Posted December 28, 2011
A New Resolve: Reflections for the New Year
The philosopher George Santayana once observed that “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." As we begin this new year, let us heed Santayana’s admonishment and reflect upon our nation’s present and on its past in the hope that such reflections may suggest lessons to be learned and, most importantly, provide insight into how we may capitalize upon our accomplishments and successes and rectify our mistakes and failures.
Despite a declaration of victory, Iraq is still in turmoil. War rages on in Afghanistan, now America’s longest war, and our relationship with Pakistan is tenuous at best. American combat troops are strategically positioned throughout the world as many of influence and standing in this country are ratcheting up the rhetoric for an impending war with Iran. Despite the economic crisis, U.S. military spending is at an all time high, exceeding the military budgets of the next 15 countries combined, including Russia, China, Britain, etc.
In the face of what can only be described as military fanaticism and the co-opting of American foreign policy by the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex, saner voices have cautioned restraint, sought justice and fairness, and urged peace rather than war, only to be condemned as irresponsible, unpatriotic, even treasonous, and as providing aid, comfort, encouragement and hope to our “enemies.” We are engaged in a global war on terrorism, they tell us, and all patriotic Americans must unite and avoid dissent and criticism of our leaders and of their policies. “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” George W. Bush warned us shortly after September 11. Ironically, Osama bin Laden, appealing in turn to the Islamic world, echoed this logic, “the entire world is divided into two regions—one of faith where there is no hypocrisy and another of infidelity.” Both Bush and bin Laden were clear in their distinctions. Each saw the threat posed by the other as real, grave, and imminent and, in response, launched a multi-front and protracted campaign of death and destruction. Bush’s, and now Obama’s world, is bin Laden’s world in some strangely distorted mirror. So we wage war and they jihad. In the process, tens of thousands of innocents are murdered, and both sides rationalize the slaughter by appeals to God and to country, masking their maliciousness beneath the flag of a nation or the tenets of a creed. . .
Posted December 28, 2011
Hell is a crumbling city of chaos and confusion.
An alien world of death and destruction
with youth and innocence a casualty.
Black bags tinged crimson with blood,
flies frantically seeking access
to propagate one species in the remnants of another.
Nature's celebration of maggot birth and human death.
The remains of unfulfilled dreams and unrealized love
stuffed unceremoniously in bags made of flags
waved by death’s cheerleaders,
unscathed by the horror
of broken bodies, minds, and souls.
Lives squandered for a meaningless cause,
the folly and arrogance of idiots.
Arm chair patriots who care little and soon forget.
“Oh Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Posted December 26, 2011
This is a somewhat technical philosophical piece originally published in the Journal of Social Philosophy, Winter 2007
Opposing a War and/or Supporting the Warrior: The Moral
Obligations of Citizens in an Immoral War
Most would concur that criticism and dissent are an appropriate response, if not a moral and civic duty, during the prelude to a war perceived as immoral. Once the hostilities begin, however, and our soldiers placed in harm’s way, patriotic fervor and concern for the troops raises serious pragmatic and moral questions regarding the appropriateness and wisdom of opposing even an immoral war in which we are engaged. Debate increases and antagonism intensifies between those who oppose and publicly protest immoral war and those who see criticism and dissent as unpatriotic, even treasonous, and unsupportive of the troops. In this essay, I will argue from the principle of respect for persons that moral agents are proscriptively obligated neither to participate in an immoral war (the duty of non-participation), nor to assist those who prosecute it to accomplish their goals, what I will term “supporting the troops qua warrior” (the duty of non-complicity).
Further, I will argue that moral agents are also prescriptively obligated to oppose, speak out against, and to condemn immoral war (the duty to dissent); and that this obligation is compatible with and requires that the troops be supported in another more meaningful sense, what I will term “supporting the troops qua human being” (the duty to assist). Finally, these obligations continue beyond the prelude to the war and become even more stringent once the fighting has begun. My purpose in this essay is not to argue for the morality or immorality of any particular war, nor is it to provide specific guidelines for making such determinations. However, I will accept without argument that, with varying degrees of difficulty, such determinations can and must be made. Read entire post here.
Copyright © Camillo C. Bica 2011
Originally Published in Journal of Social Philosophy, Winter 2007
Posted December 24, 2011
Peace on Earth
I remember a Christmas eve,
and a child enduring
the seemingly endless wait
to Christmas morning,
when he could at last resolve the mystery
of the large blue box
under the Christmas tree.
An amazing thing it was,
to have endured a hectic two weeks
of handling, examining and shaking,
yet never divulging
so much as a hint of its contents.
I remember a childhood
and a family of love, understanding, and sacrifice.
A mother who chose to work in the sweatshop,
till midnight if necessary,
so he could have the smart blue suit
in Fauci Brothers’ window
to wear at Christmas mass.
Posted December 23, 2011
Veterans For Peace Long Island Video Educational Series:
Occupy Patchogue Teach-in Featuring Paddy Quick, Ph.D. Professor of Economics at ST. Francis College in Brooklyn NY
Posted December 22, 2011
A March of Folly
Many march to remember,
others to forget.
But for those who truly know war,
no parade is necessary to help us to remember,
or allow us to forget,
as the memories of war are with us
every day of our lives.
Nor does marching in a parade
enable us to put to rest the turmoil
of a life interrupted and devastated by war,
or forget the dying and the killing.
Parades accomplish nothing
save to allow those who make war easily
or ignore completely its insanity and horror
to feign support and appreciation
and to relieve their collective guilt
for immoral war and crimes against humanity.
Marching in a parade
neither educates nor informs
about the realities of war.
Rather it celebrates and perpetuates
the myth of honor and glory,
and "The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."
I will march no more.
Posted December 21, 2011
A Witness to History
On the recent National Student Walk-out day, I was to teach two classes at a college not very far from Liberty Square, the site of the Wall Street occupation. I wondered if any of my students would take part in the action, boycott the classes or walk out. I had been to Liberty Square a number of times before and was sympathetic with the message and impressed with the commitment, enthusiasm, and organizational skills of the occupiers. What I found very exciting was that we old hippie radicals, while certainly represented, were in the minority, with the young people clearly in charge and very willing to let you know should you try to exert control or co-opt the movement.
I had asked my classes the week prior if anyone knew what the Occupy Wall Street movement was about and whether anyone had been downtown to Liberty Square. Most seemed to have some vague familiarity with the occupation, either from hearing about it from other students, seeing it on TV, or reading about it in the newspapers. Only one student had actually visited the Square, and he only once. So when I heard about the planned student walk-out, despite my doubt whether many if any of my students would answer the call, I decided to pre-empt the boycott and hold my classes at Liberty Square.
As the day approached I was curious whether other faculty members, especially some I knew to be politically and socially active and aware, had considered doing the same. Upon discussing my plans with them, some thought it an interesting idea but expressed very real and practical concerns regarding insurance issues, police response (students and others had already been pepper sprayed and hundreds arrested), whether the college administration would approve, whether parents who may not sympathize with the movement would be outraged, etc. Though I had discussed my plans with one of my Department Co-chairs, who was supportive, I have to admit that I hadn't thought through all of these important pragmatic details which clearly convinced other, perhaps more thoughtful, faculty members, to play it safe and remain in the classroom. These were real and perhaps job threatening concerns, but my excitement with exposing my students to what I considered to be a valuable learning experience , a "classroom" in the midst of an important and historic event, overrode my anxiety and perhaps, my better judgment. Let others read about it afterwards from the safety of their classrooms, we are going to Liberty Square to observe, to question, to discuss, and most importantly, to learn firsthand from the people who are making history. Let the details be damned! Read entire post here.
Posted December 19, 2011
I remember once, in another lifetime,
noticing a lone rose arising defiantly
from beneath the rubble
outside the destroyed city of Hue.
It had no business being there,
adding color to the drabness of war,
beauty to the ugliness of destruction,
and the hope of life
when life held nothing but suffering and death.
It was a contradiction and created confusion
amidst the clarity of killing to survive.
I stepped on it . . .
There are no flowers in a war zone;
nor color, nor beauty, nor hope.
Posted December 19, 2011
Collateral Damage: A Military Euphemism for Murder
Inherent in modern war-making practice is the conviction that there is a significant moral difference between killing innocent civilians in an attack such as that on the World Trade Center or on a bus filled with college students and killing noncombatants during a military response to such an attack. This conviction is clearly demonstrated in a myriad of Israeli reprisals against Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and in the US war in Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It is reflected, as well, in the language used to describe the innocent deaths, the value laden term "terrorism" in the case of the former, and the morally neutral term "collateral damage" in the latter. War, even as a response to terrorism is rule governed. According to Just War Theory and a myriad of international agreements and treaties, war is evaluated according to whether established criteria are satisfied. One of the most important rules of war is the legal and moral prohibition against the targeting and killing of innocents, i.e., the criterion of discriminating and affording of immunity to noncombatants - the Criterion of Discrimination. Since noncombatants are neither directly nor indirectly involved in the prosecution of a terrorist attack or of a war, they have done nothing to warrant a forfeiture of their immunity. Consequently, to kill noncombatants to further some goal or objective whether political, religious, or social, even if for a just cause, is not an act of war but of murder and fundamental to our understanding of terrorism. That is, the Criterion of Discrimination is integral in differentiating war from terrorism and killing in war from murder. Acts of terrorism, unlike acts of war, knowingly harm and kill noncombatants. Read entire post here.
Posted December 17th. 2011
Personal Legacy of War
As the old men played Briscola, a card game of Sicilian origin, they smoked DiNobli cigars and drank Caffe’ Corretto, a grappa laced espresso, in small cups. The cigar smoke lay heavy in the room, dispersing the glow of the single light bulb that hung precariously over the table. They spoke in broken English of coming to America. Some came illegally, most flirted a bit with the mafia, and all worked hard to support their families in a difficult job market for laborers. Nervous and excited, I listened attentively, from a safe distance, hidden behind the old green sofa. On most occasions I was quickly discovered and after a good natured reprimand and a gentle “boot in the ass,” I was sent on my way. On a few occasions, however, my perseverance was greatly rewarded. For reasons I can only speculate, no one seemed to notice my presence. Even as a ten-year-old, I realized that this was a special place and I had no business eavesdropping on such privileged conversation.
As they consumed the potent coffee, barriers lowered and the discussion, at least as I remember it, turned invariably to their experiences during the Second World War and the Korean Conflict. Despite being immigrants, all were drafted into the American military. I listened intently as my father, while contemplating his next discard, recalled his experiences as a U.S. Army interpreter fighting through the villages and countryside of Sicily, the land of his birth. Somberly, he described in great detail how American artillery and bombing had devastated his hometown. How he had been torn between strong feelings of patriotism for his adopted homeland and the deep sense of shame and guilt he felt for the deaths of innocent villagers, some of whom had been his neighbors. I learned also that my Uncle Gasper, a SeaBee, had narrowly escaped being killed by a Japanese sniper while building an airfield on Guadalcanal. How Uncle Tony, nicknamed “Squint Eye,” but only addressed as such by a few of his closest friends, had nearly been blinded by shrapnel during a kamikaze attack against his minesweeper in the South Pacific. What impressed me most, I think, was hearing my Uncle Joe relate, with great emotion, the heroic last stand of the Marines at the frozen Chosin Reservoir in Korea. I was amazed to see this very strong, austere, and stoic man, cry as he described gently holding a fellow Marine in his arms as the dying man gasped his last breath. As I listened to their stories, despite my young age, I empathized with their obvious pain and grief Read entire post here.
I have always thought my self a free spirit,
A philosopher mendicant,
seeking an alternative,
more substantive, lifestyle.
So many others, however, see my unorthodoxy,
my “spiritual seeking,”
as abnormal and a clear indication of my insanity.
Perhaps I need to pause and to reevaluate my life.
After all, being insane is not something one readily admits.
I guess it’s part of being crazy
to cling to a facade of sanity,
to think oneself normal
and everyone else insane.
One thing I am certain of, however.
I haven’t always been crazy.
Wasn’t born crazy.
I think insanity crept up on me,
happened in Vietnam, in the war.
War does that you know, drives people crazy.
Shell shock, battle fatigue, soldier’s heart, PTSD.
All that killing and dying can make anyone crazy.
Some survive war quite well, they tell me.
Many even benefit from its virtues.
But war’s effects are not always apparent,
No one escapes war unscathed
In body and in mind.
All war, any war, every war.
Ain’t no virtue in war.
Posted December 17, 2011
The Nature of War
Warriors exist in a world totally incomprehensible to those who have never known war. Both for the apathetic and for those who trumpet and champion war’s necessity from a safe distance, war is a distraction – bleak, dire and unpleasant – from their consumer driven lives, better left for others and for other peoples’ children to fight. For many who oppose the war, it is murder declared by incompetent and deceitful politicians, to be prosecuted by soldiers who, it is hoped, would recognize the crime and refuse to become instruments of slaughter.
Whatever their point of view regarding the war, however, all sides proclaim their patriotism and allege to sincerely support and appreciate the sacrifices and efforts of the troops. With the more than occasional news reports from the war zone, however, alleging an incident of barbarism and atrocity prosecuted by American troops, all morally sensitive human beings, regardless of their political ideology or position on the war, are understandably annoyed and righteously appalled by such an affront to the national conscience. In response, all other concerns and priorities lessen in importance. The apathetic and the supporters of the war set aside their patriotic duty to go shopping and their concerns regarding Tiger Woods’ infidelity and Lindsey Lohan’s sobriety. War’s opponents, while bolstered in their determination to end war and make the world a better place in which to live, recognize the importance of holding soldiers responsible for their actions. Confronting the incivility of war, though an unpleasant distraction, provides a welcomed opportunity for all to publicly reiterate their individual or America’s collective commitment to justice and virtue. With an appropriate air of moral ascendancy, the apathetic, the opponents, and the supporters of war, find common ground in dutifully judging and appropriately condemning and punishing, however reluctantly, as required by law and morality, those “depraved” individuals who dare tarnish the reputation of this great nation by violating the laws of god and of man.
Though I think it is clear to most, it bears noting that despite “lucrative” enlistment bonuses (some of which soldiers will be required to pay back should they become a casualty and unable to complete their tour of duty in the war zone), promises of job training, and money for college, members of the military are not mercenaries. Private contractors are “professionals,” who know war and seek it out either for the money or because they find war’s brutality, cruelty, and control over life and death exciting and empowering. Many, perhaps even most, young men and women who enlist in the armed forces in this time of war generally accept military service as a patriotic duty and the cause they soon will be fighting for in Afghanistan as just, necessary, and worthy of sacrifice. Perhaps they may even believe, however naively, that their political leaders are sincere and principled men and women and that, in fighting their war, they will be doing moral things for a moral nation. It is precisely this idealism, this naiveté, that morally differentiates, first, the soldier-warrior’s behavior from that of the mercenary and, second, how we view and morally evaluate the actions of each. Read entire post here. Posted by Camillo Mac Bica Leave Comments Heret · Copyright © 2011 Camillo C. Bica · All Rights Reserved