Notes from Underground


How did opposing mass murder
become controversial?

"Doing what it takes"



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A caller recently phoned a local talk-radio host here in Atlanta, objecting to what he regarded as the host's irresponsible rhetoric about steps that ought to be taken to combat radical Islam. The caller claimed that the host had recommended indiscriminate violence against Muslims. At first the host dismissed the caller's allegations, claiming that he had been misunderstood. Yet his denial seemed passionless, more legalistic than sincere. After a bit more wrangling with the caller, the host brought up the subject of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

"I'll bet if it were 1945, you'd be against that too," the host said, accusingly.

When the caller asked the host if he really would call dropping A-bombs on Japanese cities an "unambiguously good thing," the host answered without hesitation that yes, he would. He then trotted out the usual arguments justifying that slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians: it saved the lives of numerous American soldiers; Japanese civilians would probably have perished in even greater numbers if the Americans had staged an invasion using conventional weapons; and so on.

Then the host went a step further. "Even if nuking Japan only helped save one American serviceman from breaking one finger, it was still worth it," he asserted.

He went on to give a current-day application of the principle. It would be a wise policy, he said, for the United States to dangle nuclear bombs over Mecca and Medina and tell the Arab world to clean up its act, get hold of its homegrown terrorism problem, or else watch its holy cities, and all who dwell there, go up in a mushroom cloud.

Extreme as it may be, that kind of talk  has commonly been heard on talk radio since the attacks in London in July. A constant, relentless refrain has been sounded, along the lines of: "Do we really have the nerve to do what it takes to win the war on terror?"

"Doing what it takes" isn't usually given an exact definition, but one can gather its general meaning, and one should admit that not all of it is bad (whatever one may think about the ostensible "war on terror" itself). I would welcome, for example, the phasing out of facile, namby-pamby rhetoric about Islam as a "religion of peace," and any other talk that smacks of politically correct public relations (PC-PR, for short). Likewise, I think the movement to take a hard look at the perils of unrestrained Third World immigration is a healthy sign, though it is almost certainly too little, too late.

Unfortunately, "doing what it takes" seems to go far beyond talking plainly and guarding what is ours; it seems to entail killing lots and lots of innocent people in the Middle East. Even more unfortunately, the latter appears to be the biggest part of what talk-show hosts and their followers mean by "doing what it takes" when they invoke that ubiquitous phrase.

The U.S. of A., their thinking goes, is too righteous and pure for its own good. For that reason, it has so far held back from doing what it has every right to do: namely, bombing the daylights out of every country that we suspect, in the words of our dear leader, is "with the terrorists," rather than "with us." The U.S. of A. is patient, way too patient, way too tolerant, in its treatment of the inhabitants of countries it has invaded — er, sorry, "liberated" — and to whom it has seen fit to bestow its gift of freedom. Our men are out there getting blown to smithereens daily, and yet our military still makes every effort in its counterattacks to separate the wheat from the chaff, the murderous terrorist from the blameless towel-head who just happens to be in the wrong mosque at the wrong time.

But now, declare the neocon crusaders, it's time to stop worrying so much about those grubby wogs, not to mention their wives and children. After all, as would-be duelist Zell Miller once declared from the Senate floor, "They certainly found our citizens expendable [on September 11, 2001]. I say bomb the hell out of them. If there's collateral damage, so be it."

Indeed, this "let's get tough" rhetoric is not new; what we're hearing from the brigade of armchair-general talk-radio hosts (safely perched behind their microphones far from the battle zone as they shout their commands) is only a resurgence, prompted by the suicide bombings on a London bus and several underground trains in July. Frustration with the continued insurgent attacks on troops in Iraq has sparked similar outbursts in the past, most notably from the Limbaugh-Hannity axis of blather. During the initial invasion back in 2003 when things were bogging down, the whiny-voiced Hannity made a plea that Iraqi civilians not be spared, in order to keep American front-line casualties to a minimum. More recently, in the wake of repeated suicide attacks on American troops, talk-radio industry grand poobah Limbaugh expressed a desire to "nuke the place" (Iraq), while hastening to add that he meant that only "metaphorically." He declined to explain the metaphor, and one wonders what a merely figurative meaning could possibly amount to, in such a context.

What does it mean that the most ardent exponents of the "get tough" philosophy — that is, those who yearn for the mass murder of countless more men, women, children, and babies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, on the grounds that such an act would show our true resolve as a nation willing to "do what it takes" to win the "war on terror" — are also, for the most part, the same segment of the political divide most opposed to abortion?

The question could also be looked at in reverse. Why are liberals so sensitive to the carnage of war, but patently oblivious to the sight of babies bloodied at the hands of abortionists?

Or to look at the whole big, gruesome picture: why are so few people in our political climate standing up consistently for the defense of all innocent human life, born and unborn, whether menaced by bombs and gunfire or by the cruel, sharpened implements of the death-profiteers who man abortion clinics?

The answer can only be that our sensibilities have become twisted and depraved, owing to what the late John Paul II called an "eclipse of conscience." The causes of that eclipse are numerous, although they arise mostly from an erosion of belief in the eternal verities of the Christian faith, the faith from which sprang both the condemnation of infanticide and the "just war" doctrine, which among other things forbade the slaughter of the innocent.

We can argue about how it came to this, but the undeniable fact is, our hearts have been hardened. The victims of our calloused hearts, born and unborn, foreign and domestic, continue to accumulate. Their blood will be on our hands unless we ourselves, within the bounds of justice, do what it takes to stem the tide of their continued slaughter in the name of "progress."

August 13, 2005

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