1 SHOT 2 KILLS
“The IDF does not and has never had a policy of targeting civilians.”
—Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel
Isn’t that just lovely? Breaking news in Israel: some IDF soldiers got these t-shirts after completing their training. In fact a number of similar t-shirts have come to light in the past few days, more or less covertly circulating in the Israeli military. Let me see if I understand this, soldiers in the “most moral army in the world” that “does not and has never had a policy of targeting civilians” are wearing t-shirts that say exactly the opposite? Hmm.
As is so often the case, there’s a lot of ways to look at this. First of all, note how much attention this story got in the USA and western press. At least in Israel the press has the stones to report on such stories so there can be a public debate. And it’s a good bet that this will be widely circulated in the Muslim world. In the west, the so called free press seems to be more and more simply a mouthpiece for government propaganda, and the official line in the west is that the Israelis are good and peaceful, the Arabs violent and warlike … so stories like this get little or no attention.
In Israel the propaganda machine is already spinning this in the predictable way, it’s just a few bad apples. And the soldiers in question will be punished. The first almost certainly isn’t true, these t-shirts were widely available and distributed within the IDF. And the second remains to be seen. In either case it is being passed off as of little significance. Despite the fact that there is piles of evidence that Israel is becoming militarized in a very dark way, the pretence of the peaceful Israelis defending themselves against Palestinian violence has to be maintained.
I would like to point out that from personal experience, similar stuff was widely available in the USA military when I served in the 1970s. It was Asians that were mostly targeted in that era, especially Japanese and Vietnamese, and some of the stuff I saw was just as vile a that pictured above. Of course stuff like this was never worn in public, in that era as well the pretence of an army for peace had to be maintained. Heck, you can still buy t-shirts like this at USA gun shows last time I checked.
Does this sort of stuff prove that Israelis and Americans are inherently violent? No. At least not any more violent than anyone else. There’s some violent chimpanzee in all of us.The point here is that having a big standing army and a good guy/bad guy foreign policy breeds this sort of sickness. You form a gang of young men, arm them, teach them to kill, and tell them who their enemies are … and this sort of thing is inevitable. And when this sort of attitude is present, atrocities are inevitable whether the higher ups order them or not. It’s also a pretty good bet that since the higher ups came from the lower ranks to start with, that they aren’t exactly too upset about stuff like this. Though not all, it’s good bet that wearing one of these around General Eisenhower would have meant an instant court martial, but General Petraeus is no Eisenhower.
But I digress. Our founding fathers understood the hazards of a huge standing army, and this sort of moral decay is one of them. I wish I could get more people to see this. I joined the military myself to “serve my country.” And I pretty quickly discovered that the military’s real mission as they understood it had nothing to do with defending the country, we were an armed gang for the express purpose of travelling to foreign lands and killing people. I met some of the most decent honourable people in my life in the Marines, but it didn’t change our mission.
The other terrible hazard with a large standing army is that its leaders will sooner or later move into politics in a big way, and do their best to influence their nation’s policies both foreign and domestic. And not to put it too strongly, a gang of armed killers is about the last people you need influencing your government. They will strive to create a need for themselves by fair means and foul, and in both Israel and the USA this has become a terrible problem. I mean, we have two of the most powerful military machines in the world … and the threats they face are some of the most trivial in their nation’s history.
In other words, in more ways than one, what’s wrong with this picture?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: Yanai Yechiel. I have nothing further to add, for once the picture pretty much tells the story.)