will never work perfectly; there will be human shields, there will be munition factories staffed by pregnant women, there will be awful bumps in the road.
But stay the course: the US must consistently signal that it is against “inclusion” in warfare–that it really is taboo, as a species, to indiscriminately kill women, children and the aged, that we genuinely want to shrink the target set, that don’t endorse doomsday strategies. One critical way to do that is to continue the trend of making US combat troops increasingly professional and yes, increasingly rare.
Although Nat Hentoff is an atheist and a leftist, he took a pro-life position in the abortion debate. His main exhibit was a thought experiment: imagine a woman being bayoneted; imagine a pregnant woman being bayoneted; notice the emotional and moral distinction between the two images. I submit that moral picture applies to war as well.
No top-down policy can erase, or wish away, our species-wide instinct to protect those who give life–or our inability to forgive those who hurt them. For it is those sorts of atrocities–pregnant women, young mothers and children being killed in Belgium for example–that gave birth to the Western trenches of World War I, and ultimately, to strategic bombing, to the age of genocide that we have just passed through.
Stimulated by the politically galvanizing effect of the tragic Newtown shooting, I suspect that there are more than a few in the Administration who harbor secret fantasies, who never want a serious crisis to go to waste; at the expense of a few female atrocities, the US engaging in warfare will become simply too painful. War itself will become impossible.
You might ask: Is it really possible that members of the Administration want to use my niece in combat so they can shed crocodile tears over her body-bag in some perverse political photo-op? Well, yes. And if that’s the motivation, even if it’s a subconsciousness one, it’s a deeply immoral impulse. I mean, why not enlist my nine-year-old or my aging dad in combat too–just like the defense of Berlin? But even if such a plan–to make warfare taboo through the use of limited female sacrifice–is justified by a conscious, chilly, utilitarian calculation of long-term morality and the greater good, as long as an enemy lives and breathes, the calculation is flawed by its essential ignorance. Following the Great War, Douhet’s Theory of strategic bombing–which most intelligent people subscribed to at the time–premised exactly the same idea. After the first bombs were dropped on urban centers, the common people in horror and revulsion would rise up and force their leaders to sue for peace. How did that work out in London in 1940? Or, for that matter, in Berlin? History shows, quite conclusively, that we are not just an aggressive species. Once war begins, we are a deeply vengeful one.
There may be many noble motives at work within the Administration and the highest level of the Pentagon. I don’t preclude that. But their naive assumptions have proliferated to the point of irrationality. Women in combat is a Pandora’s Box which contains the potential to usher in a second age of total war.
2172 Rayburn HOB, 2:30 PM, September 12, 2012:
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this profoundly important hearing. Beginning in 2006, I began conducting comprehensive interviews with medical professionals, Chinese law enforcement personnel, and over 50 refugees from the Laogai System, in order to piece together the story of how mass harvesting from prisoners of conscience evolved in China. Based on my research, the practice began in Xinjiang in the late 1990s. By 2001 the practice expanded nationwide, with Falun Gong providing a much larger, and frequently anonymous, pool of potential ‘donors.’
Yet my time today is short. I too was skeptical when I began my investigation, as some of you may be today. So instead of offering my conclusions, I invite you to draw your own conclusions from my evidence—twelve witnesses, each of whom fills in a critical piece of the organ harvesting puzzle—before I speculate, briefly, on the implications and the full human cost.
If what flashed through your mind when you read that title was a British expat and a Chinese high official’s wife…I hope to persuade you by the end of my article to think quite differently.
Over the last 24 hours several well-meaning friends have sent me the BBC article “China to end organ donations from executed prisoners” (or the Guardian or NYT’s version, etc.) with the single word: “Congratulations!”
Well, I appreciate the sentiment. But following the Chinese medical establishment’s lead, none of these articles mention prisoners of conscience. I want no part in hiding bodies. Nor should David Kilgour and David Matas, the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, or Edward McMillan-Scott accept any such congratulations until the Chinese Communist Party allows a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the harvesting of political and religious prisoners of conscience– Uighurs, Falun Gong, Tibetans, and House Christians–from 1997 to 2012.
What has occurred–over 65,000 dead by my estimate–is a crime against all humanity. And yet, ironically enough, only the victims’ families have the right to absolve China. No Western entity possesses the moral authority to allow the Party to bury the full history of genocide in exchange for promises of medical reform.