March 16th is the anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, a young American girl (aged 23) run down by an Israeli Army bulldozer in occupied Palestine while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes.
All those of us who care about human rights should make a point of remembering her, and of respecting her physical bravery in defence of those rights. It takes a special degree of bravery to step outside the protection of one’s tribal and ethnic loyalties, in defence of members of some foreign community.
Often, there is a large element of naivety to physical bravery. Victoria Cross winners in war zones aren’t usually the sharpest knives in the drawer. Mostly, they seem to have the same mind-set as suicide bombers and kamikaze pilots – prepared to die for the sake of their fellows.
Military personnel in hospitals and ambulances, and individual medics who retrieve wounded soldiers from free-fire zones, often (usually?) presume “the enemy” won’t target them. Amazingly brave, and naïve. That describes young Rachel to a T. She seems to have believed that she would be protected by both her US citizenship and Israel’s notional human-rights ideals. Instead, a Los Angeles gang would have given her as much help.
I tend to bracket her name with that of Bradley Manning, the naïve young US Army clerk who blew the whistle on a war-crime committed in occupied Iraq by an Army helicopter crew. The killers were deemed to be acting in the best interests of the USA and were let off with a caution. Bradley was jailed for 35 years without parole, for putting a higher value on the lives of defenceless foreign civilians than on the gratification of his tribal fellows. How dare he!
During the US occupation of Vietnam, the unarmed civilian villagers of My Lai – mostly old folk and children – were hacked down en masse by an Army platoon, in the perceived best interests of the American people. Those killers, too, were let off with a caution. (I don’t know what happened to the whistle-blower of that atrocity; he probably fell out of a tall building somewhere…)
The theme common to all three incidents is the easy victory of tribal solidarity over universal human rights. One has to wonder why national leaders who condone such blatant flouting of the human-rights ideal even bother to pretend they care about the ideal. Is anybody ever taken in by the hypocrisy?
Western MSM (main-stream media) organs are currently reporting the US President’s hesitation in ordering the assassination of some obscure US citizen in Yemen. Hey, come on, man! The CIA has promised that the victim is a terrorist, a traitor, a Muslim, and a jobless layabout who picks his nose at the dinner-table. Is that not enough? Anyway, when sustained physical torture is such an everyday occurrence in the American gulag, why hesitate for an instant?
Perhaps there exists a skerrick of tribal solidarity in the President’s mind and the minds of his advisors. There certainly isn’t any sense of mercy there, or compassion. They will gladly order the slaughter of housefuls of innocents, as long as they are not fellow-citizens. I wonder how long that exemption will survive, though.
A blog of mine back in October 2012 (The war on women) speculated that those veteran soldiers and drone pilots who are not kept awake every night by their guilty consciences are well suited to become the torturers and executioners of our children and grandchildren, in a dystopian Big Brother society. Those who are kept awake by their memories are, by default, the hope of mankind. At least for as long as they manage not to kill themselves out of remorse. Ain’t that the truth?