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The Point of War

The U.S. government continues its slow but relentless buildup of military forces in the Middle East, preparing to unleash “Fourth-Generation” warfare against the eighth reincarnation of Adolf Hitler.  Historians and pseudo-historians extol the liberating glories of past redemptive wars waged by God’s instrument on earth.  The Bush administration, neocons, and theocons (and other cons in the pay of big oil or the Israeli lobby) promise that, out of charred flesh, severed limbs, radiation poisoning, and high-altitude massacre, the glorious dawn of Islamic democracy, peace, and tolerance shall arise.  We are reminded, once again, that, for those who run the country, “doin’ good ain’t got no end.”  Our masters may also be thinking that death means a higher price for Raytheon shares and that Baghdad is well worth a reelection.

Lt. Ambrose Bierce of the Ninth Indiana Regiment and the Army of the Ohio would find none of this unusual or unexpected.  In his postwar career as a journalist in San Francisco, Bierce ridiculed “sycophantic historians and biographers” for whom the truth of history was not “good enough,” denounced “the non-combatant contingent in Washington” who clamored for more slaughter and more punishment of Southern civilians, and observed with disgust that “this is a country of religious cant” whose public rhetoric...

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